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By ISRAEL GOLLANcZ, M.A.
THE EARLY EDITIONS
Pericles, Prince of Tyre, was first published, in quarto, in 1609, with the following title-page
“THE LATE, | And much admired Play, Called | Pericles, Prince of Tyre. | With the true Relation of the whole Historie, | aduentures, and fortunes of the said Prince: | As also, | The no lesse strange, and worthy accidents, | in the Birth and Life, of his Daughter | MARIANA. | As it hath been diuers and sundry times acted by his Maiesties Seruants, at the Globe on the Banckside. | By William Shakespeare. | Imprinted at London for Henry Gosson, and are to be sold at the signe of the Sunne in | Paternoster row, &c. | 1609. |
A second quarto appeared in the same year; a third in 1611; a fourth in 1619; a fifth in 1630; a sixth in 1635.
These quarto editions are sufficient evidence for the popularity of the play; its omission from the First and Second Folios is all the more significant: it was reprinted, however, from the Sixth Quarto, in the Folios of 1664 and 1685, which included "seven plays never before printed in Folio,” viz.: Pericles, Prince of Tyre; The London Prodigal; The History of Thomas, Lord Cromwell; Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham; The Puritan Widow; A Yorkshire Tragedy; The Tragedy of Locrine.
1 This quarto and the Second have been reproduced in facsimile in Dr. Furnivall's Quarto-Series.
THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE PLAY
In dealing with the authorship of Pericles two facts must be borne in mind :(i) the verdict of the Editors of the First Folio in rejecting it from their volume; (ii) the early allusions and early traditions which associate the play with Shakespeare's name; thus, in 1646, S. Shepherd wrote:
“with Sophocles we may
The writer of these lines must have been voicing the opinion of many enthusiastic spectators of “the much-admired play"; J. Tatham, however, uttered the views of the more critical faction, when in 1652 he quoted this cen
"Shakespeare, the Plebeian driller, was
Pericles indeed seems to have become almost proverbial for a bad play successful in hitting the tastes of the masses.
“And if it prove so happy as to please,
so wrote Robert Tailor, in the Prologue to The Hog hath lost his Pearl.
Ben Jonson in his Ode "Come leaue the loathed stage" (1629–1630), singled out for special scorn
“some mouldy tale Like Pericles”;
while Owen Feltham reminded him frankly that certain portions of his own New Inn
“throw a stain
As deep as Pericles.”
It must be observed that there is no reference in these latter quotations to Shakespeare's alleged authorship. Subsequently, Dryden accepted the play, while Pope rejected it, and the early editors down to the time of Malone followed his example; since the time of Steevens it has been included in the Canon, its doubtful character, however, being generally recognized. “I must acquit,” wrote Steevens in opposition to Malone's views, “even the irregular and lawless Shakespeare of having constructed the fabric of the drama, though he has certainly bestowed some decoration on its parts. Yet even this decoration, like embroidery on a blanket, only serves by contrast to expose the meanness of the original materials." Happily modern criticism corroborates the judgment of the First Editors, condemns a great part of Pericles as altogether un-Shakespearean, and relieves the poet of all the offensive and loathsome scenes of "the moldy tale." Shakespeare's hand cannot be traced in the first two Acts, nor in the coarse portions of Act IV, viz. scenes ii, v, and vi; his work is “the strange and worthy accidents in the Birth and Life of Marina," and is to be found in the last three acts of the play. Mr. Fleay has extracted the precious metal from the alloy, and the result is a charming Shakespearean Ro mance "a kind of prologue” to the glorious group of "Romances" belonging to the close of his literary career.
DATE OF COMPOSITION
The date inferred from the connection of the "Marina portion” of Pericles with the last plays of Shakespeare is borne out by external evidence, as well as by more minute internal considerations. The title-page of the first edition, the reference to it as "a new play” in a metrical pamphlet entitled Pimlyco published in 1609, the publication in 1608 of a novel based upon it “as lately represented,” all point to circa 1607-1608 as the date of Shakespeare's part: this view is strongly confirmed by metrical
1 Published by the New Shakespeare Society, 1874.
tests which make it contemporary with Antony and Cleopatra.
No scholar would now venture to support Dryden's statement in his Prologue to Davenant's Circe, 1675:
"Shakespear's own Muse her Pericles first bore,
GEORGE WILKINS AND PERICLES
It is possible to differentiate no less than three styles in the play of Pericles. Shakespeare's share has already been assigned to him: in all probability Act IV, scenes v and vi, are not by the author of the first two Acts and the short line chorus. The author of the latter portion was certainly George Wilkins, who in 1608 brought out a novel, “being the true history of the play, as it was lately presented by the worthy and ancient poet, John Gower"; he lays claim to the play as a "poor infant of his brain," and his claim is justifiable, (vide Delius, Preface to Pericles, and especially Mr. Fleay's valuable essay on Pericles, read before the New Shakespeare Society, 1874).
The third author may have been W. Rowley, who was joined with Wilkins and John Day in writing The Travels of the three English Brothers, etc.; this point is, however, a matter of conjecture, and the evidence is not altogether convincing.
SOURCES OF THE PLOT
The direct sources of Pericles were Laurence Twine's Patterne of Paineful Adventures, published in 1576, and Gower's collection of metrical tales called "Confessio Amantis"; both these works were consulted for the famous story of Apollonius of Tyre. Gower was indebted for his tale to Godfrey of Viterbo's Pantheon, a Latin work of the 12th century ; Twine probably reprinted an earlier 16th century version, derived from a French source.