Thoughts on “Pericles” by William Shakespeare

This was my first time reading this play, and I have mixed feelings about it. There are some things I liked, and a lot that just did not work for me. It is worth noting that in the Introduction to the text, G.B. Harrison points out that scholars believe that Shakespeare only wrote a small part of the play, and that the poor writing which dominates the text is from someone else.

Pericles is still retained in the canon of Shakespeare’s work, though there is little trace of his hand in any passage before Act III. With the third act the style changes and much of the remainder of the play may well b e Shakespeare’s writing, but if so it is Shakespeare far below his best. Most critics are agreed, however, that the prose scenes of the brothel (IV.ii and vi) are undoubtedly his. The earlier scenes of the play, especially I.iv and and v, are puerile melodrama and so badly written that they might almost be parodies of Elizabethan drama at its worst. The poor quality of these scenes may be partly due to the fact that the text of this play was a piracy.

This really sums up the play well. The early acts are cringe-worthy, where the writer resorted to using the same word at the end of couplet lines to create rhyme. It almost seems like the person who swiped Shakespeare’s sections and tried to fill in the blank acts really didn’t even care enough to try to create quality work.

The other thing that really bothered me about this play was the excessive use of a chorus as a narrator to drive the story. Every act begins with a chorus scene to advance the timeline and skip a bunch of events, and then some acts have other chorus scenes interspersed. The play covers a time span of what appears to be at least 16 years (possibly more). Aristotle must have rolled over in his grave when this was put forth.

I will say, though, that the last two acts were good, but not good enough to save the play as a whole. I liked the way that the play resolved itself, and the reunion of Pericles with his wife and daughter was touching.

During my reading, I took a few notes on some passages, but upon reviewing them, I don’t feel that they are worth expounding on. That said, to sum up, unless you are like me and just want to be able to say you read everything by Shakespeare, you can probably skip reading this one. Since time is limited and reading material vast, you’d be better off spending your time reading Hamlet again.

Thanks for stopping by, and have an amazing day.


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11 responses to “Thoughts on “Pericles” by William Shakespeare

  1. Have a good long weekend Jeff! Stay Safe to you and the family!

  2. Reblogged this on penwithlit and commented:
    This play is being streamed to cinemas on September 23 rd from the RSC. Some useful points about this “curate’s egg”!

    • Thanks for the reblog. I wonder if theaters will be open by Sept 23. I’d be interested in seeing this play performed. Have a great weekend

  3. Hi Jeff, I took Shakespeare in college but I definitely don’t remember Pericles. I guess I know why. I also remember learning that other writers contributed to some of his work. I was never a fan of the “chorus” anyway, so I’ll probably skip this one!

    • Yeah, you’re safe skipping. And I agree re chorus, although I’m ok with it in Greek tragedy. Seems appropriate there 😀 Have a happy 4th.

  4. This makes me wonder how would the play look and play out, if interpreted by entirely modern yet young minds.

    • Hi Oloriel. I hope you are well. Yes, drama takes on a whole new life when performed instead of read. Still, bad writing is bad writing. The bast actors can’t save a bad script. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Have a wonderful weekend.

  5. Yep. Aristotle would be rolling in his grave. Lol.

  6. Pingback: The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare | Stuff Jeff Reads