Open Source Shakespeare

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

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Act II, Scene 4

Tyre. A room in the Governor’s house.


[Enter GOWER]

  • Gower. Here have you seen a mighty king
    His child, I wis, to incest bring;
    A better prince and benign lord,
    That will prove awful both in deed and word.
    Be quiet then as men should be, 535
    Till he hath pass'd necessity.
    I'll show you those in troubles reign,
    Losing a mite, a mountain gain.
    The good in conversation,
    To whom I give my benison, 540
    Is still at Tarsus, where each man
    Thinks all is writ he speken can;
    And, to remember what he does,
    Build his statue to make him glorious:
    But tidings to the contrary 545
    Are brought your eyes; what need speak I?
    [Enter at one door PERICLES talking with CLEON; all]
    the train with them. Enter at another door a
    Gentleman, with a letter to PERICLES; PERICLES 550
    shows the letter to CLEON; gives the Messenger a
    reward, and knights him. Exit PERICLES at one
    door, and CLEON at another]
    Good Helicane, that stay'd at home,
    Not to eat honey like a drone 555
    From others' labours; for though he strive
    To killen bad, keep good alive;
    And to fulfil his prince' desire,
    Sends word of all that haps in Tyre:
    How Thaliard came full bent with sin 560
    And had intent to murder him;
    And that in Tarsus was not best
    Longer for him to make his rest.
    He, doing so, put forth to seas,
    Where when men been, there's seldom ease; 565
    For now the wind begins to blow;
    Thunder above and deeps below
    Make such unquiet, that the ship
    Should house him safe is wreck'd and split;
    And he, good prince, having all lost, 570
    By waves from coast to coast is tost:
    All perishen of man, of pelf,
    Ne aught escapen but himself;
    Till fortune, tired with doing bad,
    Threw him ashore, to give him glad: 575
    And here he comes. What shall be next,
    Pardon old Gower,—this longs the text.



  • Helicanus. No, Escanes, know this of me,
    Antiochus from incest lived not free:
    For which, the most high gods not minding longer
    To withhold the vengeance that they had in store,
    Due to this heinous capital offence, 955
    Even in the height and pride of all his glory,
    When he was seated in a chariot
    Of an inestimable value, and his daughter with him,
    A fire from heaven came and shrivell'd up
    Their bodies, even to loathing; for they so stunk, 960
    That all those eyes adored them ere their fall
    Scorn now their hand should give them burial.
  • Escanes. 'Twas very strange.
  • Helicanus. And yet but justice; for though
    This king were great, his greatness was no guard 965
    To bar heaven's shaft, but sin had his reward.
  • Escanes. 'Tis very true.

[Enter two or three Lords]

  • First Lord. See, not a man in private conference
    Or council has respect with him but he. 970
  • Second Lord. It shall no longer grieve without reproof.
  • Third Lord. And cursed be he that will not second it.
  • First Lord. Follow me, then. Lord Helicane, a word.
  • Helicanus. With me? and welcome: happy day, my lords.
  • First Lord. Know that our griefs are risen to the top, 975
    And now at length they overflow their banks.
  • Helicanus. Your griefs! for what? wrong not your prince you love.
  • First Lord. Wrong not yourself, then, noble Helicane;
    But if the prince do live, let us salute him,
    Or know what ground's made happy by his breath. 980
    If in the world he live, we'll seek him out;
    If in his grave he rest, we'll find him there;
    And be resolved he lives to govern us,
    Or dead, give's cause to mourn his funeral,
    And leave us to our free election. 985
  • Second Lord. Whose death indeed's the strongest in our censure:
    And knowing this kingdom is without a head,—
    Like goodly buildings left without a roof
    Soon fall to ruin,—your noble self,
    That best know how to rule and how to reign, 990
    We thus submit unto,—our sovereign.
  • All. Live, noble Helicane!
  • Helicanus. For honour's cause, forbear your suffrages:
    If that you love Prince Pericles, forbear.
    Take I your wish, I leap into the seas, 995
    Where's hourly trouble for a minute's ease.
    A twelvemonth longer, let me entreat you to
    Forbear the absence of your king:
    If in which time expired, he not return,
    I shall with aged patience bear your yoke. 1000
    But if I cannot win you to this love,
    Go search like nobles, like noble subjects,
    And in your search spend your adventurous worth;
    Whom if you find, and win unto return,
    You shall like diamonds sit about his crown. 1005
  • First Lord. To wisdom he's a fool that will not yield;
    And since Lord Helicane enjoineth us,
    We with our travels will endeavour us.
  • Helicanus. Then you love us, we you, and we'll clasp hands:
    When peers thus knit, a kingdom ever stands. 1010