Pericles, Prince of Tyre

From the old blog, summer of 2005:
“Yes, sir.”
“I require you to rally round.”
“Yes, sir.”
“You are aware that I was seated on the grassy swards of Eden Park last night to get an eyeful of the stage antics associated with Shakespeare’s latest, Pericles, Prince of Tyre?”
“I was not unaware of the fact, sir.”
“What a play, Jeeves. And I want you to understand me on this point. What a play!”
“What I mean to say is dash it, what a play. It’s got everything. This Pericles chap flees an assassin in his kingdom, saves the kingdom next door from famine, is the sole survivor of a shipwreck, wins a beautiful princess in contest, marries, heads for home, suffers another storm at sea where his wife is lost giving birth. Back on shore he commits his infant daughter to the care of the queen next door, and suddenly years roll by. The daughter grows up and makes such a hit all around that the queen with whom she so trustingly resides arranges for the local underworld hit man to bump her off. But just as he raises his blade to perform the foul deed, and follow me closely here, Jeeves, a band of pirates sweep through, and carry her off to be sold into white slavery. I mean, rather bally, that, wouldn’t you say? Life dishing out the measures of woe pretty freely?”
“The prince was assail’d with fortune fierce and keen, sir.”
“Yes, I suppose that about sums it up. But just when things look darkest, Jeeves, the light begins to shine, as I have often remarked. ‘Joy cometh in the morning,’ as I think you once put it.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Pericles and daughter are reunited, and here is where I want you to follow me closely Jeeves: his wife, cast upon the shoulders of the sea for dead in Act III, was scooped in by some handy Ephesians, revived, and has been standing around patiently backstage all this time for the glad reunion in Act V.”
“Most gratifying, sir.”
“Yes, I suppose it’s all right, as far as it goes, Jeeves. Golden sunsets and heaping helpings of all the happily ever after stuff. But listen closely to what follows, for here is the nub, or the gist, if you will, of what I want to say.”
“Of course, sir.”
“I’m not one to be critical Jeeves, and I’ll be the first in line when they’re looking for chaps to say something good about Shakespeare. I mean if his stock were to suddenly take a dive and the market were in a panic, I’d wade in and buy enough shares to fill several suitcases if it would help.”
“Most generous of you, sir.”
“Nevertheless, I feel I must strike a note that may jangle. And what I’m getting at is that, well, take a bird like Hamlet. Shakespeare puts him in Elsinore, and by Jove he stays in Elsinore. He’s not constantly being wrecked at sea and getting married and things. He doesn’t lose his focus, but sticks to his brooding on the rum lot that Fate has handed him in the the plain brown parcel. He doesn’t spread himself so thinly across space and time like this Pericles cove.”
“No, sir.”
“And if you ask me, Jeeves, that’s why a fellow like Hamlet sticks to your ribs. He hangs around in the mind. There’s something solid about him. Not so Pericles. He flickers. I’m afraid his story will melt away in the halls of memory like the grass that withers or the flower that fades. Not the effect that the wrighter of plays should seek, would you say?”
“You have put it aptly, sir. If I may say so, your sentiment was also felt keenly by Aristotle who opined that a play must maintain the unities of time, place and action if it is to give an aesthetic satisfaction.”
“Aristotle, said that?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Well you can tell him for me that I know exactly what he means. Let your story wander too far afield, and the customers start dropping by the wayside. Your play will finish pretty far back in the running”
“As you say, sir.”
“Well, I suppose we can allow that even Shakespeare penned the occasional bloomer. It couldn’t have been easy to think up things like Hamlet all the time.”
“No, sir.”
“And in all other ways, the production was pretty topping. Nature supplied one summer evening from the glossy pages of the catalog, complete with gentle breeze and starry heavens. Lights, costumes, set and all the trimmings. And you should have seen the way they did the storm at sea.”
“Undoubtedly, sir.”
“And the pirates.”
“Yes, sir.”
“A small, part, but absolutely vital. If the pirates fail to appear on cue, the story jumps the tracks completely, and great would have been the wreck thereof.”
“Very true, sir.”
“To speak plainly, I could have done with more pirates. Colorful they were. Injected some energy and interest. Still, they served their purpose, and all part of the great design, what?”
“Undoubtedly what Shakespeare intended, sir.”
“If you say so, Jeeves. You know the fellow better than I do. Up until yesterday I had no idea Shakespeare even cared about places like Tyre and Tarsus and Myteline. He must have been quite a fellow for maps and history books and whatnot. Still, all’s well that ends well, what?”
“As you like it, sir.”

This entry was posted in shakespeare and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s