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.)
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.
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.)