Study Guide

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Art and Culture

By William Shakespeare

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Art and Culture

<em>Pericles</em> is based on an ancient story that had already been retold over and over again by the time Shakespeare sat down and gave it new life.

What's interesting is that <em>Pericles</em> is really self-conscious about its place in literary history. Gower is always reminding us that the story has been resurrected from "ashes" as he acts as a kind of chorus or narrator, guiding the audience through the action of the play. The characters themselves even participate in the tale-telling process, sharing their life stories with other characters in the play after we, the audience members, have already seen the story line acted out on stage.

What's up with all the repetition? Think about it: storytelling plays a big role in reuniting Pericles's family. If Marina hadn't shared her life story aboard Pericles's ship, and if Pericles hadn't told his tale at Diana's temple, the family would have remained separated and broken.

It's almost like storytelling itself gives life in this play.

Questions About Art and Culture

  1. Why do you think so many characters in this play tell their life stories to other characters?
  2. Explain how Shakespeare injects the play with an old-school (sort of medieval) vibe, despite the fact that he wrote Pericles in the early 17th century.
  3. How would our experience of the play be different if Gower weren't there to narrate?                  
  4. Why does this play go out of its way to remind the audience that it's based on an ancient tale?

Chew on This

The play is always reminding us that it's an ancient tale so that we can feel free to kick back, relax, and enjoy the story, despite the fact that it's totally unrealistic.

According to the play, the art of storytelling is a lot like medicine—it has the power to heal and make people whole. Storytelling plays a major role in healing and reuniting Pericles's family. 

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Art and Culture Study Group

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