Act 5, Scenes 1-3
Summary – Act Five Introduction, Scene One, Scene Two, Scene Three and Epilogue
Gower enters and he explains that Marina has escaped the brothel to ‘an honest house’. He goes on to say that Pericles, ‘driven before the winds’, has arrived here where his daughter dwells.
In Scene One, which is set on board Pericles’ ship off the coast of Mytilene, Pericles is in a pavilion on the deck. He is unkempt and dressed in sackcloth. A barge is beside them and Helicanus is told that Lysimachus the Governor has approached and wants to come aboard.
He is welcomed and Helicanus explains to him that Pericles is the King of Tyre and has not spoken for three months in his grief. He adds that this grief springs mainly from his wife and daughter. Lysimachus asks to speak with him but Helicanus says this will be in vain. One of the lord’s says there is a maid in Mytilene who would win some words from him and they send for Marina.
She is brought to them and Marina sings to Pericles; however, Pericles pushes her away. He begins to talk, though, when she says her parentage is equal to his (and so should not inflict violence on her). Pericles says that his wife was like her, and his daughter might have been too. He asks her to explain her parentage and she tells him her name is Marina. She thinks he is mocking her, but he wants her to unfold her full history and she does as he asks. The recognition between them is made complete when he asks her to give her mother’s name, as he says truth can never be confirmed enough. When she does so, he tells her to rise and asks for fresh garments – and father and daughter are reunited.
Pericles hears music, although Helicanus does not, and then falls asleep. Diana appears to Pericles in a vision and she informs him of her temple in Ephesus. She tells him to go there and says he must relate his account to everyone assembled, including the maiden priests, about how he lost his wife. She then asks him to awaken ‘and tell thy dream’, and Pericles says he will obey her.
Lysimachus, Marina and Helicanus enter and Pericles informs them that he was going to visit Tharsus and ‘strike the inhospitable Cleon’, but says he must go to Ephesus first. Before he sets off, Lysimachus tells him he has ‘another suit’ and Pericles implies he will prevail if he wishes to woo his daughter as he has been noble towards her.
Scene Two is set at the Temple of Diana of Ephesus and Thaisa, the High Priestess, is stood near the altar. A number of virgins are on either side and Cerimon and other inhabitants of Ephesus are in attendance. Gower enters and explains how Pericles has come to Ephesus to pay his sacrifice as Diana bid.
Scene Three continues on from Scene Two and Pericles enters with Marina, Lysimachus and Helicanus. Pericles hails Diana and tells all assembled who he is and relates the story of Thaisa and their child (as Diana asked him to).
Thaisa recognizes him, says his name and faints. Pericles asks what the nun means, and Cerimon explains that she is his wife. When she awakens, they recognize each other and she identifies his ring. He introduces her to Marina and Thaisa explains that Cerimon saved her. Pericles blesses Diana for his vision and tells Thaisa that the ‘fair betrothed’ of her daughter (Lysimachus) will marry her in Pentapolis. He then proclaims he will shave off his beard after fourteen years of leaving it untouched.
The play finishes with Gower delivering the epilogue that expounds how punishment comes with sin (as with the death of Antiochus and his daughter) and how the city raged against Cleon and his family and they burned in their palace. This revenge of the gods has occurred because the crime was ‘meant’ (but did not happen). These people are compared to Pericles and his wife and daughter who preserved their virtue despite the tribulations they suffered.
Analysis – Act Five Introduction, Scene One, Scene Two, Scene Three and Epilogue
The final act of the play offers closure as Pericles is finally reunited with his wife and daughter. The epilogue reinforces how despite their tribulations, they have maintained their virtue and honesty, whereas those that were sinful – or abetted sin as Cleon did – are punished by the gods. The play is, then, a moral account of good triumphing over evil and Pericles, Thaisa and Marina are held up as models of decency and virtue.