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Pericles

The nautical tale of a wandering prince, Pericles is narrated by John Gower, a poet from the English past. Gower explains that Pericles, prince of Tyre, hopes to win the hand of a princess in Antioch. When Pericles learns that she and the king, her father, are lovers, he flees for his life.

Pericles brings grain to Tarsus during a famine, but loses his ships and men in a storm. In Pentapolis, Pericles wins a tournament and marries the king's daughter, Thaisa. With Thaisa pregnant, she and Pericles sail for Tyre. Thaisa bears a daughter, Marina, at sea, but apparently dies. Her coffin drifts ashore at Ephesus, where she is revived and becomes a priestess of Diana.

Pericles leaves the baby Marina with the king and queen of Tarsus. Fourteen years later, Marina, kidnapped by pirates, is sold to a brothel, but her eloquence protects her. Told that she has died, a grief-stricken Pericles rediscovers her. Guided by a vision from the goddess Diana, Pericles and Marina reunite with Thaisa. 

Early printed texts

Although not included in the 1623 First Folio, Pericles was a very popular play in print. It was first published in 1609 as a quarto (Q1) and then republished again in 1609 (Q2), then in 1611 (Q3), in 1619 (Q4), in 1630 (Q5, in two different states), and in 1635 (Q6). The first folio collection that included the play was the Third Folio (1663–64), which notoriously added seven plays to the 36 in the First Folio; of that group, only Pericles has come to be accepted as Shakespearean. (It, along with Two Noble Kinsmen, are the only plays not in the First Folio that are widely accepted today as being of substantial Shakespearean authorship.) 

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Item Title: 
William Shakespeare. The late, and much admired play, called Pericles, Prince of Tyre. With the true relation of the whole historie, adventures and fortunes of the said prince: as also, the no lesse strange, and worthy accidents, in the birth and life, of
Item Call Number: 
STC 22334
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1609

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Item Title: 
[Pericles] The late, and much admired play, called Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22335 copy 1
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1609

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Item Title: 
[Pericles] The late, and much admired play, called Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22336
Item Creator: 
1611
Item Date: 
1611

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Item Title: 
The late, and much admired play, called, Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
Item Call Number: 
STC 26101 copy 3
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1619

016957.jpg

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Item Title: 
[Pericles] The late, and much admired play, called Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22337
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1630

017001.jpg

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Item Title: 
[Pericles] The late, and much admired play, called Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22338
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1630

017043.jpg

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Item Title: 
[Pericles] The late, and much admired play, called Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22339 copy 1
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1635

Picturing Pericles

As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to Pericles is shown below, with links to our digital image collection.

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Pericles is presented with the baby Marina (Act 3, scene 1; early 20th century)

Pericles is presented with the baby Marina (Act 3, scene 1; early 20th century)

Item Title: 
Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Here is all that is left alive of your dead queen - a little daughter [graphic] / [Louis Rhead].
Item Call Number: 
ART Box R469 no.46 (size S)
Item Creator: 
Rhead, Louis, 1857-1926, artist.
Item Date: 
[not after 1918]

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Thomas Cooper as Pericles (1796)

Thomas Cooper as Pericles (1796)

Item Title: 
Mr. Cooper as Pericles [in Shakespeare's Pericles] [graphic] / [John] Graham, del. ; [William] Skelton, sc.
Item Call Number: 
ART File C778.6 no.1 (size XS)
Item Creator: 
Skelton, William, 1763-1848, printmaker.
Item Date: 
London [England] : printed by G. Cawthorn, July 16, 1796.

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Cerimon finds Thasia's body (Act 3, scene 2; late 18th or early 19th century)

Cerimon finds Thasia's body (Act 3, scene 2; late 18th or early 19th century)

Item Title: 
Pericles, III, 2, Cerimon, gentleman, servants and Thaisa, Cer.: "O you most potent Gods! What's here? A corse!" Gent.: "Most strange!" [Cer.: "Shrouded in cloth of state"] [graphic] / [Henry Howard].
Item Call Number: 
ART Box H849 no.1 (size S)
Item Creator: 
Howard, Henry, 1769-1847, artist.
Item Date: 
[late 18th century or early 19th century]

More images of Pericles can be seen in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)