Study Guide

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Genre

By William Shakespeare

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Shakespearean Romance

This is a pretty big deal, ladies and gents. Pericles is Shakespeare's first crack at the genre of "romance." No, not the hot and heavy, handcuffs and roses, 50 Shades of Grey-style of romance that we're used to hearing about these days.

We're talking about a genre of plays popular in Renaissance England. These plays were neither tragedies nor comedies: they were something in between, and they had lots of elements of magic and fantasy, sort of like fairy tales. Often, they were about families and the cycle of life, and it was pretty common for them to be about big, long journeys and final reconciliation.

Late in his career, Shakespeare made this genre all his own—that's when he also cranked out The Tempest, The Winter's Tale, and Cymbeline. So, what the heck is a "Shakespearean romance," exactly? Here's a nifty checklist of some of the stuff these plays seem to have in common:

Loss and recovery: Check. Shakespeare's romances are completely obsessed with the idea of being able to recover something that's been lost or seems to have been lost. (Especially children and other loved ones.) In this play, Pericles loses his wife and his child only to be reunited with them both after more than fourteen years of separation. Sounds kind of like a fairy tale, right? Well, it pretty much is a fairy tale, folks. When Pericles is reunited with his family, they all get to live happily ever after.

A long, wandering journey: Check. You did notice that our boy Pericles roams around the entire Mediterranean for over fourteen years, didn't you? By the way, Pericles isn't the only one who experiences a long, wandering journey—Marina has her own adventure after she's born at sea, loses her mom, and is raised by a wicked foster mother who tries to kill her, captured by pirates, and sold to a brothel.

Elements of magic and/or the fantastic: Okay, we don't have a straight-up magician in this play or anything (like Prospero in The Tempest), but Shakespeare does throw in a doctor, Cerimon, who seems to work some medical magic on Thaisa when he brings her back to life with his potions and music. There's also the goddess Diana, who appears to Pericles in a dream and leads him to his long lost wife. So, check.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Genre Study Group

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