Act 3, Scenes 1-2
Summary – Act Three Introduction, Scene One and Scene Two
Gower enters and he tells how a baby has been ‘moulded’, and he then introduces a dumb show. In this, Pericles and Simonides enter at one door with attendants. A messenger meets them and gives Pericles a letter. Pericles shows it to Simonides and the Lords kneel to him. Thaisa enters and is evidently ‘with child’ and is accompanied by Lychorida (a nurse). Simonides shows Thaisa the letter and she rejoices. She and Pericles take leave of her father (with Lychorida and their attendants). Simonides and the rest then exit also.
Gower’s speech continues and he explains that the letters tell of the death of Antiochus and his daughter. They also says that King Pericles must return within the year or Helicanus would be crowned by the men of Tyre to appease a mutiny.
Therefore, Pericles must leave for home and they take to the sea. A tempest causes the ship to dive up and down. The next scene, we are told, has Pericles speaking from the deck.
As told by Gower, Scene One has Pericles on board the ship and he asks Lychorida about his Queen. He asks her to ‘make swift the pangs / Of my queen’s travails’. Lychorida then enters with an infant and tells him to take the child in his arms as she is ‘this piece of your dead queen’. He asks her to explain and she says his little daughter is all that is left of his wife. He asks the gods ‘why do you make us love your goodly gifts, and snatch them straight away?’
Two sailors enter and the first says the Queen must be thrown overboard as the ship has to be cleared of the dead for the sea and wind to be still. Pericles calls this superstition, but then agrees and tells Lychorida to bid Nestor bring him spices, ink, paper, his casket and jewels. After this, he asks her to lay the babe ‘upon the pillow’ while he says goodbye.
Lychorida exits and the second sailor says they have a chest ready (to put his wife in). They are near the coast of Tharsus and Pericles asks them to head there. He says he will visit Cleon as the babe ‘cannot hold to Tyrus’. He will leave her there ‘at careful nursing’.
Scene Two is set in Ephesus in a room in Cerimon’s house. Lord Cerimon enters with a servant and another poor man. Both of these are storm beaten. Philomen enters and says he has brought fire and meat for these men as it has been a ‘turbulent and stormy night’.
When the servant and poor man leave, two gentlemen enter and they explain they are up so early because of the storm. References to Cerimon’s study of ‘physic’ are made and the second gentleman says how Cerimon’s honor and charity have poured forth through Ephesus as has the news of how hundreds have been restored by him.
Servants enter at this point with a chest and they tell Cerimon that the sea tossed it upon the shore. Cerimon asks for it to be opened. He then reads from the scroll inside which was written by King Pericles (in which he asks for his Queen to be buried). Cerimon says how ‘fresh she looks’ and how ‘yet the fire of life kindle again’. A servant enters with boxes, napkins and fire and Cerimon asks for music too. He asks that she be given air and then declares she will live.
Thaisa moves and says ‘oh dear Diana’ and asks where she is. Cerimon orders that she be taken away.
Analysis – Act Three Introduction, Scene One and Scene Two
Gower’s Introduction to Act Three explains the fortuitous news that Thaisa is ‘with child’ and Pericles is now free from the threat of Antiochus. However, this happiness is short lived as once more he is caught up in storm while at sea (on the return to Tyre) and his wife dies in childbirth (or so it seemed).
The many misfortunes that Pericles endures are seen to be outweighed, though, by the good luck that also befalls him. As a good noble Prince, then King, he is seen to suffer, but also has chance on his side. The intervention of Cerimon, for example, is not a realistic piece of drama, but is a signifier of how this moral tale allows those who are good to have better fortune. The surprise ‘reincarnation’ of Thaisa should be compared to the vengeful death of Antiochus and his daughter. Their death by lightning is a symbolic punishment by the gods for their incestuous relationship whereas Thaisa is allowed to live.