Study Guide

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Family

By William Shakespeare

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So, you probably noticed how this entire play is structured so that Pericles can 1) create a family, 2) lose everyone he loves, and then 3) miraculously reunite with his wife and daughter after years of suffering and heartache. Gee, Shakespeare. Are you trying to tell us something about the importance of family bonds?

According to this play, family is the most precious thing in the world—especially relationships between parents and children. Hey, we're not kidding: when Pericles is finally reunited with his beloved daughter, he tells us he feels like he's just experienced a rebirth.

At the same time, <em>Pericles </em>is also about the dangers of dysfunctional family relationships. The play features an incestuous father who seduces his own daughter, a wicked foster mother who tries to arrange the murder of a young girl, and a bunch of other deadbeat parent figures who don't love their kids enough and can't take care of them. Shakespeare makes his feelings about lousy parents pretty clear—almost all of them end up experiencing painful and fiery deaths at some point.

Questions About Family

  1. If Pericles loves his kid so much,why does he leave her with Dionyza and Cleon for fourteen years? Is it just so that Shakespeare can have a big, dramatic family reunion at the end of the play? Or is there something else going on?
  2. It seems like all of the seriously wicked parents in this play get punished with a fiery death. (Antiochus, Cleon, and Dionyza: we're looking at you.) But for some reason, Bawd and Pander escape the play without being punished for the way they treat the young girls who work in their brothel. They also escape punishment for raising their prostitutes' "bastard" children to work in the brothel when they're older. Why do you think these two lower-class figures aren't subjected to the same fate as the upper-class figures?
  3. Is it just us, or does this play make a bigger deal out of Pericles's reunion with his daughter than it makes out of Pericles's reunion with his wife?
  4. Does Pericles change or mature as a father over the course of the play? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Pericles </em>is all about the dangers of close-knit family relationships.

This play tells us that families are the key to happiness and mortality.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Family Study Group

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