David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scenes 2-4

 — 3.2 —

Cerimon, a lord of Ephesus, was in a room of his house. With him were two people who were seeking medical help — one for his master. They were wet and cold because they had walked in stormy weather to see Cerimon. It was the morning after the storm, but the weather was still bad.

Cerimon called for his servant: “Philemon, come here!”

Philemon entered the room and said, “Does my lord call?”

“Get fire and food for these suffering men,” Cerimon ordered. “It has been a turbulent and stormy night.”

Philemon exited.

One of the suffering men said, “I have been in many stormy nights, but such a night as this, until now, I have never endured.”

Cerimon said to the man, “Your master will be dead before you return; there’s nothing in nature that can be administered to him that can save his life.”

Cerimon listened to the second man’s heart and then wrote something down, gave it to the man, and said to him, “Give this to the apothecary, and later tell me how it works.”

The two men exited. First they would eat and get warm, and then they would leave.

Two gentlemen entered the room.

The first gentleman said, “Good morning.”

The second gentleman said, “Good morning to your lordship.”

“Gentlemen, why are you up and about so early?” Cerimon asked.

The first gentleman replied, “Sir, our lodgings, standing exposed to the sea, shook as if the earth quaked. The main rafters seemed to break, and it seemed as if the building would topple. Utter surprise and fear made me leave the house.”

The second gentleman said, “That is the reason we trouble you so early. It is not because we are eager to get up early and work.”

“You say the truth,” Cerimon said.

Cerimon was the type to get up early and work hard, but he knew that the two gentlemen were not that type.

The first gentleman said, “I much marvel that your lordship, having rich luxury around you, should at these early hours shake off the golden slumber of repose. It is very strange that human nature should be so acquainted with work when it is not required to work. You have money; you need not work such early hours.”

“I have always believed that virtue and skill were endowments greater than nobleness and riches. Careless heirs may the latter two — nobleness and riches — darken and expend. Heirs can act ignobly and be spendthrifts. But immortality attends the former two: virtue and skill. These can make a man a god.

“It is known that I have continually studied medicine, through which secret art, by turning over pages written by authorities, I have, together with my personal efforts, made familiar to me and to my aide the blest liquid extracts that dwell in plants, in metals, and in stones. And I can speak of the disturbances that nature works, and of her cures. This gives me more content and more true delight than to be thirsty after tottering, unstable honor, or to tie my treasure up in silken moneybags and please the fool and death. To chase money for the sake of money is the way of the fool, and when we die we can’t take our money with us.”

The second gentleman said, “Your honor has throughout Ephesus poured forth your charity, and hundreds owe their lives to you because you have restored to them their lives. Not just your knowledge and your personal labor, but also your wallet, which is always open, has built you, Lord Cerimon, such strong renown as time shall never decay.”

Two servants carrying a chest entered the room.

The first servant said to the other servant, “Carry it over there.”

They moved closer to Cerimon.

“What is that?” Cerimon asked.

The first servant replied, “Sir, just now the sea tossed upon our shore this chest. It is from some shipwreck.”

“Set it down, and let’s look at it.”

Cerimon helped them put the chest down on a table.

The second gentleman said, “It is like a coffin, sir.”

“Whatever it is, it is wondrously heavy,” Cerimon said. “Wrench the lid open immediately.”

The chest was so heavy that he wondered whether it contained gold, so he said, “If the sea’s stomach is distressed because it contains too much gold, Lady Fortune does us a good turn by making the sea belch this upon us.”

“That is true, my lord,” the second gentleman said.

“How tightly it is caulked and smeared with pitch,” Cerimon said. “It is waterproof.”

Because the chest was so heavy, he asked, although he had already heard the answer, “Did the sea cast it up?”

The first servant replied, “I never saw so huge a billow, sir, as tossed it upon our shore.”

“Wrench it open,” Cerimon said.

The servants partially opened the chest, and Cerimon said, “Wait! It smells very sweet to me.”

“It is a delicate odor,” the second gentleman said.

“As delicate an odor as ever hit my nostrils,” Cerimon said. “Lift up the lid.”

The servants opened the lid, and Cerimon looked inside the chest and said, “Oh, you most powerful gods! What’s here! A corpse!”

“Very strange!” the first gentleman said.

“It is shrouded in cloth of state — cloth for royalty,” Cerimon said. “It is anointed with full bags of spices — that is what I was smelling! This corpse is safely stored up as if it were in a treasury!”

At this time, spices were very expensive and were kept locked up.

He opened one of the boxes inside the chest and said, “I see a passport, too!”

A passport is a travel document. Corpses travel from the Land of the Living to the Land of the Dead; this passport contained instructions for the disposal of the body.

Cerimon picked up the passport and said, “Apollo, help me to read these words!”

He read the words out loud:

Here I give you to understand,

If ever this coffin is driven to land,

I, King Pericles, have lost

This Queen, who is worth all our Earthly treasure.

Whoever finds her, give her a burial.

She was the daughter of a King.

In addition to your keeping this treasure as your fee,

May the gods reward your charity!

Inside the chest was Queen Thaisa. Also inside the chest were jewels to pay for her burial.

Cerimon said, “If you still live, Pericles, you have a heart that forever breaks for woe!”

He looked at Thaisa and said, “All this happened last night.”

“Most likely, sir,” the second gentleman said.

“Not most likely — most certainly,” Cerimon said.
“It happened last night. Look how fresh she looks! Whoever threw her in the sea were too rough — they did not check her thoroughly enough for signs of life.”

He ordered, “Make a fire, and bring here all my boxes in my private room.”

A servant left to carry out the order.

Cerimon said, “Death may usurp on nature many hours, and yet the fire of life may kindle again the overwhelmed spirits. I have heard of an Egyptian who had for nine hours lay dead, yet he was revived by good medical care.”

The servant returned with boxes and cloths and materials for a fire. The servant, who was competent, knew that cloths would be needed and so had brought them without being asked.

The servant gave Cerimon the boxes and cloths.

“Well done, well done,” Cerimon said. “You have brought the fire and cloths.”

The servant then left to build a fire in an adjoining room that Cerimon used as a room for patients.

Cerimon said to a second servant, “We need rough and woeful music to help awaken her. Cause it to sound, I ask you.”

He rubbed Thaisa’s arms as the second servant left to get a viola.

He was annoyed by the second servant’s slowness and shouted, “You move like molasses! Faster, blockhead!”

The second servant returned and Cerimon ordered, “Play the music!”

Thaisa began to move, and the gentlemen crowded around her.

Cerimon said, “Please, give her air. Gentlemen, this Queen will live. Nature awakens a warm breath out of her. She has not been in a coma more than five hours. See how she begins to blossom into life’s flower again!”

The first gentleman said, “The Heavens, through you, increase our wonder and set up your fame forever. Your fame will never die.”

“She is alive,” Cerimon said. “Look! Her eyelids, which are cases to those Heavenly jewels — her eyes — that Pericles has lost, begin to part their fringes — her eyelashes — of bright gold. The diamonds — her eyes — of a most praised luster appear, to make the world twice rich. Her eyes are two treasures.”

He said to the reviving Thaisa, “Live, and make us weep to hear your fate, fair creature, rare as you seem to be.”

Thaisa moved and said, “Dear Diana, goddess, where am I? Where’s my lord? What world is this?”

The second gentleman said, “Isn’t this strange?”

“It is very rare,” the first gentleman replied.

“Hush, my gentle neighbors!” Cerimon said. “Lend me your hands and lift the chest; carry her into the next chamber.”

He ordered the second servant, “Get linen.”

Then he said, “Now we must take good care of her because if she relapses she will die. Come, come; and may Aesculapius guide us!”

Aesculapius, god of medicine, had been a mortal physician who was capable of bringing the dead back to life.

 — 3.3 —

In a room in Cleon’s house were Pericles, Cleon and Dionyza, and Lychorida, who was holding in her arms Pericles’ infant daughter.

Pericles said, “Most honored Cleon, I must leave. I had a year to get back to my Kingdom, and my twelve months are expired. Tyre has now an uneasy peace. You, and your lady, receive from my heart all thankfulness! May the gods give you the remaining thanks I owe to you!”

Cleon replied, “Your shafts of fortune, although they hurt you mortally, glance off you and hurt us. You have been badly hurt by the death of your wife; we are also hurt by her death.”

“Oh, your sweet Queen!” Dionyza said. “I wish that the strict Fates had allowed you to bring her here, so that our eyes would have been blessed by seeing her!”

“We must obey the gods above,” Pericles said. “Even if I would rage and roar as does the sea my wife Thaisa lies in, yet the end must be as it is. My raging and roaring would change nothing. I have named my gentle babe Marina because she was born at sea. Now I turn her over to you and your charity, leaving her as an infant in your care and beseeching you to give her a royal education, so that she may be as well mannered as she is born.”

Cleon replied, “Fear not, my lord, but think that your grace, who fed my country with your grain, a good deed for which the people’s prayers still fall upon you, must in your child be thought on. We will treat her as we treat you: well and as a savior of ourselves. If I should be so vile as to neglect your infant, the common people, whose famine you relieved, would force me to do my duty. But if I would ever need to be spurred to do my duty, may the gods revenge my neglect of duty upon me and mine, until my descendants die out and no longer exist!”

“I believe you,” Pericles replied. “Your honor and your goodness are evidence that make me believe you — you need not vow to me to do your duty.”

He said to Dionyza, “I make this vow to my bright Diana, whom we honor: Until my daughter is married, madam, all unscissored shall this hair of mine remain, although I may seem to be willful in making this vow. So I take my leave. Good madam, make me blessed in the care you take in bringing up my child.”

Dionyza replied, “I have a daughter myself, who shall not be dearer to me than your daughter, my lord.”

“Madam, I give you my thanks and prayers,” Pericles said.

“We’ll bring your grace to the edge of the shore, and then give you up to the masked Neptune and the gentlest winds of Heaven. Although the sea, the god Neptune’s domain, can be dangerous, right now that danger is masked by calm.”

“I embrace your offer to accompany me that far,” Pericles said.

“Come, dearest madam,” he said to Dionyza.

“No tears, Lychorida, no tears,” he said to his daughter’s nurse, who would stay behind to take care of her. “Look after your little mistress, on whose grace you may depend hereafter. When she is older, she will treat you well.”

Pericles said to Cleon, “Come, my lord.”

 — 3.4 —

Cerimon and a fully recovered Thaisa were talking in a room in Cerimon’s house in Ephesus.

“Madam, this letter, and some jewels, lay with you in your coffin. All of these are yours. Look at the letter. Do you recognize the handwriting?”

“It is my husband’s,” she replied. “That I was on a ship at sea, I well remember, all the way to the time of giving birth, but whether I delivered my baby at sea, by the holy gods I cannot rightly say. But since King Pericles, my wedded lord, I never shall see again, I will wear the clothing of a chaste vestal votary and never again feel joy.”

Thaisa did not remember giving birth. She did not remember what had happened to her husband and her child, if it had been born live, but she felt that they were both dead now. She remembered the storm — terror of the storm had caused her to go into labor early. Due to the ferocity of the storm, a shipwreck seemed certain in these times when travel was very dangerous, and her husband had not been heard from or of. She was so discouraged that she did not want to return to her home or go to her husband’s home.

“Madam, if you intend to do that,” Cerimon said, “Diana’s temple is not far distant. You may live there until your time of death. Moreover, if you please, a niece of mine shall go with you there and serve you.”

“My recompense to you is thanks and that’s all,” Thaisa said. “Yet my good will is great, though the gift of my thanks is small.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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