Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Shakespeare
Editor: Tom Bishop
Not Peer Reviewed

Pericles, Prince of Tyre (Modern)


43.1
[1.1]
Enter Antiochus, Prince Pericles, and followers.
45Antiochus Young Prince of Tyre, you have at large received
The danger of the task you undertake.
Pericles I have, Antiochus, and with a soul
Emboldened with the glory of her praise
Think death no hazard in this enterprise.
50Antiochus [To attendants] Music!
[Music plays.]
Bring in our daughter, clothèd like a bride
For embracements even of Jove himself;
At whose conception, till Lucina reigned,
Nature this dowry gave: to glad her presence
The senate-house of planets all did sit
55To knit in her their best perfections.
Enter Antiochus['s] daughter.
Pericles See where she comes, appareled like the Spring!
Graces her subjects and her thoughts the king
Of every virtue gives renown to men!
60Her face the book of praises, where is read
Nothing but curious pleasures, as from thence
Sorrow were ever razed and testy wrath
Could never be her mild companion.
You gods, that made me man, and sway in love,
65That have enflamed desire in my breast
To taste the fruit of yon celestial tree,
Or die in the adventure, be my helps,
As I am son and servant to your will,
To compass such a boundless happiness.
70Antiochus Prince Pericles--
Pericles That would be son to great Antiochus.
Antiochus Before thee stands this fair Hesperides,
With golden fruit, but dangerous to be touched,
For death-like dragons here affright thee hard.
75Her face like heaven enticeth thee to view
Her countless glory, which desert must gain;
And which without desert because thine eye
Presumes to reach, all the whole heap must die.
[He indicates the suitors' heads.]
Yon sometimes famous princes, like thyself
80Drawn by report, adventurous by desire,
Tell thee with speechless tongues and semblance pale
That, without covering save yon field of stars,
Here they stand martyrs, slain in Cupid's wars,
And with dead cheeks advise thee to desist
85From going on death's net, whom none resist.
Pericles Antiochus I thank thee, who hath taught
My frail mortality to know itself,
And by those fearful objects to prepare
This body, like to them, to what I must.
90For death remembered should be like a mirror,
Who tells us life's but breath, to trust it, error.
I'll make my will then, and, as sick men do
Who know the world, see heaven, but, feeling woe,
Gripe not at earthly joys as erst they did,
95So I bequeath a happy peace to you
And all good men, as every prince should do,
My riches to the earth from whence they came,
[To Daughter]But my unspotted fire of love to you.
Thus ready for the way of life or death,
100I wait the sharpest blow, Antiochus.
[Antiochus gives Pericles the riddle.]
[Antiochus] Scorning advice, read the conclusion then;
Which read and not expounded, 'tis decreed,
[Indicating heads] As these before thee, thou thyself shalt bleed!
Daughter Of all 'ssay'd yet, mayst thou prove prosperous!
105Of all 'ssay'd yet, I wish thee happiness.
Pericles Like a bold champion I assume the lists,
Nor ask advice of any other thought
But faithfulness and courage.
[He reads the riddle.]
110
I am no viper, yet I feed
On mother's flesh which did me breed.
I sought a husband, in which labor
I found that kindness in a father.
He's father, son, and husband mild;
115I, mother, wife, and yet his child.
How they may be, and yet in two,
As you will live, resolve it you.
[Aside] Sharp physic is the last! But, O you powers
That gives heaven countless eyes to view men's acts! --
120Why cloud they not their sights perpetually
If this be true which makes me pale to read it?
[He approaches Daughter.]
Fair glass of light, I loved you, and could still
Were not this glorious casket stored with ill.
But I must tell you: now my thoughts revolt.
125For he's no man on whom perfections wait
That, knowing sin within, will touch the gate.
You are a fair viol, and your sense the strings,
Who, fingered to make man his lawful music,
Would draw heaven down and all the gods to harken;
130But being played upon before your time,
Hell only danceth at so harsh a chime.
Good sooth, I care not for you!
[He gestures in rejection of Daughter.]
Antiochus Prince Pericles, touch not, upon thy life!
For that's an article within our law
135As dangerous as the rest. Your time's expired:
Either expound now, or receive your sentence.
Pericles Great king,
Few love to hear the sins they love to act.
'Twould braid yourself too near for me to tell it.
140Who has a book of all that monarchs do,
He's more secure to keep it shut than shown.
For vice repeated is like the wandering wind
Blows dust in others' eyes to spread itself;
And yet the end of all is bought thus dear:
145The breath is gone, and the sore eyes see clear
To stop the air would hurt them. The blind mole casts
Copped hills towards heaven to tell the earth is thronged
By man's oppression, and the poor worm doth die for't.
Kings are earth's gods; in vice, their law's their will;
150And if Jove stray, who dares say Jove doth ill?
It is enough you know, and it is fit,
What being more known grows worse, to smother it.
All love the womb that their first being bred,
Then give my tongue like leave to love my head.
155Antiochus [Aside] Heaven, that I had thy head! He has found the meaning!
But I will gloze with him.[To Pericles] Young Prince of Tyre,
Though by the tenor of our strict edict,
Your exposition misinterpreting,
We might proceed to cancel of your days,
160Yet hope, succeeding from so fair a tree
As your fair self, doth tune us otherwise.
Forty days longer we do respite you,
If by which time our secret be undone,
This mercy shows we'll joy in such a son;
165And until then your entertain shall be
As doth befit our honor and your worth.
[Exeunt Antiochus and followers. Pericles remains alone.]
Pericles How courtesy would seem to cover sin,
When what is done is like an hypocrite,
170The which is good in nothing but in sight!
If it be true that I interpret false,
Then were it certain you were not so bad
As with foul incest to abuse your soul,
Where now you're both a father and a son
175By your untimely claspings with your child --
Which pleasures fits a husband, not a father --
And she an eater of her mother's flesh
By the defiling of her parents' bed,
And both like serpents are, who though they feed
180On sweetest flowers, yet they poison breed.
Antioch farewell! For wisdom sees those men
Blush not in actions blacker than the night
Will 'shew no course to keep them from the light.
One sin, I know, another doth provoke:
185Murder's as near to lust as flame to smoke;
Poison and treason are the hands of sin,
Ay, and the targets to put off the shame.
Then lest my life be cropped to keep you clear,
By flight I'll shun the danger which I fear.
Exit.