Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed

Wilkins: The Adventures of Pericles (Modern)


The First Chapter.

105Wherein Gower describes how Antiochus, surnamed the Great, committed incest with his daughter and beheaded such as sued to her for marriage if they could not resolve his question, placing their heads upon the top of his castle gate, whereby to astonish all others that came to attempt the like.

The great and mighty King Antiochus, who was as cruel in tyranny 110as he was powerful in possessions, seeking more to enrich himself by shows than to renown his name by virtue, caused to be built the goodly city of Antioch in Syria, and called it after his own name, as the chiefest seat of all his dominions and principal place of his abode. This Antiochus had increase by his queen one only daughter, so excellent in beauty as if Nature 115and all perfection had long studied to seem only absolute at her birth.

This lady growing to like ripeness of age, as she had full endowment of outward ornaments, was resorted unto by many youthful princes, who desired her in marriage, offering to make her jointure as noble in possessions as she by beauty was royal in herself. While the king her father, evermore 120requiring deliberation upon whom rather than other to bestow this his so inestimable a jewel, he began suddenly to have an unlawful concupiscence to grow in himself, which he augmented with an outrageous flame of cruelty sparkling in his heart, and accounted her so worthy in the world that she was too worthy for any but himself.

Thus being wrapped with this unnatural love, 125he sustained such a conflict in his thoughts, wherein madness puts modesty to flight, giving over his affections to the unlawfulness of his will, rather than subdued them with the remembrance of the evil he had then in practice, so that not long after, coming into his daughter's chamber and commanding all that were near at her attendance to depart, as if he had had some careful 130and fatherly business the necessity of whose import desired some private conference with her, he began to make motion of that unjust love to her, which even lust itself, had it not in a father been so brazed with impudency, would have blushed but even to have thought upon.

Much persuasion, though to little reason, he used, as that he was her father, whom she was 135bound to obey, he was a king that had power to command, he was in love and his love was resistless, and if resistless therefore pitiless either to youth, blood, or beauty. In brief, he was a tyrant and would execute his will. These words thus uttered with that vehement passion which such sinful lovers fit themselves unto in such desires, and such immodest syllables were by him 140contracted together that my pen grubs to recite them, and made the school of his daughter's thoughts (wherein were never taught such evils) to wonder at the strangeness, as understanding them not, and at last, to demand of her unkingly father what he meant by this. When he, forgetting the fear of heaven, love to his child, or reputation amongst men (though by her withstood 145with prayers and tears while the power of weakness could withstand), throwing away all regard of his own honesty, he unloosed the knot of her virginity, and so left this weeping branch to wither by the stock that brought her forth.

So fast came the wet from the sentinels of her ransacked city, that it is improper to say they dropped and rained down tears, but 150rather that with great floods they poured out water. It is beyond imagination to think whether her eyes had power to receive her sorrow's brine so fast as her heart did send it to them. In brief, they were now no more to be called eyes, for grief's water had blinded them. And for words, she had not one to utter, for betwixt her heart's intent and tongue's utterance there lay such a 155pile of lamentable cogitations that she had no leisure to make up any of them into words. Till at the last, a nurse that attended her coming in and finding her face blubbered with tears, which she knew were strange guests to the table of her beauty, first standing in amaze thereat, at last, by the care she had in charge of her, being more enheartened: "Dear 160child and madam," quoth she, "why sit you so sorrowfully?" Which question getting way betwixt grief and her utterance: "Oh, my beloved nurse," answered the lady, "even now two noble names were lost within this chamber, the name of both a father, and a child." The meaning of which secret the nurse understanding not, she entreated her to be more plain, that by knowing 165the cause of her grief, she might use means to redress it, or else that herself in her own wisdom would allay the violence of that tempest which did wrong to so goodly a building.

But she, loth to be the bellows of her own shame, and blushing more to rehearse than her father was to commit, sat sighing and continued silent, until Antiochus, not satisfied with the fruit 170obtained by his former desire, returned, and -- like him that by stealth hath filched a taste from forth a goodly orchard is not therewith contented but either waiteth his opportunity to steal till he be glutted with his stealth or so adventurous that he is taken, to his everlasting shame -- so this Antiochus, coming back into the chamber and finding his daughter as full 175of wet as winter is, commanded the absence of the nurse, which she accordingly obeying, he began to persuade her that actions past are not to be redeemed; that what's in secret done is no sin, since the concealment excuses it; that evils are no evils if not thought upon; and that himself, her father, had that power to gag all mouths from speaking, if it were known. 180Besides, her state, his greatness, his kingdom, her beauty were ornaments enough to draw the greatest princes to join with her in marriage, and he would further it.

So with these and such like persuasions prevailing with his daughter, they long continued in these foul and unjust embracements, till at last the custom of sin made it accounted no sin. And while 185this wicked father showed the countenance of a loving sire abroad in the eyes of his subjects, notwithstanding at home he rejoiceth to have played the part of a husband with his own child, with false resemblance of marriage. And to the intent he might always enjoy her, he invented a strange policy, to compel away all suitors from desiring her in marriage, by 190propounding strange questions, the effect and true meaning whereof was thus published in writing: "Whoso attempteth and resolveth me of my question shall have my daughter to wife; But whoso attempteth and faileth shall lose his head."

Which will of his when Fame had blown abroad, and that by this his law there was found a possibility for the obtaining of this lady, such was the 195singular report of her surpassing beauty that many princes and men of great nobility to that purpose repaired thither, who, not being able to explain his riddle propounded, lost their heads, which, to the terrifying of others that should attempt the like, were placed for open view on the top of his castle gate.