Character Directory


Antiochus king of Syria (c. 238-187 B.C.) is the incestuous father of the Daughtercourted by Pericles. In 1.1, Antiochus announces he who solves it wins the hand of his daughter in marriage, but any who fail will be executed. A row of severed heads attests to many failures. Pericles solves the riddle, but it reveals 'he kings incest, and, horrified, he withdraws his suit Antiochus realises that his secret has been uncovered and he decides to kill Pericles, though he attempts to delude his victim by giving him an extra 40 days to answer-the riddle. When Pericles flees, Antiochus sends Thaliard in pursuit with orders to murder him. Antiochus appears only in the opening scene and is a conventionally false and vicious villain. In Act 2 the good King Simonides is contrasted with him, and Antiochus death by •a fire from heaven' is reported in 2 4 9. 

As the play's only historical figure, Antiochus provides us with a date for its action. However, this was unimportant to Shakespeare, who took the name from his sources, which included him because he was one of the most famous rulers of the Greek lands of the eastern Mediterranean. Known as Antiochus the Great, he was a king of the Seleucid dynasty, heirs to a portion of the empire founded by Alexander the Great. Antiochus waged a number of largely unsuccessful wars and is known as 'the Great' because he carried a campaign to 'India' (actually Afghanistan) rather than for any lasting accomplishments. However, he did develop his capital city, and made it one of the great metropolises of its day, after which, as Antioch, it bore his name.  No evidence exists that Antiochus was incestuous, though he did have daughters, one of whom, Cleopatra, was married to a ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt and was thus the ancestor of Shakespeare's Egyptian queen. However, the playwright probably did not know of this connection.


Pericles is the ruler of Tyre.  Through no fault of his own, Pericles undergoes tremendous misfortunes. He is driven into exile and becomes separated from both his wife and daughter, only to be finally reunited with them at the play's close. He accepts his fate passively, and thus he embodies a major theme of the play: that we cannot control our destiny, and the acceptance of suffering is humanity's only choice. 

Pericles encounters love three times, but each time he loses it. In 1.1 he loves the Daughter of Antiochus, but when he learns of her incestuous relationship with her father, he withdraws his suit in horror.  He is sullied by her sin although he is innocent, for the 'gods .. . inflame'd desire in [his] breast / To taste the fruit' (1.1.20-22). Disillusioned, he loses his youthful assurance and flees into exile, a tribulation that ends when he is shipwrecked on the coast of Pentapolis, in 2.1. He finds love again when he meets and marries Thaisa, but suffers a great loss when he wrongly believes that she has died in childbirth during a storm at sea. This is eased by the compensation of Marina’s birth, but he leaves Marina with Cleon and Dionyza because he fears for her survival at sea. When he returns for her in 4.4, he learns—again wrongly—other death. Significantly, he endures another storm at this point, but it happens off-stage and is merely mentioned, in 5.Chorus. 14, for his fortunes have now begun to turn. Distraught and without hope, he succumbs to despair. He only recovers when he accidentally encounters Marina. The goddess Diana then guides him to a reunion with Thaisa. Thus, in the course of his life Pericles manifests youthful illusions, the misery of incomprehensible suffering, and the ultimate happiness that follows from his patient acceptance of the will of the gods. 

His passiveness makes Pericles a strange hero to modern tastes. However, this trait should not be seen as an aspect of his personality, but rather as an emblematic feature that offers an allegory of a possible human relationship to the universe. Like most of the play's characters, Pericles is more emblematic than real and does not have a complex, fully developed personality. He is wholly good and without flaws. Unlike Antiochus, he is 'a man on whom perfections wait' (1.1.80). He does not cause his misfortunes, nor does he resist them. He expresses his resignation clearly after the shipwreck. He addresses the tempest and says, 'earthly man / Is but a substance that must yield to you; / And I, as fits my nature, do obey you' . His marriage is not his own doing, either. Thaisa courts him more than he does her, and though he loves her, he declares that he has 'never aim'd so high to love' her (2.5.47). He is not without spunk—he responds with fiery indignation when Simonides pretends to believe him a 'traitor' (2.5.54)—but in the world of the play he must suffer or prosper as fate decrees. Finally, his passiveness leads to his complete withdrawal when he believes Marina is dead. He retreats into speechlessness, a deathlike trance of despair from which only Marina can revive him. The play's theme of regeneration is embodied in part by this, Pericles' resurrection. 

The play's strongest treatment of evil is its presentation of incest. Here, Pericles is pointedly contrasted with Antiochus and proves himself a vessel of goodness. The episode is confined to 1.1, but it is mentioned at several points throughout the play, and it makes the point that humanity is capable of gross unnaturalness. It is countered by the example of Simonides and Thaisa, but more dramatically, we see the father-daughter relationship reformulated in the reunion of Pericles and Marina. Pericles recognizes her impact on his despair and calls Marina 'Thou that beget'st him that did thee beget' (5.1.195); thus, incest's horror is reversed. At the play's close, Pericles, unlike Antiochus, willingly surrenders Marina to a husband. He demonstrates the healthy paternal love that promotes the natural cycles of regeneration that are an important theme of the play. 

In his summary of Pericles, Gower speaks of the hero and his family in words that could refer to Pericles alone. He calls them 'Led on by heaven, and crown'd with joy at last' (Epilogue.6). Pericles is an extremely simple character, and Shakespeare, like many readers, may have found him a little too simple, for the subsequent Romances were to contain a pattern of sin and remorse from which Pericles' story is exempt. Nevertheless, in this first of the late comedies the title character is a fine example of an allegorical protagonist, and is a dramatic success when viewed in the terms set by the play. 

The play stems from the ancient Greek tale 'Apollonius of Tyre', and the protagonist's name remained Apollonius in Shakespeare's main sources for the play.  The new name was probably suggested by Pyrocles, a hero of Sir Philip Sydney’s Arcadia, one of the play's minor sources. Shakespeare's hero bears no resemblance at all to the Athenian statesman named Pericles (c. 495-429 B.C.), though the playwright undoubtedly read the Athenian's biography in- Plutarch’s Lives. The great stature of the historical Pericles may have made his name seem appropriately grand for a fictional ruler of Tyre.


Helicanus is and adviser to and surrogate ruler for Prince Pericles of Tyre. In 1.2 Helicanus stands out among a group of flattering courtiers when he makes a speech that stresses the value of honest criticism to a ruler. Impressed, Pericles leaves Helicanus in charge of Tyre when he must flee from the powerful King Antiochus of Syria. In 2.4 the Tyrian nobles desire a ruler who is in residence, and suggest that Helicanus declare himself Pericles' successor, but the faithful adviser summons Pericles home instead. In Act 5 Helicanus serves Pericles again. He acts as Pericles' spokesman when the grief-stricken prince—he has been separated from his wife and daughter—refuses to speak. He witnesses Pericles' reunions with Marina, in 5.1, and Thaisa, in 5.3. Helicanus demonstrates that loyalty and goodness do continue to exist among humans, despite the misfortunes that plague Pericles. Pericles praises Helicanus' virtues several times, and calls him 'fit counsellor and servant for a prince, / Who by thy wisdom makes a prince thy servant' (1.2.63-64), and 'a grave and noble counsellor' (5.1.182). This wise elder's presence seems appropriate to the play's conclusion in divinely wrought happiness and good fortune.


Escanes is a lord of Tyre. Escanes appears with Pericles' deputy, Helicanus, in 1.3 and 2.4—mute in the former scene and speaking two short lines in the latter. In 4.4.13-16 he is said to be governing Tyre while Pericles and Helicanus are abroad. His presence adds dignity to Helicanus, for whom he serves as a retinue.


Simonides is the king of Pentapolis and father of Thaisa. In 2.2 Simonides hosts a tournament, the winner of which is to have his daughter'} hand in marriage. He welcomes the anonymous Pericles to the contest despite his poor appearance id rusty armour. 'Opinion's but a fool, that makes we scan / The outward habit by the inward man' (2.2.55-56), he says. Pericles wins the tournament and Simonides is delighted. Pericles admires Simonides and compares him to his own royal father. In 2.5 Simonides tests the couple's readiness for marriage and pretends to distrust Pericles' motives. This elicits a manly denial from Pericles and a declaration of affection from Thaisa, following which Simonides announces his approval. 

Simonides appears only in Act 2, but his symbolic importance is great. We are reminded of this when his death is reported in 5.3 after the perils and separation of Thaisa and Pericles are finally ended. His virtues are made clear before he appears, in the remarks of the Fishermen in 2.1. Most important, Simonides' healthy love permits him to be pleased with his daughter's marriage. This presents a powerful contrast to the relationship of Antiochus and his Daughter, the incestuous love with which the play opens and which causes Pericles' exile. The hero's encounter. with Simonides and Thaisa signals the beginning of the recovery of his fortunes, and this connection is confirmed at the play's end when Pericles cries, 'Heaven make a star of him!' (5.3.79). ' 

In Shakespeare's sources for the play, the character corresponding to Simonides has another name. Why Shakespeare adopted the name Simonides is not: known, but he presumably knew that the name belonged to two ancient poets, Simonides of Amorgos (active c. 660 B.C.) and Simonides of Ceos (c. 556-468 B.C.).


Cleon is the governor of Tharsus and husband of Dionyza. In 1.4 Cleon bemoans the catastrophic famine that has beset Tharsus, and when Pericles brings relief, he is very grateful. He curses anyone who may ever harm his benefactor, and includes 'our wives, our children, or ourselves' (1.4. 103). This remark proves very ironic when Dionyza attempts to murder Pericles' daughter, Marina, who has been left in their care. Cleon disapproves of his wife's deed, but he gives in to her harangue against his cowardice, and, as the head of the family, he eventually receives much of the blame for it. The play's spokesman, Gower, tells us in the Epilogue that Cleon and his entire family have been massacred by the citizens of Tharsus, who were incensed when they learned of the murder. When his bravery is questioned by Dionyza, Cleon resembles Macbeth (in Macbeth 1.7, 2.2, and 3.4) and the Duke of Albany (in King Lear 4.2), but he is a very minor figure whose function is to depict man's weakness in the face of evil.


Lysimachus is the governor of Mytilene who becomes betrothed to Marina. In 4.6 Lysimachus visits the brothel to which the kidnapped Marina has been sold. His familiar banter with the Bawd and Boult suggests that he is a regular customer. Once alone with Marina, he seems baffled by her refusal to acknowledge the situation, and he insists 'Come, bring me to some private place; come, come' (4.6.89-90). She counters, 'If you were born to honour, show it now' (4.6.91) and goes on to express her revulsion for the brothel. Lysimachus is impressed and shamed. He claims to have come 'with no ill intent' (4.6.109), and says that he wished only to observe Marina's already famous virtue. However, his flight is hasty, and without being funny he suggests the comic potential of the exposed hypocrite. In any case, he serves admirably as a foil for Marina's virtue, courage, and wit. The Lysimachus of Shakespeare's sources is much more plainly a lecher, and when the playwright provided him with an excuse, he certainly intended us to take it as an indication of the governor's essential decency. 

In 5.1 Lysimachus witnesses the reunion of Marina and her father Pericles. When he learns that she is a suitable bride for a ruler, he asks Pericles for her hand. In the final reconciliations and reunions of 5.3 his engagement to Marina is formally declared, and the couple is assigned the rule of Tyre, though Lysimachus does not speak. He is merely a conventional highborn figure, a suitable husband for the heroine.


Cerimon is a nobleman and physician of Ephesus who revives the seemingly dead Thaisa. Cerimon's benevolence as well as his expertise as a scientist is conveyed in his conversation with two neighbors, in 3.2. He assists a servant who has suffered the great storm of the night before—the storm during which the unconscious Thaisa was mistakenly buried at sea, in 3.1—and he speaks of his long study of 'physic, [the] secret art [of] the blest infusions / That dwells in vegetives, in metals, stones' (3.2.32-36). Today, we might call him an alchemist. He revives Thaisa by invoking the spirit of Aesculapius, the Greek god of healing, which suggests ancient medical wisdom. Cerimon guides Thaisa to the famous Temple of Diana—one of the most important ancient pagan temples—when the revived queen, certain she will never see her husband again, desires 'a vestal livery' (3.4.9). In 5.3 when Thaisa, by then a high priestess at the Temple, is reunited with Pericles, Cerimon is there, and, as the only calm person present, is able to confirm Thaisa's story. This kind and intelligent scholar foreshadows Shakespeare's last great protagonist, the magician Prospero of The Tempest.


Thaliard is an assassin sent by King Antiochus of Syria to kill Pericles. In 1.1 Thaliard accepts his assignment with cool professionalism, but in 1.3, once he has followed Pericles to Tyre, he expresses reluctance. He declares that he only contemplates committing the deed out of fear of punishment if he refuses and a sense of obligation to his oath of loyalty to Antiochus. He is relieved to learn that his quarry has fled. Thaliard, as a potential assassin, represents an unjust fate, but he is also a victim trapped by his place in the world. He thus is a part of a major theme of the play: that humanity is helpless in the face of destiny.


Philemon is a servant of Lord Cerimon. Philemon, summoned by Cerimon, leaves immediately to carry out his master's orders to 'Get fire and meat' (3.2.3) for the victims of a storm He speaks only four words and helps illustrate Cerimon's concerned care for others.


Leonine is the murderer hired by Dionyza to kill Marina. In 4.1 Dionyza urges Leonine to ignore his conscience, for he is reluctant to murder so fine a young woman; however, he agrees to uphold his sworn oath to do so. A civil murderer, he offers Marina time to say her prayers, and while she is doing so, he is interrupted by the coincidental arrival of marauding Pirates, who kidnap his intended victim. Relieved to be freed from his obligation, Leonine nevertheless proposes to tell Dionyza he has in fact done the deed. As we learn in 4.3, Dionyza believed him but she has also poisoned him to ensure secrecy.  Leonine's brief appearance is thus filled with surprises as first his conscience, then his viciousness, and finally his deceit, all prove insufficient. Such ironic changes are found throughout the play, and demonstrate that humanity is helpless before fate, an important theme for Pericles and Shakespeare's late plays in general. .In the Confessio Amantis of John Gower, Shakespeare's chief source for the play. Leonine, which means lionlike, is the name of the Pandar. The playwright presumably transferred the name to the murderer to make better use of its reference to a ferocious beast.

Marshal The Marshall is an official of the court of King Simonides.  In 2.3 the Marshall designates a seat for Pericles at the royal banquet, he speaks only four lines and serves merely to indicate the grandeur of the occasion.

Pandar is the keeper of a brothel who, with his wife, the Bawd, buys the kidnapped Marina. The Pandar is somewhat less hard than his wife. He contemplates retirement from a trade whose practice puts them on 'sore terms ... with the gods'. However, he does have a business to run, and when Marina's glorious innocence begins to produce moral reform among the clientele he despairs. He moans 'I had rather than twice the worth of her she had ne'er come here' (4.6.1-2). He then curses her with a contradictory pair of sexual problems: 'the pox upon her green-sickness' (4.6.13). Thus, the Pandar offers comic relief from the melodramatic romance of the main story.


Boult is a brothel employee responsible for training and advertising the kidnapped Marina.  The energetic Boult ('Performance shal follow' [4.2.59], he says proudly) pretends to be cruel and cynical. When he speaks of Marina's modesty, he declares that these blushes of hers must be quench d with some present practice' (4.2 122-124). However, though he threatens to destroy her innocence through rape, in 4.6, she recognizes that she can appeal to his inner revulsion at his profession and tells him his job would shame 'the pained'st fiend / Of hell- (4.6.162-163). He can only plead, -What would you have me do? go to the wars, would you? Where a man may serve seven years for the loss of a leg and have not money enough in the end to buy him a wooden one?' (4.6.169-172). This brief, compelling outburst demonstrates the breadth of Shakespeare's humanity: he transforms a minor character's crisis into a striking commentary on a pervasive scandal of his times; the distressing status of military veterans Boult agrees to help Marina escape the brothel, which we later learn she does. In addition to helping Marina Boult also contributes to the comic relief from melodrama provided by the brothel scenes.

Daughter She is the incestuous lover of King Antiochus of Syria.  Pericles attempts to win the Daughter in marriage by solving Antiochus' riddle, but when the solution reveals the incest, he withdraws in horror, repelled by the sin and fearful of Antiochus' wrath. When she appears in 1.1 the Daughter is presented as a personification of fertility, 'appareli'd like the spring' (1.1.13). However, a warning is immediately voiced by her father, who calls her 'this fair Hesperides, / With golden fruit, but dangerous to be touch'd' (1.1.28-29). She speaks only two lines and approves of her suitor, but when Pericles learns the truth, he rejects her and says 'Good sooth, I care not for you' (1.1.87). He later speaks other and her father as 'both like serpents . . . who though they feed / On sweetest Bowers, yet they poison breed' (1.1.133-134). In Act 2 Thaisa and her father, Simonides, are implicitly contrasted with the Daughter and Antiochus, whose deaths by divine vengeance are reported in 2 4- 'A fire from heaven came and shriveli'd up / Their bodies . . .' (2.4.9-10). The Daughter has no personality and is a convenient agent of evil in the play's melodramatic plot.

Dionyza is the would-be murderer of Marina. In 3.3 Pericles leaves his daughter Marina in the care of Dionyza and her husband Cleon. However, Dionyza grows jealous of the girl as she overshadows their own daughter, and in 4.1 she forces her servant Leonine to agree to kill Marina. Though he does not do so, he tells his mistress he has, and in 4.3 Dionyza faces Cleon's horror at her deeds—she has also poisoned Leonine to ensure secrecy. In response to his dread, she says T think you'll turn child again' (4.3.4) and compares his qualms to complaining that 'winter kills the flies' (4.3.50). She clearly resembles her forerunner Lady Macbeth but is a much less developed character. In 1.4 we see her as she echoes her husband's distress over a famine, and her transition to evil seems unmotivated. She is merely a stereotype of the wicked stepmother, evil because the plot requires it.


Thaisa is the wife of Pericles and mother of Marina. The daughter of King Simonides of Pentapolis, Thaisa is the prize of a knightly tournament won by Pericles in 2.2. She marries him and sails with him to Tyre. En route, Marina is born, and Thaisa is mistakenly declared dead in childbirth and is buried at sea, in 3.1. She is revived by Cerimon in 3.2, but in 3.4, convinced she will never find Pericles again, she enters a convent dedicated to the goddess Diana. She does not appear again until 5.3, when Diana sends Pericles to the temple where Thaisa serves and the two are reunited. 

Thaisa's resurrection in 3.2 is one of the play's semi-supernatural marvels. What seems to be an illmotivated retreat into a nunnery is merely a convention of romantic literature, as is her final reunion with her husband. However, she is not simply a cardboard figure. In Act 2 we see that she is a delightful, strong minded young woman, like many of Shakespeare's other, more developed, heroines. She is delighted by Pericles' victory in the tournament, for though the exiled prince hides his identity, he seems to her 'like diamond to glass' (2.3.36). He is reluctant to press his right to marry her, so she pursues the matter and insists to her father that she'll marry Pericles 'or never more to view nor day nor light' (2.5.17). When Simomdes pretends to be angry that Pericles has allegedly proposed to her, she declares, 'who takes offence / At that would make me glad?' (2.5.70-71). In the final scene, this strength of personality lends resonance to her speech as she recognizes Pericles: 'Did you not name a tempest / A birth and death?' (5.3.33-34). 

In the Confessio Amantis of John Gower, Shakespeare's chief source for the play, Thaise is the name of Pericles' daughter, and his wife is nameless. Having selected the name Marina for his heroine, the playwright adapted the daughter's name for the mother The name is traditionally associated with the legendary beauty of Thais, the mistress of Alexander the Great.


Marina is the daughter of Pericles and Thaisa. Marina appears only in Acts 4-5 (except as a newborn infant—i.e., as a stage prop—in 3.1), but she is nevertheless a major character. Along with her father, she bears the weight of the play's central lesson: the value of patience in the face of fate. Marina, like Pericles, is helpless before her destiny, which subjects her to the loss other family and great dangers as well. Her name, which implies her birth at sea, suggests her destiny-driven life. Her spirit does not flag, however; she resists despair, as her father does not, and becomes his savior. Finally, her moral virtues are rewarded by reunion with her parents and a prospective marriage with Lysimachus. 

Like Pericles, Marina suffers great misfortune—separation from her parents in infancy, a murder attempt by her foster-mother, a kidnapping and sale to a brothel—through no fault other own and despite her extraordinary virtue. Also like her father, she is an idealized character, more important as an emblem than as a personality. She represents absolute innocence and purity; she says, 'I never spake bad word . . . never kili'd a mouse, nor hurt a fly ... But I wept for't' (4.1.75-79). However, though she resembles 'Patience gazing on kings' graves, and smiling / Extremity out of act' (5.1.138-139), she is not without spirit. She demonstrates patience by never giving up on the world, but she is not passive like her father. Her stubborn refusal to surrender her virginity saves her, as she first talks her way out of the brothel and then becomes such a model of grace and kindness that she is called upon to cure the depression of the man who proves to be her father. Marina is typical of Shakespeare's plucky, spirited heroines, even though she does not seek out her adventures but is cast into them by fate. 

Marina's ideal virtue and the simplicity and inflexibility other motives places her in a disturbing contrast with the social reality of the Bawd, the Pandar, and Boult. This contrast is often seen as a defect, but the objection ignores the playwright's allegorical purposes, which are emphasized by the contrast. Like Shakespeare's other late heroines, Perdita and Miranda, Marina represents a sort of redemption, a renewal of life. Her spirit revives that of Pericles, who calls her 'Thou that beget'st him that did thee beget' (5.1.195). Through her, he can transcend the buffetings of fate and be reconciled with a life whose disillusionments have been too much to bear. Her healing nature also effects the customers of the brothel and even the hard-boiled Boult. Moreover, Marina has been symbolically dead: she was believed dead by Pericles and has undergone a journey through the underworld of the brothel. She thus is representative of resurrection, the play's most important motif. She is an appropriate symbol of the spirit of hope and renewal with which the play ends.


Lychorida is the nurse of Marina, servant of Pericles and Thaisa. Lychorida accompanies the pregnant Thaisa and Pericles as they embark on a sea journey.  In 3.1, aboard ship, she presents the newborn Marina to Pericles and reports that Thaisa has died in childbirth. In 3.3 she carries Marina but does not speak when Pericles leaves infant and nurse in Tharsus. Marina's grief at Lychorida's death 14 years later is probably mentioned in 4.1.11, though the text is unclear. In Shakespeare's world the company of a nurse was a regular attribute of a well-born young woman. Through her service to Thaisa and then her daughter, Lychorida embodies dedicated domestic service and contributes to the play's atmosphere of ceremonious and courtly life.


Bawd is the keeper of a brothel in Mytilene, who, with her husband the Pandar, buys the kidnapped Marina. The Bawd is a hardboiled madam. She coolly assesses her wenches as 'creatures . . . [who] with continual action are even as good as rotten' (4.2.6-9). She rejects her husband's scruples: 'Other sorts offend as well as we' (4.2.34), she says grumpily. She is prepared to be friendly with the newly-bought Marina, and assures her that she 'shall live in pleasure [and] taste gentlemen of all fashions' (4.2.72-76). When Marina grieves at her plight, however, the Bawd turns nasty, and declares, 'you're a young foolish sapling, and must be bow'd as I would have you' (4.2.83-85). The Bawd jokes cynically with her employee Boult about the venereal diseases of their clients. This was a traditional subject of humor in Shakespeare's day, but placed in contrast with the virginal Marina it seems shocking. When Marina's virtues begin to encourage moral reform among her customers, the Bawd complains comically, 'Fie, fie upon her! She's able to freeze the god Priapus, and undo a whole generation' (4.6.3-4). In her energetic sinfulness, the Bawd resembles such other Shakespearean ladies of the demimonde as Hostess Quickly and Mistress Overdone, though the underworld of Mytilene is not so developed as those of London and Vienna. The Bawd contributes to the comic—and realistic—relief from the elevated and melodramatic romance of the main plot.


Diana is a Roman goddess of the hunt. After Pericles has been reunited with his daughter Marina, Diana appears to him in a vision, in 5.1.238-247. She instructs him to go to her temple at Ephebus and publicly tell of his continued separation from his wife, Thaisa. In 5.3 he does so and is thereby reunited with Thaisa, for she is a priestess at the temple. The play's protagonist thus finds final relief from his suffering through supernatural intervention, and this stresses the play's most important theme: the helplessness of humanity in the face of destiny. 

Diana, the ancient goddess of the moon and the hunt, was a familiar theatrical personage in Shakespeare's day. She appears in a number of 16th- and 17th-century dramatic productions, generally clad in a costume decorated in silver with emblems of the moon, and carrying a silver bow (which she mentions here, in 5.1.246). Her appearance in Pericles, the first of Shakespeare's Romances, heralds the supernatural atmosphere and dreamlike quality that characterizes these late plays.


John Gower (c. 1330-1408) is an English poet, an historical figure and the chorus in Pericles. Gower's major work, the Confessio Amantis (1390), was Shakespeare's chief source for Pericles and a possible influence on The Comedy of Errors and The Merchant of Venice. Acting as a Chorus, Gower summarizes off-stage action and moralizes on the course of developments.  He appears in brief Prologue-like passages before each act, and also in 4.4 and 5.2. At the play's close he delivers a brief Epilogue. His manner of speaking is quaintly old-fashioned by the standards of the 17th century, which indicates his historical position as well as clarifying the remote and romantic nature of the story being enacted. Occasionally, Shakespeare's character clearly imitates the real Gower's poetic style, as in Act 3 Chorus. Also, two passages not spoken by the character—1.1.65-72 and 3.2.70-77—follow the real poet's verse quite closely. 

Gower's Confessio Amantis contained 141 ancient tales from various sources, rendered in English verse. One of its stories, the Greek 'Apollonius of Tyre', dates to at least the 3rd century A.D., though Gower took it from the work of a later chronicler, Godfrey of Viterbo (c. 1120-c. 1196). A 1554 edition of Gower's Confessio provided Shakespeare with the general outline of events, the locations, and most of the characters of Pericles. The same tale may also have inspired the sub-plot concerning Egeon in The Comedy of Errors and the episode of the three caskets in The Merchant of Venice

Gower was a minor nobleman who pursued his literary career in London, supported by rents from two small country estates. He wrote major works in Latin, French, and English, though the Confessio (which may have been commissioned by King Richard II) is by far the most important. Its 33,000 lines of eight-syllable couplets constitutes one of the greatest achievements of 14th-century English poetry. Gower was a contemporary and friend of Geoffrey Chaucer, who dedicated his Troilus and Criseyde to him. However, the two poets may have become estranged, for a tribute to Chaucer in the first manuscript edition of the Confessio is omitted from later ones produced in Gower's lifetime.


There are several Lords in Pericles.  The first group are gentlemen of Pericles’ court. The Lords appear briefly in 1.2, flattering Pericles. Helicanes denounces them and thereby gains the confidence of Pericles, who puts him in charge when he leaves Tyre. In 2.4 a group of Lords insist that Tyre needs a resident ruler and that if Pericles does not return, Helicanes should take his place. Helicanes puts them off for a year while he sends for Pericles, who returns to Tyre and is thus separated from his wife and child. Thus, the Lords further the inexorable workings of fate. 

Another Lord is a gentleman of Tharsus. In 1.4 the Lord brings Cleon word that a convoy of ships approaches. Though Cleon fears invasion, the Lord observes that the ships bear flags of truce. Sent to escort the arrivals to Cleon, the Lord returns with Pericles. The Lord is not a developed character, though his common sense presents a mild opposition to Cleon's pessimism. 

Another group are attendants of King Simonides of Pentapolis. At the king's jousting tournament in 2.2, three of the Lords mock Pericles who is wearing rusty armour. This elicits Simonides' observation that 'Opinion's but a fool, that makes us scan / The outward habit by the inward man' (2.2.55-57). The Lords speak only eight lines between them and serve to introduce this single point.  

Finally, there is an attendant of Lysimachus. In 5.1 Lysimachus confers with Helicanus about the speechless despair of Pericles, and a member of his retinue, the First Lord, reminds his master of the extraordinary qualities of Marina, who may be able to 'win some words of him' (5.1.43). This timely suggestion brings about the climactic reunion of Pericles and Marina. The fact that the suggestion is made by a minor figure maintains the dignity of Lysimachus—who should not seem preoccupied with Marina—and adds to the atmosphere of courtly formality with which the play abounds.


Knight are jousters who compete with Pericles for the hand of Thaisa. In 2.2 five Knights—along with Pericles—are presented to Thaisa and her father, King Simonides, and Thaisa describes their elaborate coats of arms. None of them speak. In 2.3 at the banquet that follows, one of the Knights—designated as the First Knight—offers brief courtly remarks to Pericles and the king. In 2.5 each of three Knights—First, Second, and Third—speaks a single line as they leave Simonides' court, having been told that Thaisa refuses to marry. The Knights are required for the jousting, and they add to the ceremony of Simonides' court, but they do not have individual character attributes.


Fishermen are three poor men of Pentapolis. In 2.1 the Fishermen assist the shipwrecked Pericles and inform him that the ruler of Pentapolis is King Simonides, whose daughter, Thaisa, is to marry the winner of a jousting tournament. When Pericles' armour is brought up in the Fishermen's net, he decides to use it in the king's tourney, and the Fishermen agree to guide him to Simonides' court. 

This episode introduces the next scene in the play, but the Fishermen also have a greater significance, as they reflect the play's major theme. Before they encounter Pericles they speak of the shipwreck and regret their inability to help the victims 'when, well-a-day, we could scarce help ourselves' (2.1.22). They also philosophize on the ways of the world in a humorous way. They observe, for instance, that fish live 'as men do a-land: the great ones eat up the little ones' (2.1.28-29). Thus, the Fishermen present the idea that people are at the mercy of forces outside themselves, whether natural or social. This helplessness is the central element of the play's world. 

The First Fisherman is the leader of the group; he refers to the Second and Third Fishermen by their names—Pilch and Patch-breech—both humorous terms for raggedy clothes. These labels suggest the general appearance of the Fishermen, which is that of a traditional comic character, the rustic Clown.


Pirates are three buccaneers who kidnap Marina. In 4.1 the Pirates interrupt Leonine, who is about to murder Marina, and take her from her would-be killer. In 4.2 they sell her to a brothel in Mytilene and disappear from the play.  When they effect this melodramatic change in the heroine's fortunes, the Pirates bring about one of the play's many surprises, which helps demonstrate the human dependence upon fate, an important theme. The Pirates, who speak four short lines between them, display an abrupt vigour ('A prize! A prize!' cries the Second Pirate [4.1.93], in his only speech) but their function is mainly to further the plot.


There are several Gentlemen that appear throughout the play.  The first pair are two neighbors of the physician Lord Cerimon. In 3.2, after a great storm, the Gentlemen encounter Cerimon and he remarks on his medical practice and knowledge of arcane herbal treatments. This establishes the physician's credentials to the audience, in readiness for the next episode—his revival of Thaisa—which the Gentlemen observe and comment on briefly. The Gentlemen serve to carry the plot forward. 

The second pair are visitors to a bordello who are converted to virtue through their encounter with Marina. In 4.5 the two Gentlemen discuss the young woman whose virtuous nature has shamed them. They marvel that 'divinity [has been] preach'd there' (4.5.4), and one of them declares, Til do anything now that's virtuous' (4.5.8). With this very brief (nine-line) scene, Shakespeare establishes Marina's superiority to her circumstances.  We have just seen her sold to the bordello by Pirates who had kidnapped her earlier, and this scene makes it clear that good is in the process of triumphing over evil. 

The final group are attendants of Pericles. In 5.1 the Gentlemen are summoned to receive Lysimachus, the governor of Mytilene, who is visiting Pericles' ship. One Gentleman acknowledges the call in four words, but otherwise these courtiers do not speak. They are extras, intended to increase the atmosphere of ceremonious formality that surrounds Pericles.


Messenger is a servant of King Antiochus of Syria. In 1.1 the Messenger informs Antiochus that Pericles—whom the king intends to kill—has fled the country. The Messenger, who speaks only a single line, helps heighten the melodramatic tension of the scene.


There are two sets of servants in the play.  The first is the victim of a storm who is aided by the physician Cerimon. In 3 2 Cerimon informs the Servant that his master will soon die, apparently making the diagnosis based on information the Servant has given him before the scene opened The Servant then leaves, having spoken only briefly He serves to help illustrate Cerimon's talents as a physician.  

The second set are employees of Lord Cerimon. The Servants deliver a large chest that has been washed ashore by a storm It proves to be a coffin that contains the body of the supposedly dead Thaisa. A Servant is sent to fetch the medical supplies with which Cerimon revives her One Servant speaks briefly, but they serve mainly to bring stage properties into the scene.


Sailors are seamen aboard whose ship Marina is born and Thaisa apparently dies. In 3.1, during a raging storm, the Sailors believe that Pericles' wife Thaisa has died, though in fact she is merely unconscious. They demand that she be buried at sea, for they believe that a corpse aboard ship will bring disaster. The distracted Pericles agrees, and Thaisa is cast overboard in a watertight coffin. Thus begins the long separation of husband and wife, a central development in the lay's sequence of exiles and disconnections. The Sailors are hearty seamen, conspicuously unafraid of the storm. The First Sailor addresses it contemptuously, 'Blow, and split thyself (3.1.44), to which the Second Sailor responds, 'But sea-room, and the brine and cloudy billow kiss the moon, I care not' (3.1.45-46). Shakespeare makes it clear that they are not evil; they are merely unknowing implements of fate.


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