Study Guide

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Act 1, Prologue

By William Shakespeare

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Act 1, Prologue

Read the full text of Pericles Act 1 Prologue with a side-by-side translation HERE.

  • Gower (acting as the chorus) steps out on stage and tells us he's come back from the dead to share an old-school story with us.
  • Time for a brain snack: The English poet John Gower (1327-1408) was the dude who wrote Confessio Amantis, which is one of the major literary sources for this play. He died about 200 years before Shakespeare (co-)wrote Pericles. The story of Pericles is even older than that and dates back to at least the 5th century, so Gower's not kidding when he says this story is old.
  • Gower brags about how awesome the story is and tells us to kick back, relax, and enjoy the show.
  • Then Gower tells us that the King of Antioch—who is conveniently named Antiochus—has been having an incestuous affair with his own daughter.
  • Gower says that the affair has been going on for so long that both dad and daughter think it's no big whoop.
  • Now we're told the daughter (who doesn't even get her own name in this play) is so smokin' hot that princes have been traveling from all over the world for a chance to marry her.
  • Antiochus isn't about to let that happen, so he's come up with a riddle that has to be solved by the man who gets to hook up with her. There's just one hitch—if a dude guesses wrong, his head gets lopped off and mounted on Antiochus's wall.
  • Hmm. What does this little contest remind us of? Oh, yeah: in The Merchant of Venice, Portia's dad organizes a "lottery" to decide which suitor she'll marry.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Act 1, Prologue Study Group

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