Study Guide

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Plot Analysis

By William Shakespeare

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Plot Analysis

Exposition (Initial Situation): Pericles Looks to Score a Princess and Start a Family

The exposition is the part where Shakespeare gives us the 411 on the story. Pericles is a young monarch who doesn't want to rule Tyre aloneā€”he wants a wife and a family (and maybe a little adventure along the way), so he travels to the Kingdom of Antioch and tries to win a princess by solving a riddle.

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication): Incest! Pericles Runs for His Life

The rising action is where the plot is complicated and things get messy. Pericles solves the riddle, all right, but it reveals a dirty little family secret: the princess Pericles wanted to marry has been sleeping with her own father, King Antiochus. Pericles is definitely not going to marry this princess. Plus, now the king wants Pericles dead, so our hero has to go on the lam. Fortunately for Pericles, he finds another princess to marry. He gets hitched to Thaisa.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point): Pericles's Wife Appears to Die Giving Birth to Their Daughter

The turning point occurs on a ship in the middle of the ocean. During a terrible storm, Pericles's new wife goes into labor and appears to die as she delivers a baby girl (Marina). Thaisa's body is placed in a casket and dumped overboard. Pericles drops his daughter off in Tharsus and asks some friends to raise her.

Falling Action: Pericles Hears That His Child Is Dead

Things just keep getting worse for poor Pericles. After leaving Marina with foster parents for 14 years, the dude finally decides to visit his daughter in Tharsus. When he gets there, he hears that she's dead. He's devastated and hops back on his ship to wander around the ocean.

Resolution (Denouement): Family Reunion

There are two separate moments of resolution in this play. The first one happens when Pericles is reunited with his daughter, who wasn't dead after all. (She was just kidnapped by pirates and sold to a brothel.) The second resolution occurs when Pericles travels to Ephesus and meets his not-so-dead wife, who was revived by a local doctor after her casket had washed up on shore. And they all lived happily ever after.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Plot Analysis Study Group

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