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Marina-scenes of Pericles to represent an unfinished drama of Shakespeare's own, to which the tedious flourish of the first two acts of an older play on the entire story was prefixed.
But this theory is not without difficulties. all the extraordinary power of single scenes, the 'Marina' has not, as it stands, any more than the Pericles story as a whole, the dramatic substance, the backbone, of Shakespeare's most 'romantic' plots. It is like The Winter's Tale divested of the tragedy of Hermione. The most critical moment of Marina's career, that in which she turns the governor of Mytilene from his evil purpose, can hardly have appealed to Shakespeare, with its Spenserian breadth and simplicity, as proper for the central situation of a drama. And the earlier crisis, in which Dionyza plots her death, is treated with a marked subordination of dramatic to epic effect. We are hardly made aware of Dionyza's jealousy, when we find her putting the last touches to the murderer's instructions:
Thy oath remember; thou hast sworn to do 't:
'Tis but a blow, which never shall be known (iv. 1. 1).
And the raptures of the final re-union are made poignant by no mingling of remorse. Blameless sufferers embrace, but no Leontes, no Alonso, no Iachimo, Posthumus, or Cymbeline looks on. real criminals are in the conclusion simply ignored. Neither the vengeance which Pericles proposed to inflict, nor the 'nobler virtue' of pardon which his later counterparts bestow, gives dramatic significance to their fate; but they fall by a popular uprising, and this last act of their story is huddled away in an Epilogue. The so-called 'Marina' is an assemblage of striking parallels to the Romances, but is not, as a whole, a parallel.
And a great part even of the 'Marina' itself is only intermittently of clear Shakespearean quality. It would be rash to say that the Mytilene-scenes in the fourth act are too repulsive for him to have written; certainly the loathsome figures of Boult and his crew are drawn with a drastic vigour of which there is hardly a trace in the first two acts. But powerful realism of this kind was within the compass of many a Jacobean dramatist, when he could draw direct from the low life of daily experience. It is where his common experience fails him, that the common dramatist betrays himself. Certainly such phenomena as the conversion of Lysimachus and Boult must have been as startling in London as in Ephesus; and it is at this point that the writer of the Mytilenescenes discloses his psychological ineptitude. We may perhaps recognise Shakespeare in Marina's virginal protest, but its instantaneous effect upon hardened men must be attributed to a hand less subtle or more perfunctory than his. Similarly, the majority of the 'choruses' in acts iv. and v., while differing in measure and in style from those of i. and ii., show only here and there a Shakespearean touch. The Gower of i. and ii. speaks in rude octosyllabic verse like his own, sprinkled with antique forms. iv. and v. he archaises no more and cultivates the five-foot measure, the ornate phrase, and the interwoven rhymes of the Elizabethan sonneteer. And the opening 'chorus' of act v., otherwise clumsy enough, contains, in its description of Marina's dainty feminine craft, a little vignette full of Shakespearean flavour.
It therefore seems probable, as most critics have held, that Shakespeare rather elaborated another man's Pericles, scene by scene, here more, here less, according to the fluctuating attractions of the theme,
than that he seriously plotted a 'Marina,' still less a Pericles, of his own.
What the other Pericles was, and who the other man, are questions which an editor of Shakespeare who prints large portions of the other man's work cannot altogether pass by, but which we have no means of decisively answering. Delius inferred from George Wilkins' description of his novel as 'a poore infant of my brain,' that he was also the author of the drama from which it was taken. And Mr. Fleay, on this hint, constructed a romance (or rather two if not three romances)1 of theatrical jealousies and rivalries, in which Shakespeare as well as Wilkins played a part. Wilkins, a latter-day Greene, resents the suppression of his Pericles by Shakespeare's riper work; instead, however, of emulating the earlier Greene's malignant snarl at the upstart crowe,' he contents himself with reproducing his own Pericles in a novel, claiming it as his own in a phrase so cautiously inoffensive that Mr. Fleay was the first to divine what he meant. Upon this, Shakespeare or Shakespeare's company hastens to publish his Pericles, 'probably as an answer to Wilkins.' Two circumstances alone give some slight plausibility to these conjectures. Wilkins in 1607 left the King's Company, and joined the rival company of the
Queen. And his acknowledged play, The Miseries of Enforced Marriage (1603), though totally unlike Pericles in plot (it is founded on the contemporary history of a Yorkshire family), has in common with it some tricks of metre, especially (as Delius noticed) the use of rhymes promiscuously interspersed in the midst of blank verse, even in verse-speeches which themselves alternate with prose. Cf. e.g. Pericles' dialogue with the fishermen in ii. 1., and the dialogues between Ilford and Scarborow, Ilford and the Clown (Miseries of Enforced Marriage, in HazlittDodsley, ix. 492, 493).
But the suggestion that the publication of the First Quarto of Pericles was an act of reprisal by Shakespeare's company is wholly unwarranted. For the state of the text leaves no doubt that it was published surreptitiously from a copy less authentic than that on which Wilkins himself had based his paraphrase.
Pericles was surpassed by few of Shakespeare's most authentic plays in popularity. In 1609 an anonymous satirist compared a crowd of outstretched throats to an audience come 'to see Shore or Pericles.'1 The name of Pericles became a by-word for good fortune,2 and Boult seems, like Pandarus, to have given a new sobriquet to his class.3
But the immense vogue of Pericles was chiefly among the populace of all ranks. Grave and scholarly persons resented its monstrous defects as a drama, as well as its pardonable if not legitimate grossness and presently their voices began to be heard. Jonson, smarting from the derisive rejection
1 Pimlyco, or Runne RedCap, 1609 (cf. Cent. of Shakespeare's Praise, p. 89).
2. Fortunate like Pericles';
Taylor's The Hogg hath lost his
3 Barthwaite, Strappado for the Divell, 1615 (ib. p. 113).
of his The New Inn (1629), turned savagely upon the 'mouldy tale' which it was still a safe venture to perform; and even Owen Feltham's Reply seems to admit that there were many whom Pericles 'deeply displeased.' After the Restoration it passed from the stage, on account of its offences against art rather than against decency, though its grossness was of too primitive a type to please the contemporaries of Etherege. Dryden singles it out, with the English. histories collectively, as a type of the 'ridiculous incoherent story which in one play many times took up the business of an age'; and in an unfortunate, but often-quoted, line used it to illustrate the contention that no first plays are good, since
Shakespeare's own Muse his Pericles first bore.
In our own time it has, somewhat tardily, shared in the heightened repute of the Romances.