Act 2, Scenes 1-2
Summary – Act Two Introduction, Scene One and Scene Two
Gower introduces Act Two and summarizes the incestuous relationship between Antiochus and his daughter. A dumb show follows where Pericles talks to Cleon and a gentleman enters with a letter for Pericles. Pericles then shows it to Cleon and gives the messenger a reward. Pericles exits from one door and Cleon from another.
Gower continues and says good Helicanus has stayed at home to fulfil his prince’s desire ‘to killen bad, keep good alive’. He has sent a message to Pericles of what has happened in Tyre – of how Thaliard came ‘full bent with sin’ and hid his intent to murder him – and how it is best for Pericles not to stay at Tharsus.
Pericles then returns to sea, but the ship is wrecked in a storm. He is the only one to escape and is thrown ashore.
In Scene One, at the seaside at Pentapolis, Pericles enters wet and bemoans the loss of his fortunes and also craves death in peace. Three fishermen then enter and the third one says how he marvels at ‘how the fishes live in the sea’. The first one compares the rich miser to a whale and says how both drive the ‘poor fry’ before them and then devour them all ‘at a mouthful’.
In an aside, Pericles says this is ‘a pretty moral’. The third fisherman then says how if the good King Simonides were of his mind ‘we would purge the land of these drones, that rob the bee of her honey’. Pericles makes himself known and says ‘peace be at your labour, honest fishermen’. He explains himself as the man that the waters and wind ‘in that vast tennis-court, hath made the ball for them to play upon’ and asks for their pity. The first fisherman gives him a gown to keep warm and offers him food and welcome.
Pericles and the first fishermen talk as the other two leave. The fisherman tells him this place is Pentapolis and the king is ‘good King Simonides’. After Pericles enquires, he then tells him his court is half a day’s journey away. He also explains that the king has a ‘fair daughter’ and tomorrow is her birthday. Princes and knights are coming from all parts of the world ‘to joust and tourney for her love’.
The second and third fishermen enter and are drawing up a net. They ask for help and it transpires they are attempting to pull out rusty armour from the said net. Pericles recognizes it as his, and is that which his father bequeathed him. He asks them to guide them to the sovereign’s court where he may appear as a gentleman. If his ‘low fortunes better’, he says he will pay their bounties (and plans to enter the tournament for ‘the lady’). He says he does not have a pair of bases (which is a pleated skirt worn by a knight on horseback). The second fisherman says he shall have his best gown to make a pair and says he will take him to court.
Scene Two is on ‘a public way leading to the lists’. Simonides, his daughter Thaisa and attendants enter and Simonides asks if the knights are ready to begin. He is told they are and he then refers to his daughter as ‘Beauty’s child’, ‘for men to see, and seeing wonder at’.
The knights present themselves to Thaisa and she tells her father about each of them. The first knight passes and his squire presents his shield to her. He is a knight of Sparta. The second is a prince of Macedon and the third of Antioch. The fourth and fifth are referred to in a similar fashion and the sixth is Pericles in his rusty armour. He is also without a shield and is unaccompanied.
Some lords question his armour (and his chances), but Simonides questions their point of view: ‘Opinion’s but a fool, that makes us scan / The outward habit by the inward man.’
This scene ends with the approach of the knights and Simonides and Thaisa withdraw into the gallery.
Analysis – Act Two Introduction, Scene One and Scene Two
Following Gower’s introduction and the dumb show, which explains the events leading up to Pericles’ arrival at Pentapolis, the audience see Pericles washed up ashore after a tempest. He arrives by chance and is seen to be rewarded for his honesty and stature (as explained by the armour bequeathed to him by his father) with the help of the fishermen.
When they explain the forthcoming tournament, the introduction to his next adventure is given. Scene Two focuses on the knights presenting themselves to the princess (Thaisa) and it is explained that on the surface Pericles is deemed to have little chance of success on account of his rusty armour and seeming lack of wealth. The perceptiveness of Simonides is alluded to when he says the man should not be judged by his outward appearance.