Study Guide

Marina in Pericles, Prince of Tyre

By William Shakespeare

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Marina is a lot like her dad, Pericles, in that absolutely horrible stuff is always happening to her, and there's not much she can do about it. Think about it, Shmoopers. This poor kid's life gets off to a pretty rocky start when she's born during a tempest... in the middle of the ocean. (Hence the name "Marina," which means "of the sea.")

Oh, did we mention that her mom appears to die in childbirth and gets dumped overboard into the ocean? Wait. It gets worse. Soon after, Marina's old man dumps her off on a wicked foster mother who tries to have her murdered (Dionyza, we're looking at you), just as a crew of sex-trafficking pirates show up out of nowhere and kidnap her... so that they can sell her to a brothel in Meteline.

Check out how Marina sums up her life when she loses her beloved nurse:

Born in a tempest, when my mother died,
This world to me is like a lasting storm,
Whirring me from my friends.

Marina's life has been one heartbreak after another, which reminds us that all human beings are completely vulnerable and often have little to no control over tragic events.

So, Marina gets some pretty tough breaks. What's she gonna do about it? Well, she's not gonna just throw in the towel and accept her lousy fate.

When Marina finds herself living in a brothel with a bunch of creeps who try to force her to have sex for money, she refuses to be taken advantage of. Instead of being passive, Marina proceeds to ruin the brothel's business by preaching "divinity" to all the potential clients. She even manages to convince the brothel's owners to send her to an "honest house" where she can work and earn money by teaching and sewing.

So, you probably noticed that Shakespeare makes a huge deal out of the fact that Marina is able to remain virtuous even though she's surrounded by the scum of the earth. By the play's end, Gower tells us straight out that Marina survives because she is so pure and virtuous:

Virtue preserved from fell destruction's blast,
Led on by heaven, and crown'd with joy at last […]

The moral of the story? If you're a good and virtuous person like Marina, then things will always work out for you in the end. (We told you Pericles is a fairy tale.) If, on the other hand, you're totally immoral, you're going to get punished—maybe not right away, but eventually... just like, say, all those prostitutes who've got STDs from their work in Pander and Bawd's brothel.

It's not that this play is totally moralistic (sex and prostitution aren't the same thing here); the point seems to be more that the world has a way of working things out on its own. It may take 14 years, but eventually, good will be rewarded and evil punished.

Marina in Pericles, Prince of Tyre Study Group

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