Study Guide

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Power

By William Shakespeare

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Like King Lear and Shakespeare's history plays, Pericles asks us to think about what it is that makes a good ruler. As Pericles travels from city to city in the ancient Mediterranean, we get a look at a bunch of different kings and their various approaches to power and authority. Many of the rulers we see in this play are also family patriarchs, so the play also asks us think about the similarities between a father's relationship with his children and a king's relationship with his subjects.

Oh, and by the way, this play's kings and governors all serve as foils to each other, so we need to pay attention to how Shakespeare uses his characters to contrast different leadership styles and modes of parenting. The clearest example of this is how the tyrant King Antiochus has an incestuous affair with his daughter, while "good King Simonides" throws a big jousting tournament so his daughter can have her pick of all the best knights and choose one to marry.

The point? Awesome kings = awesome parents.

Questions About Power

  1. Do you think Pericles is a good king? Why or why not?
  2. According to this play, what qualities and traits make a good ruler?
  3. Explain how Shakespeare creates foils in order to contrast different leadership styles.
  4. Do you think the theme of Power gets developed only in the first two acts of the play, or do you think it's an important issue in the final three acts as well?

Chew on This

Being a bad ruler is a lot like being a lousy parent in this play, which suggests that families are like little kingdoms.

Even though Pericles is technically a king, he's often called "Prince Pericles," which tells us that the dude still has a lot to learn about leadership and power early on in the play. 

Pericles, Prince of Tyre Power Study Group

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