Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: George Wilkins
Editors: Tom Bishop, Andrew Forsberg
Not Peer Reviewed

Wilkins: The Adventures of Pericles (Modern)


670

The Fifth Chapter.

How Helicanus heard news of Antiochus' and his daughter's deaths; and of his sending of other lords in search of their Prince Pericles.

Antiochus, who, as before is discoursed, having committed with his own daughter so foul a sin, shamed not in the same foulness to remain 675in it with her, neither had she that touch of grace by repentance to constrain him to abstinence or by persuasion to deny his continuance. Long, like those miserable serpents did their greatness flourish who use fairest shows for foulest evils, till one day, himself seated with her in a chariot made of the purest gold, attended by his peers and 680gazed on by his people, both appareled all in jewels to outface suspicion and beget wonder (as if that glorious outsides were a wall could keep heaven's eye from knowing our intents) in great magnificence rode they through Antioch.

But see the justice of the Highest! Though sin flatter and man persevere, yet surely Heaven at length doth 685punish. For as thus they rode, gazing to be gazed upon and proud to be accounted so, Vengeance with a deadly arrow drawn from forth the quiver of his wrath, prepared by lightning and shot on by thunder, hit and struck dead these proud incestuous creatures where they sat, leaving their faces blasted and their bodies such a contemptful 690object on the earth that all those eyes but now with reverence looked upon them, all hands that served them, and all knees adored them, scorned now to touch them, loathed now to look upon them, and disdained now to give them burial.

Nay, such is Heaven's hate to these and such like sins, and such his indignation to his present evil, that 'twixt his 695stroke and death he lent not so much mercy to their lives wherein they had time to cry out: "Justice, be merciful, for we repent us." They thus dead, thus contemned, and, instead of kingly monument for their bodies, left to be entombed in the bowels of ravenous fowls, if fowls would eat on them, the strangeness of their deaths were 700soon rumored over that part of the world, and as soon brought to the ears of Helicanus, who was a careful watchman to have knowledge of whatsoever happened in Antioch, and by his knowledge to prevent what danger might succeed, either to his prince or to his subjects in his absence. Of which tragedy he having notice, presently he 705imparted the news thereof to his grave and familiar friend Lord Eschines, and now told him what till now he had concealed, namely of their incest together, and that only for the displeasure which princely Pericles feared Antiochus bore towards him and might extend to his people, by his knowledge thereof he thus long by 709.1his counsel 710had discontinued from his kingdom.

Now it happened that these tidings arrived to his ears just at the instant when his grave counsel could no longer allay the headstrong multitude from their uncivil and giddy mutiny. And the reason of them (who most commonly are unreasonable in their actions) 715to draw themselves to this faction was that they supposed their prince was dead, and that, being dead, the kingdom was left without a successful inheritor; that they had been only by Helicanus with vain hope of Pericles' return deluded; and that even now, the power being, by his death, in their hands, they would create to themselves 720a new sovereign, and Helicanus should be the man.

Many reasons he used to persuade them, many arguments to withstand them. Nothing but this only prevailed with them: that since he only knew their prince was gone to travel, and that that travel was undertaken for their good, they would abstain but for three months longer from bestowing 725that dignity which they called their love, though it was his dislike, upon him. And if by that time (which they with him should still hope for) the gods were not pleased, for their perpetual good, to restore unto them their absent prince, he then with all willingness would accept of their suffrages. This then (though with much trouble) was 730at last by the whole multitude accepted, and for that time they were all pacified, when Helicanus, assembling all the peers unto him, by the advice of all chose some from the rest, and after his best instructions, or rather by persuasions and grave counsel, given, he sent them to inquire of their prince who lately, left at Pentapolis, was 735highly honored by good Symonides.