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A scene from Pericles

Introduction to the play

Pericles tells of a prince who risks his life to win a princess, but discovers that she is in an incestuous relationship with her father and flees to safety. He marries another princess, but she dies giving birth to their daughter. The adventures continue from one disaster to another until the grown-up daughter pulls her father out of despair and the play moves toward a gloriously happy ending.

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Cover of the Folger Shakespeare edition of Pericles

The Folger Shakespeare

Our bestselling editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems

A man whom both the waters and the wind
In that vast tennis court hath made the ball
For them to play upon entreats you pity him.

Act 2, scene 1, lines 61–63

Help, master, help! Here’s a fish
hangs in the net like a poor man’s right in the law:
’twill hardly come out.

Second Fisherman
Act 2, scene 1, lines 121–123

Pericles in our collection

A selection of Folger collection items related to Pericles. Find more in our digital image collection

Thomas Stothard. Marina singing before Pericles. Oil on canvas, ca. 1825
Act 3, scene 2: The body of Thaisa washes ashore in Ephesus, where she is revived by a physician named Lord Cerimon.
Act 4, scene 1: Dionyza’s hired murderer, Leonine, is prevented from murdering Marina by pirates, who carry her away to their ship. By Alexandre Bida.
"Here is all that is left alive of your dead queen - a little daughter." By Louis Rhead.

Essays and resources from The Folger Shakespeare


Learn more about the play, its language, and its history from the experts behind our edition.

About Shakespeare’s Pericles
An introduction to the plot, themes, and characters in the play

Reading Shakespeare’s Language
A guide for understanding Shakespeare’s words, sentences, and wordplay

An Introduction to This Text
A description of the publishing history of the play and our editors’ approach to this edition

Shakespeare and his world

Learn more about Shakespeare, his theater, and his plays from the experts behind our editions.

Shakespeare’s Life
An essay about Shakespeare and the time in which he lived

Shakespeare’s Theater
An essay about what theaters were like during Shakespeare’s career

The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays
An essay about how Shakespeare’s plays were published

Related blog posts and podcasts

Teaching Pericles

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.)

Fifth Quarto, 2nd issue (1630)