David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 3-5

 — 4.3 —

Cleon and Dionyza were talking together in a room of their palace.

“Are you foolish?” Dionyza asked. “Can the murder be undone?”

“Oh, Dionyza, the Sun and Moon have never looked upon such a piece of slaughter!”

“I think you’ll turn into a child again,” Dionyza said. “You’re acting like a baby.”

“Were I the chief lord of all this spacious world, I would give all this spacious world to undo the deed,” Cleon said. “Marina was a lady much less in blood than virtue. She was much more virtuous than she was noble, and yet she was a Princess whose crown would equal any single crown of the Earth in a fair and just comparison! Leonine, who was a villain, you have poisoned. If you had drunk the poison as a toast to him, it would have been a kindness — much better than the deeds you have actually committed. What will you say when noble Pericles returns to claim his child?”

“I will say that she is dead. Nurses are not the Fates. They don’t control death. They can try to foster a child so that it will live and grow up, and yet they do not always have the power to keep the child alive.

“Marina died at night — that is what I’ll say. Who can contradict it? No one, unless you play the pious innocent, and in order to acquire a reputation for honesty, cry out, ‘She died by foul play.’”

“I won’t do that,” Cleon said. “Well, well, of all the sins beneath the Heavens, the gods like this one the worst.”

“Be one of those who think the petty wrens of Tarsus will fly away from here, and reveal this crime to Pericles,” Dionyza said.

In folktales and ballads, birds sometimes communicated information about a person who had committed a murder. Such stories may have had their origin in this ancient tale: Robbers murdered the ancient Greek poet Ibykos (who lived in the 6th century B.C.E.). Before dying, he exclaimed to the robbers that some birds — cranes — nearby would be his avengers. The robbers laughed at him. When the robbers later entered a city, one of the robbers saw some cranes and shouted, “Look — the avengers of Ibykos.” This aroused the curiosity of the citizens of the city, who — after investigating and discovering that the robbers had murdered Ibykos — put the robbers to death.

Cleon said, “Whoever simply adds his approval after the fact to such an evil proceeding as a murder like this, although he did not give consent before the murder occurred, does not flow from honorable sources. His ancestors cannot be noble people.”

In this society, people believed that nobility was a result of the honorable deeds of one’s ancestors.

“Be it so, then,” Dionyza said. “Yet no one, except you, knows how she came to be dead. No one knows, since Leonine is gone.

“Marina overshadowed my daughter, and Marina stood between my daughter and her fortunes. No one would look at my daughter; instead, they cast their gazes on Marina’s face, while our daughter was scorned and regarded as a drab not worth the time of day — people did not even regard her as worth a greeting when they met her.

“This treatment of our daughter pierced me through, and though you call my course of action unnatural — in which case you do not much love your daughter — yet I find that my course of action is an enterprise of kindness that I have done for the benefit of your only daughter.”

Cleon replied, “May the Heavens forgive what you have done!”

Dionyza said, “As for Pericles, what can he say? We wept as we followed Marina’s hearse, and we still continue to mourn. Her tomb is almost finished, and her epitaphs in glittering golden letters express a widely made praise of her, and it shows that we care about her since the tomb is being built at our expense.”

“You are like the Harpy, which has the face of a woman and the wings and talons of an eagle,”Cleon said. “In order to betray others, you deceive them with your angel’s face and then seize them with your eagle’s talons.”

“You are like a person who superstitiously swears to the gods that winter kills the flies,” Dionyza replied. “You are so afraid of the gods that you fear them blaming you for the death of flies at the coming of winter. But I know you’ll do as I advise — you’ll keep this murder secret.”

 — 4.4 —

Standing in front of Marina’s tomb, John Gower said to you the reader, “We make time pass quickly, and we make the longest distances short. We sail the seas in mussel shells, if we wish to. We make the wish to travel, and then our imagination takes us from boundary to boundary, region to region. Our imagination allows us to travel quickly wherever we want to go.

“Pardon me, but we commit no crime when we use one language in each of the several lands where our scenes are set.

“Please learn from me, who stand in the gaps of our story so that I can teach you the stages of our story — my job is to fill in the gaps. Pericles is now again traversing the hostile seas, attended by many a lord and knight, so that he can see his daughter, who is all his life’s delight.

“Old Escanes, whom Helicanus recently advanced to great and high rank and status, has been left behind to govern Tyre. Bear in mind that old Helicanus sails along with Pericles.

“Well-sailing ships and bounteous winds have brought King Pericles to Tarsus — your thought is his pilot, and so your thoughts shall steer his ship — so that he can fetch his daughter home, but she has already left Tarsus.

“Now see in your mind some of our characters move awhile like shadows and motes of dust dancing in Sunlight. I will tell you what is going on so that your ears will understand what your mind’s eyes are seeing.”

A dumb show — a show without speaking — appears in your brain, and you see Pericles and his train of attendants arrive at Tarsus. Cleon and Dionyza meet him and show him the tomb of Marina. Pericles mourns, puts on sackcloth, and departs with much grief.

Gower said, “See how belief may suffer by foul show! The hypocritical acting of Cleon and Dionyza makes Pericles mourn. The pretended passion of Cleon and Dionyza stands in for truly felt woe, and Pericles is all devoured with sorrow, with sighs shot through his body, and the biggest tears shower his body.

“Pericles leaves Tarsus and again embarks on a journey. Previously, he had sworn never to cut his hair until his daughter was married. Thinking that now his daughter will never be married, he vows never to wash his face, and never to cut his hair. He puts on sackcloth, and he goes to sea. He carries inside himself a tempest, which tears his mortal vessel — his body — and yet he rides it out.

“Now please know that the following epitaph was written for Marina by wicked Dionyza.”

He read this inscription that was written on Marina’s tomb:

The fairest, sweetest, and best lies here,

Who withered in her spring of year.

She was the King of Tyre’s daughter,

On whom foul death has made this slaughter.

Marina was she called; and at her birth,

Thetis, being proud, swallowed some part of the Earth.

Therefore the Earth, fearing to be overflowed,

Has Thetis’ birth-child on the Heavens bestowed,

Wherefore she does — and swears she’ll never stint —

Make raging battery upon shores of flint.

Dionyza had made a mistake in the epitaph. Thetis was a sea goddess who was the mother of Achilles, the greatest Greek warrior in the Trojan War. Dionyza had meant to refer to Tethys, the wife of Oceanus, the god of the ocean.

Marina was the birth-child of Tethys because Marina had been born at sea. Tethys was so proud of Marina that the sea swelled with pride and so the sea flooded the seashores. In Dionyza’s epitaph for Marina, the land, fearing that it would be completely flooded, had caused Marina to go to Heaven. In retaliation, sea waves continually batter the seashores.

John Gower continued, “No mask becomes black villainy as well as soft and tender flattery.

“Now we will let Pericles believe that his daughter’s dead, and Pericles will allow Lady Fortune to determine where he goes.

“But we will visit his daughter and witness her woe and heavy grief in her unholy service as a prostitute. Have patience, then, and think that you now are all in Mytilene. If you think you are there, you will be there.”

 — 4.5 —

Two gentlemen came out of the brothel in Mytilene.

The first gentleman asked, “Did you ever hear the like?”

The second gentleman replied, “No, I never have, and I never shall again in such a place as this, once she — Marina — has gone.”

“To have divinity preached there! In a brothel! Did you ever dream of such a thing?

“No, no. Come, I am for no more bawdy houses. I want nothing more to do with brothels. Shall we go and hear the vestal priestesses sing?”

“I’ll do anything now that is virtuous, but I am out of the way of rutting forever. No more unethical sex for me!”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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