Study Guide

Thaisa in Pericles, Prince of Tyre

By William Shakespeare

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Thaisa is King Simonides's daughter, so she's a princess. After dreamy Pericles impresses her at a joust, she decides he's the man she wants to marry and have her happily-ever-after with. That's a big deal in this play, Shmoopers, because she's the exact opposite of King Antiochus's daughter, who would rather get it on with her own dad than get hitched to another man.

Unfortunately, it takes a little while for that happily-ever-after to kick in.

Thaisa's life is pretty unbelievable. She gets pregnant on her wedding night, goes into labor on a ship in the middle of a horrible storm, and appears to die giving birth to her daughter, Marina. Then she gets dumped over the side of the ship. She floats around in the sea until she washes up on shore in Ephesus, where she's revived by a brilliant doctor who just so happens to live nearby.

If you've already read the play, you know that Thaisa doesn't go looking for her husband and child. For some reason, she decides she's never going to see Pericles again, and she can't even remember if her baby survived. So, what's a girl to do? Well, Thaisa decides that she should live like a nun at Diana's temple in Ephesus.

What's that all about, you ask? Well, clearly, Shakespeare doesn't care too much about Thaisa's motives as a character in this play, though we should say that becoming a nun was a fairly common thing for women to do if they'd lost their families (which is what Thaisa thinks actually happened).

Still, we sort of think that Thaisa parks her fanny at Diana's temple for another reason: so that Shakespeare can orchestrate a big, dramatic family reunion at the end of the play. You see, Pericles, along with all of Shakespeare's other romances, is totally obsessed with the concept of recovering what's been lost—or what seems to have been lost. Shakespeare LOVES tearing families apart so he can put them back together again. It happens all the time.

So, yeah, it's pretty convenient that Thaisa has been living like a nun the whole time, because when she's reunited with her long-lost hubs over 14 years later, she doesn't have to explain why she's shacked up with some other dude. (Go to "Themes: Family" for more on that.) It's another way in which this play shows that, even though good people might have to face some really tough trials, things will still work out for them in the end.

Thaisa in Pericles, Prince of Tyre Study Group

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