Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed

Wilkins: The Adventures of Pericles (Modern)


200

The Second Chapter.

How Pericles, arriving at Antioch, resolved the king's question; and how Thaliart, Antiochus' steward, was sent to murder him.

Whilst Antiochus continued thus exercising his tyrannies on the lives of several princes, Pericles, the Prince of Tyre, won with the 205wonderful report of this lady's beauty, was (as other princes before) drawn to the undertaking of this desperate adventure. And approaching near Antioch, where there were no sooner news that he was coming but there was as great a preparation for the receiving of him, the lords and peers in their richest ornaments to entertain him, the people with their greedy and 210unsatisfied eyes to gaze upon him. For in that part of the world there was in those days no prince so noble in arms or excellent in arts and had so general and deserved a report by fame as Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Which drew both peer and people with a joyful and free desire to allow him their embracements and to wish him happy success, requiring no other but such a 215happy sovereign to hope in. For so cunningly had Antiochus dealt in this incest with his daughter that it was yet unsuspected of the nearest that attended him.

With which solemnity and suffrages being brought into the presence of the tyrant, and by him demanded the cause of his arrival at Antioch, and being by the prince answered that it was in love to his daughter 220and in hope to enjoy her by resolving of his question, Antiochus then first began to persuade him from the enterprise and to discourage him from his proceedings by showing him the frightful heads of the former princes placed upon his castle wall and like to whom he must expect himself to be if, like them (as it was most like), he failed in his attempt.

But Pericles, armed 225with these noble armors, Faithfulness and Courage, and making himself fit for death if death proved fit for him, replied that he was come now to meet death willingly, if so were his misfortune, or to be made ever fortunate by enjoying so glorious a beauty as was enthroned in his princely daughter and was there now placed before him. Which the tyrant receiving with an angry brow 230threw down the riddle, bidding him, since persuasions could not alter him, to read and die, being in himself confident the mystery thereof was not to be unfolded. Which the prince taking up, read aloud, the purpose of which was in these words:

I am no viper, yet I feed
235On mothers flesh, that did me breed;
I sought a husband, in which labor
I found that kindness from a father:
He's father, son, and husband mild,
I mother, wife, and yet his child.
240How this may be, and yet in two,
As you will live, resolve it you.

Which secret, whilst Prince Pericles was reading, Antiochus' daughter -- whether it were that she now loathed that unnecessary custom in which she had so long continued or that her own affection taught her 245to be in love with his perfections, our story leaves unmentioned -- but this for certain, all the time that the prince was studying with what truth to unfold this dark enigma, desire flew in a robe of glowing blushes into her cheeks, and love enforced her to deliver thus much from her own tongue: that he was sole sovereign of all her wishes, and he the gentleman, 250of all her eyes had ever yet beheld, to whom she wished a thriving happiness.

By which time, the prince having fully considered upon what he had read and found the meaning both of the secret and their abominable sins, Antiochus, rising up, demanded the solution of his question, or to attend the sentence of his death. But the gentle prince, wisely foreknowing 255that it is as dangerous to play with tyrant's evils as the fly to sport with the candle's flame, rather seemed to dissemble what he knew than to discover his insight to Antiochus' knowledge -- yet so circumspectly that Antiochus suspected, or at least his own known guilt made him so suspect, that he had found the meaning of his foul desire and their more foul 260actions.

And seeming (as it were) then to pity him whom now in soul he hated, and that he rather required his future happiness than any blemish to his present fortunes, he told him that for the honor of his name, the nobleness of his worth, nay his own dear and present love to him (were it not against the dignity and state of his own love) in his tender 265and princely disposition, he could from the whole world select him as a choice husband for his daughter, since he found him so far wide from revealing of the secret. Yet thus far he should perceive his love should extend towards him, which before time had not been seen to stretch itself to any of those decayed princes, of whose falls his eyes were careful 270witnesses: that for forty days he gave him only longer respite, if by which time (and with all the endeavors, counsel and advice he could use) he can find out what was yet concealed from him, it should be evident how gladly he would rejoice to joy in such a son rather than have cause of sorrow by his untimely ruin. And in the meantime, in his own court, by the royalty of 275his entertainment he should perceive his welcome.

With which and other such like gratulations their presences being divided, Antiochus betook himself to his chamber and princely Pericles to diligent consultations of his present estate. Where when he had a while considered with himself that what he had found was true, and this substantially was the true meaning of his riddle, 280he was become both father, son, and husband by his uncomely and abhorred actions with his own child, and she a devourer of her mother's flesh by the unlawful couplings with her own father, and the defiling of her mother's bed, and that this courtesy of Antiochus toward him was but his hypocrisy to have his sin concealed till he found fit occasion to take fit revenge 285by the instruments of tyrants -- poison, treason -- or by any means, he resolved himself with all expedition, the next darkness being his best conductor, to fly back to Tyre.

Which he effecting, and Antiochus being now private in his lodging, and ruminating with himself that Pericles had found out the secret of his evil which he in more secret had committed, and knowing that he had 290now power to rip him open to the world, and make his name so odious that, as now heaven did, so at the knowledge thereof all good men would contemn him.

And in this study, not knowing how otherwise to help himself from this reproof, he hastily calleth for one Thaliart, who was steward of his household, and in many things before had received the embracement of his mind. This 295Thaliart, as Pericles forethought, he presently bribed with gold and furthered with poison to be this harmless gentleman's executioner. To which purpose, as he was about to receive his oath, there came hastily a messenger that brought him news the Tyrian ships were that night departed his harbor, and that by intelligence he had learned the prince also was fled for Tyre. 300At whose escape Antiochus storming, but not desisting from his former practice, he commanded his murdering minister, Thaliart, to dispatch his best performance after him, sometime persuading him, at others threatening him, in Tyre to see him, in Tyre to kill him, or back to Antioch never to return.

Which villainous mind of his as ready to yield as the tyrant was to command, Thaliart in all 305secrecy is shipped from Antioch, while Pericles in this interim is arrived at Tyre, where, knowing what was past and fearing what might succeed, not to himself but for the care he had of his subjects, remembering his power too weak, if occasion were offered, to contend with the greatness of Antiochus, he was so troubled in mind that no advice of counsel could persuade him, no 310delights of the eye content him, neither any pleasure whatsoever comfort him, but still taking to heart that, should Antiochus make war upon him, as fearing lest he should speak his shame which he intended not to reveal, his misfortune should be the ruin of his harmless people.

In this sorrow consisting, one Helicanus, a grave and wise counselor 315of his -- as a good prince is ever known by his prudent counsel -- as much grieved in mind for his prince's distemperature as his prince was troubled with the fear of his subjects' mishap, came hastily into the chamber to him, and, finding him so distasting mirth that he abandoned all familiar society, he boldly began to reprove him, and not sparingly told him he did not 320well so to abuse himself, to waste his body there with pining sorrow, upon whose safety depended the lives and prosperity of a whole kingdom; that it was ill in him to do it, and no less in his counsel to suffer him without contradicting it.

At which, although the prince bent his brow sternly against him, he left not to go forward, but plainly told him it was as fit 325for him being a prince to hear of his own error as it was lawful for his authority to command; that while he lived so shut up, so unseen, so careless of his government, order might be disorder for all him, and what detriment soever his subjects should receive by this his neglect, it were injustice, to be required at his hands.

Which chiding of this good old lord the gentle 330prince courteously receiving, took him into his arms, thanked him that he was no flatterer, and, commanding him to seat himself by him, he from point to point related to him all the occurrents past, and that his present sorrow was for the fear he had of Antiochus' tyranny; his present studies were for the good of his subjects; his present care was for the continuing safety of 335his kingdom, of which himself was a member, which for slackness chid him. Which uprightness of this prince calling tears into the old man's eyes and compelling his knees to the earth, he humbly asked his pardon, confirming that what he had spoke sprung from the power of his duty and grew not from the nature of disobedience. When Pericles, no longer suffering such honored 340aged knees to stoop to his youth, lifting him up, desired of him that his counsel now would teach him how to avoid that danger which his fear gave him cause to mistrust. Which in this manner was by the good Helicanus advised and by princely Pericles yielded unto: that he should forthwith betake himself to travel, keeping his intent whither as private from his subjects 345as his journey was sudden, that upon his trust he should leave the government, grounding which counsel upon this principle: "Absence abates that edge that Presence whets." In brief, Pericles knew Helicanus trusty, and consented.

So with store of corn and all necessaries fit for a kingly voyage, he in secret hath shipped himself from Tyre. Helicanus is protector of the kingdom 350in his absence; and our story now hath brought us to the landing of Thaliart, with a body fraught as full of treason against Pericles as his master Antiochus was of tyranny; who no sooner ashore, but he had his ears filled with the general lamentation of the Tyrian people: the aged sighed, the youth wept, all mourned, helping one another how to make up sorrow to the highest 355heap, as if with the absence of their prince they had lost their prince, and with his loss they had present feeling of a succeeding overthrow. Which the villain understanding, and finding himself both bereft of his purpose and his master of his intent, he, as traitors do, stole back to Antioch, resolving Antiochus of what he knew. By which time, the clamors of the multitude being 360for a time pacified by the wisdom of Helicanus and the peace of the commonwealth by his prudence defended, our princely Pericles, with spread sails, fair winds, and full success, is now arrived at Tharsus.