David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE: A Retelling in Prose — Act 2, Scene 2

 — 2.2 —

King Simonides and his daughter, Thaisa, stood by the lists — the ground where the tournament would take place. With them were lords and attendants.

King Simonides asked a lord, “Are the knights ready to begin the tournament?”

The lord replied, “They are, my liege, and they await your coming to present themselves to you and your daughter.”

“Take this answer to them: We are ready; and our daughter, in honor of whose birth this tournament is being held, sits here, like beauty’s child, whom nature gave birth to for men to see and wonder at.”

The lord exited, and Thaisa said, “It pleases you, my royal father, to praise me much more than I deserve.”

“It’s fitting it should be so,” King Simonides replied, “for Princesses are a model that Heaven makes similar to itself. As jewelry loses its glory if neglected, so Princesses lose their renown if not valued and respected.”

He added, “It is now your honorable duty, daughter, to view the purpose of each knight as expressed in his device.”

The device was a small shield that each knight had decorated with a symbol and a motto explaining his purpose for participating in the tournament. Knights hoped to win the tournament, and by so doing, win honor and the hand of Thaisa in marriage. Pericles hopedto improve his fortunes by winning the tournament.

“Which, to preserve my honor, I’ll perform,”Thaisa replied.

Six knights were participating in the tournament. Five of the knights had a page who held up the knight’s small shield so that the King and his daughter could see it.

Simonides asked, “Who is the first who presents himself?”

“A knight of Sparta, my renowned father,” Thaisa said, “and the device he bears upon his shield is a black-skinned Ethiopian reaching at the sun. His motto is ‘Lux tua vita mihi.’”

Lux tua vita mihiis Latin for “Your light is life to me.”

Simonides said, “He loves you well who believes his life is dependent on you.”

King Simonides asked, “Who is the second knight who presents himself?”

“A Prince of Macedon, my royal father, and the symbol he bears upon his shield is an armed knight who has been conquered by a lady. His motto in … Spanish? … is ‘Piu por dulzura que por fuerza.’”

Simonides did not comment on this motto because neither he nor his daughter could translate it.

The motto was a garbled mixture of Italian and Spanish and perhaps one or more other languages and means, roughly, “More by gentleness than by force.”

The way Thaisa had conquered this knight and made him love her was through her gentleness.

Although the knight was from Macedon and would have been expected to have a motto in either Latin or his native language, he had tried to impress King Simonides and Thaisa with his knowledge of foreign languages. Unfortunately, his knowledge of foreign languages was lacking. Perhaps, so was his knowledge of Latin.

Simonides asked, “And who is the third knight?”

“The third knight comes from Antioch, and his symbol is a wreath of chivalry. His motto is ‘Me pompae provexit apex.’”

A wreath of chivalry is a wreath worn as a crown by a victor.

The Latin motto, translated literally, is “The peak of the tournament leads me forth.” It means “The honor of the tournament brings me here.”

“Who is the fourth knight?” Simonides asked.

“One whose shield bears the symbol of a burning torch that’s turned upside down. The motto is ‘Quod me alit, me extinguit.’”

The Latin motto means “What inflames me, extinguishes me.”

Wax will put a torch out when the torch is held upside down because the wax will melt and run down the torch and extinguish the flame.

Another — bawdy — interpretation was that what inflamed the knight would kill him. Thaisa inflamed the knight, and if the knight won the tournament he would marry Thaisa and “die” in her arms. In this society, “to die” was slang for “to have an orgasm.”

Simonides’ interpretation was this: “It shows that beauty has its own power and will, which can as well inflame as it can kill.”

The fifth knight appeared and Thaisa said, “The symbol of the shield of the fifth knight is a hand surrounded by clouds, holding out gold that has been tested with a touchstone. The motto is ‘Sic spectanda fides.’”

A touchstone is a piece of black quartz. To test the purity of gold, the gold would be rubbed on the touchstone. The mark it left behind told how pure it was. The touchstone came to be a symbol of faithfulness.

The Latin motto means “Thus faithfulness is tested.”

Now the sixth knight — Pericles, clad in rusty armor — arrived.

Simonides asked, “And who is the sixth and last knight, who himself presents his shield with such a graceful courtesy because he has no page?”

Thaisa replied, “He seems to be a stranger, a foreigner, but his symbol is a withered branch that’s green only at the top. The motto is ‘In hac spe vivo.’”

The Latin motto meants“In this hope I live.”

Simonides said, “This is a pretty moral. From the dejected state he is in, he hopes that by winning you his fortunes yet may flourish.”

The first lord said, “I hope that his inward intentions are better than his outward show, which can hardly recommend him. Judging by his rusty exterior, he appears to have practiced more the whipstock than the lance. He seems to be more experienced at using a whip as a driver of a cart than using a lance as a knight in a tournament.”

The second lord said, “He well may be a foreigner, for he has come strangely equipped to an honorable tournament.”

The third lord said, “He must have let his armor rust on purpose just so he could scour it in the dust in this tournament.”

The three lords were judging the knight by the rusty armor he was wearing.

Simonides was a better man than that. He said, “This way of forming an opinion is that of a fool. A fool will scan the outward clothing and think that he is seeing the inward man.

“But wait, the knights are coming into the lists. We will go now and watch the tournament.”

They left.

Soon, lots of people shouted, “The badly armored knight!”

Pericles had scored a great victory in the tournament.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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