Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Shakespeare
Editor: Tom Bishop
Not Peer Reviewed

Pericles, Prince of Tyre (Modern)

Enter Gower.
[Gower] To sing a song that old was sung
From ashes ancient Gower is come,
Assuming man's infirmities
5To glad your ear, and please your eyes.
It hath been sung at festivals,
On ember-eves and holidays,
And lords and ladies in their lives
Have read it for restoratives.
10The purchase is to make men glorious
et bonum quo antiquius eo melius.
If you, born in those latter times
When wit's more ripe, accept my rhymes,
And that to hear an old man sing
15May to your wishes pleasure bring,
I life would wish, and that I might
Waste it for you like taper light.
This Antioch, then. Antiochus the Great
Built up this city for his chiefest seat,
20The fairest in all Syria.
I tell you what mine authors say.
This king unto him took a fere,
Who died and left a female heir
So buxom, blithe and full of face
25As heaven had lent her all his grace,
With whom the father liking took,
And her to incest did provoke.
Bad child, worse father to entice his own
To evil should be done by none.
30But custom what they did begin
Was with long use account' no sin.
The beauty of this sinful dame
Made many princes thither frame
To seek her as a bedfellow,
35In marriage pleasures playfellow,
Which to prevent, he made a law
To keep her still and men in awe:
That whoso asked her for his wife,
His riddle told not, lost his life.
40So for her many a wight did die
As yon grim looks do testify.
[He indicates the heads of unsuccessful suitors visible to the audience.]
What now ensues, to th'judgment of your eye
I give, my cause who best can justify.