…Strike me, honour'd sir;
Give me a gash, put me to present pain;
Lest this great sea of joys rushing upon me
O'erbear the shores of my mortality,
And drown me with their sweetness.
This is one of Shakespeare's late plays, often categorized as romances (including The Tempest and The Winter's Tale). Many scholars think the first two acts were written by someone else; others think Shakespeare was deliberately experimenting with a simpler and more archaic style to fit the nature of the story.
Pericles, Prince of Tyre, voyages to Antioch to woo the beautiful daughter of King Antiochus, but discovers a dangerous secret and must flee for his life. Even his own court is unsafe, so he leaves its rule to his trusted counselor Helicanus and travels to Tharsus where he aids the king and queen, Cleon and Dionyza, by relieving a famine.
Warned that assassins still pursue him, he sets sail again but is shipwrecked in Pentapolis,
A man whom both the waters and the wind,
In that vast tennis-court, have made the ball
For them to play upon.
A generous and philosophical fisherman offers aid:
I have a gown here;
come, put it on; keep thee warm. Now, afore me, a
handsome fellow! Come, thou shalt go home, and
we'll have flesh for holidays, fish for
fasting-days, and moreo'er puddings and flap-jacks,
and thou shalt be welcome.
Pericles goes to court and finds another beautiful princess, Thaisa, but this one is also virtuous, and they fall in love at first sight. Her genial father King Simonides, after a bit of teasing, approves the match, and they are wed. Thaisa is with child when they learn that it is now safe, and in fact imperative, for Pericles to return to rule Tyre.
Pericles and Thaisa set sail but encounter a ferocious storm, and Thaisa gives birth at sea. She appears to have died in childbirth, and her body is placed in a casket with jewels, spices and a note, and cast overboard, as the sailors fear it is bad luck to carry a dead body. Pericles prays for safety for his newborn daughter, "this poor infant, this fresh seafarer."
Thaisa's casket washes up in Ephesus before Cerimon, a lord who has long studied medicine, and he brings about a miraculous recovery in her:
The music there!--I pray you, give her air.
This queen will live: nature awakes; a warmth
Breathes out of her: she hath not been entranced
Above five hours: see how she gins to blow
Into life's flower again!
Pericles, meanwhile, believing his wife to be dead, takes his baby daughter Marina to Tharsus and leaves her in the care of Cleon and Dionyza, while he returns to Tyre.
Time passes, and more tribulations and miracles ensue, now centered upon Marina, before the final joyful reunion of this long-sundered and suffering family.
…No more, you gods! your present kindness
Makes my past miseries sports: you shall do well,
That on the touching of her lips I may
Melt and no more be seen. O, come, be buried
A second time within these arms.
LOCATION & LOGISTICS: We'll meet at the Montlake Branch of Seattle Public Library at 2401 24th Ave E., in the meeting room. (This event is not sponsored by the Seattle Public Library.) See here for directions: http://www.spl.org/locations/montlake-branch/mon-getting-to-the-branch . Metro buses 25, 43 and 48 serve this branch, and there are parking spaces at the library and on the streets nearby.
We can bring food into the meeting room as long as we clean up afterwards. This is a medium-short play. Allow time for distributing parts, taking an intermission and optional discussion at the end.
Bring a copy of the text if you have one, but if you don't, don't worry - we can share. Though it's not necessary to read the play before hand, it will help you follow (and understand your character) to at least be familiar with the plot. You can see a synopsis at this link:http://www.shakespeareswords.com/Play-Synopse.aspx?IdPlay=16