Internet Shakespeare Editions

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Not Peer Reviewed

Wilkins: The Adventures of Pericles (Quarto)


The Painfull Aduentures of Pericles Prince of Tyre.

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 resolue his question, placing their heades vpon 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 cruell in tyranny, 110as hee was powerfull in possessions, seeking more to enrich himselfe by shewes, than to renown his name by vertue, caused to be built the goodly Cittie of Antioch in Syria, and called it after his owne name, as the chiefest seate of all his Dominions, and principall place of his abode. This Antiochus had increase by his Queene one onely daughter, so excellent in beauty, as if Nature 115and all Perfection had long studied to seeme onely absolute at her birth. This Ladie growing to like ripenesse of age, as shee had full endowment of outward ornaments, was resorted vnto by many youthfull Princes, who desired her in marriage, offering to make her Ioynture as noble in possessions, as shee by beauty was royall in her selfe. While the King her father euermore 120requiring deliberation vpon whome rather than other to bestow this his so inestimable a lewell, he beganne sodainely to have an vnlawfull concupiscence to growe in himselfe, which hee augmented with an outragious flame of cruelty sparkling in his hart, and accompted her so worthy in the world, that shee was too worthy for any, but himselfe. Thus being wrapped with this vnnaturall loue, 125he sustained such a conflict in his thoughts, wherein Madnesse puts Modesty to flight, giuing ouer his affections to the vnlawfulnesse of his will, rather then subdued them with the remembraunce of the euill hee had then in practise, so that not long after comming into his daughters Chamber, and commaunding all that were neere at her attendance to depart, as if he had had some carefull 130and fatherly busines, the necessitie of whose import desired some priuate conference with her, he beganne to make motion of that vniust love to her, which euen Lust it selfe, had it not in a father beene so brased with impudencie, would haue blusht but euen to haue thought vpon. Much perswasion, though to little reason, he vsed, as, that he was her father, whome shee was 135bound to obey, he was a King that had power to commaund, he was in loue, and his loue was resistlesse, and if resistlesse, therefore pittilesse, either to youth, blood, or beauty: In briefe, he was a tyrant and would execute his will. These wordes thus vttered with that vehement passion which such sinnefull Louers fitte themselues vnto in such desires, and such immodest sillables were by him 140contracted together, that my penne grubbes to recite them, and made the schoole of his daughters thoughts, (wherein were neuer taught such euills) to wonder at the strangenesse, as vnderstanding them not, and at last, to demaund of her vnkingly father, what hee meant by this, when he forgetting the feare of heauen, loue to his childe, or reputation amongst men; though by her withstoode 145with prayers and teares, (while the power of weaknesse could withstand) throwing away all regard of his owne honesty, hee vnloosed the knotte of her virginitie, and so left this weeping braunch to wyther by the stocke that brought her foorth; so fast came the wet from the sentinells of her ransackt cittie, that it is improper to say they dropped and rayned downe teares, but 150rather, that with great flouds they powred out water. It is beyond imagination to thinke whether her eyes had power to receiue her sorrowes brine so fast as her heart did send it to them. In briefe, they were nowe no more to be called eyes, for griefes water had blinded them: and for wordes, she had not one to vtter,for betwixt her hearts intent, and tongues vtterance, there lay such a 155pile of lamentable cogitations, that she had no leisure to make vp any of them into wordes, till at the last, a Nurse that attended her comming in, and finding her face blubbered with teares, which shee knew were strange guests to the table of her beauty, first standing in amaze thereat, at last, by the care shee had in charge of her, being more inheartned; Deare 160childe and Madam (quoth shee) why sit you so sorrowfully? which question, getting way betwixt griefe and her vtteraunce, Oh my beloued Nurse, answered the Lady, euen 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 vnderstanding not, shee intreated her to be more plaine, that by knowing 165the cause of her griefe, shee might vse meanes to redresse it, or else, that her selfe in her owne wisdome would alay the violence of that tempest which did wrong to so goodly a building. But shee loath to be the bellowes of her owne shame, and blushing more to rehearse than her Father was to commit, sate sighing, and continued silent, vntill Antiochus, not satisfied with the fruite 170obtained by his former desire, returned, and like/him that by stealth hath filched a taste from foorth a goodly Orchard, is not therewith contented, but eyther waiteth his opportunity to steale, till hee be glutted with his stealth, or so aduenturous, that hee is taken, to his euerlasting shame; so this Antiochus comming backe into the Chamber, and finding his daughter as full 175of wette, as winter is, commaunded the absence of the Nurse (which shee accordingly obeying) he beganne to perswade her, that actions past are not to be redeemed, that whats in secret done, is no sinne, since the concealement excuses it, that euills are no euills, if not thought vpon, and that himselfe her Father had that power to gag all mouthes from speaking, if it were knowen. 180Besides her state, his greatnes, his kingdome, her beauty, were ornaments enow to draw the greatest Princes to ioyne with her in marriage, and hee would further it. So with these and such like perswasions preuayling with his daughter, they long continued in these foule and vniust imbracements, till at last, the custome of sinne made it accompted no sinne. And while 185this wicked Father shewed the countenaunce of a louing sire abroade in the eyes of his subiects, notwithstanding at home he reioyceth to haue played the parte of a husband with his owne childe, with false resemblaunce of marriage: and to the intent he might alwayes enioy her, he inuented a strange pollicie, to compell away all suters from desiring her in marriage, by 190propounding strange questions, the effect and true meaning whereof was thus published in writing, Whoso attempteth and resolueth me of my Question, shall have my Daughter to wife: But whoso attempteth and faileth, shall loose his head.

Which will of his, when Fame had blowne abroade, and that by this his Lawe there was found a possibilitie for the obtayning of this Lady, such was the 195singular report of her surpassing beautie, that many Princes, and men of great Nobilitie, to that purpose repaired thither, who not beeing able to explane his Riddle propounded, lost/their heades, which to the terrifying of others that should attempt the like, were placed for open view on the toppe of his Castle gate.