Study Guide

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Fate and Free Will

By William Shakespeare

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Fate and Free Will

In <em>Pericles,</em> gods and goddesses are the ones pulling the strings. Still, even though it's clear that Pericles's family has absolutely no control over all the terrible stuff that keeps happening to them, it's hard to pin down the play's overall attitude toward fate.

At times, it seems like the gods and goddesses are totally fickle and might even be out to get Pericles. Like, hello: how many tempests can Neptune and Fortune send this poor guy's way?

At other times, it seems like there's a divine presence in the world that's looking out for Pericles and his family and guiding their lives toward a happy reunion: Pericles survives a shipwreck, Marina is saved from being murdered by kidnapping pirates, and Diana appears to Pericles in a dream and leads him to his wife.

So, what are we supposed to come away with? It seems like <em>Pericles </em>is saying that life is totally unpredictable, something we just have to ride out. And, even though we can't control the will of the gods, we just have to have faith that everything will turn out okay in the end as long as we roll with the punches and not give in to evil.

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. Does Pericles ever try to take charge of his own fate in this play? Why or why not? What does this suggest about his character?
  2. Explain how the various gods and goddesses influence events in Pericles.
  3. What do you think the play's overall attitude toward fate is?

Chew on This

In <em>Pericles</em>, the devastating tempests are symbolic of humanity's utter lack of control over fate or destiny.

Fortune is completely indifferent to Pericles's suffering—and sometimes even seems intentionally cruel.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Fate and Free Will Study Group

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