Act 1, Scenes 2-4
Summary – Act One Scenes Two, Three and Four
Scene Two is set in Tyre and Pericles enters with his Lords. The Lords withdraw and Pericles describes his feelings of melancholy. He knows Antiochus will think he is speaking of his secret even though he has sworn to be silent. He believes Antiochus will cover the land with ‘hostile forces’ and war looks likely.
Helicanus and Pericles’ Lords enter and Helicanus warns against flattery and calls it ‘the bellows blows up sin’. He then kneels before Pericles and Pericles asks the others to leave. After being asked, Helicanus says he is able to see anger in Pericles’ brow. Pericles tells him to rise and thanks him for not being a flatterer and then asks his advice. Helicanus tells him to have patience with his ‘griefs’. Pericles explains what happened in Antioch and how Antiochus will now want to preserve his secret. Helicanus tells him to ‘go travel for a while’ and Pericles assents and decides to go to Tharsus.
Scene Three is also set in Tyre and focuses on Thaliard who is alone. He says how he must kill Pericles or ‘be hang’d at home’. He is quiet as Helicanus, Escanes and other Lords enter. He hears Helicanus explain that Pericles has left and is in ‘the shipman’s toil’. As an aside, Thaliard says he shall not be hanged now as this news will please the king’s ears: ‘He ‘scap’d the land, to perish at the seas.’ He then presents himself and Helicanus welcomes him. Thaliard says he has brought a message from Antiochus for Pericles, but says he now knows he has left and will take it with him. Helicanus accepts this, but says that before he (Thaliard) leaves they will feast together in Tyre.
In Scene Four, which is set in Tharsus, Cleon the Governor of Tharsus enters with his wife Dionyza and attendants. Cleon asks if they shall rest here, and by ‘relating tales of others’ griefs, see if ‘twill teach us to forget our own?’ Dionyza compares this to blowing on a fire in a hope to quench it.
Cleon then speaks of how Tharsus used to be a city of plenty, but now there is famine. A Lord enters and asks for the Governor. He tells Cleon ships have been seen approaching, and Cleon presumes this is a neighboring nation ‘taking advantage of our misery’ to make a conquest of them. The Lord explains they are displaying white flags and bring peace and Cleon tells the Lord to greet their generals and adds the following: ‘Welcome is peace, if he on peace consists; / If wars, we are unable to resist.’
Pericles enters with attendants and tells Cleon they have not come to add to their woes. They have brought corn to make their ‘needy bread’. They all kneel and Pericles tells them to rise and says they are not looking for reverence, but love and ‘harbourage for ourself, our ships and men’. Cleon welcomes him and his men, and Pericles accepts.
Analysis – Act One Scenes Two, Three and Four
Act One Scene Two begins with Pericles making reference to his sense of melancholy and this gives an element of depth to his characterization. This is seen to be a reaction to the impending war that he believes will come about now that he knows Antiochus’s secret.
It is with the advice of trustworthy Helicanus that he decides to travel for a while, and comes to Tharsus. Because he comes there in Act One Scene Four with food to help the impoverished people, rather than take advantage of their weakened nation, Cleon welcomes him gratefully. This kindness of Pericles highlights his goodness once more and Cleon’s gratitude emphasizes this.