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Pericles

November 30

January 18, 2015

in CST's Courtyard Theater

by William Shakespeare
directed by David H. Bell

The Story

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, ventured out into the world to seek his fortune…

In the kingdom of Antioch, as a suitor to King Antiochus’s beautiful daughter, Pericles, like so many others before him, must first solve a riddle: if successful, he wins the hand of the princess; if he fails, his severed head will adorn the king’s courtyard. Discovering the true meaning of the riddle and the dark secret it reveals, Pericles must flee for his life. Back in Tyre, fearful of Antiochus’s retribution, he names his trusted advisor Helicanus as regent, and sets sail in flight once more. He arrives first in Tarsus, a once-prosperous land, now devastated by famine. To its rulers Cleon and Dionyza and their starving people, Pericles gives a ship’s store of grain; in turn he is honored and offered safe haven. But with his life still threatened, the Prince sets sail again.

A terrible sea storm washes Pericles ashore at Pentapolis—just as a tournament is to take place that will determine the winner of Thaisa’s hand, daughter of the good King Simonides. Shielded in his rusted ancestral armor miraculously recovered from the sea, Pericles wins both the tournament and Thaisa’s heart. They are married and expecting a child when news of the deaths of Antiochus and his daughter reaches him. Safe to again return to his own land, Pericles sets sail for home. But once more his ship is wracked by a terrible storm. Thaisa perishes giving birth to Marina and, according to maritime superstitions, must be buried at sea. The grief-stricken Pericles detours to Tarsus, entrusting his infant child to the care of Cleon and Dionyza.

Sixteen years pass, and Pericles remains unaware of the fates of his beloved: his wife Thaisa, her casket washed ashore, is restored to life by the magician Cerimon and, bereft of husband and child, has vowed to devote the remainder of her days to the goddess Diana; and his daughter Marina, ordered to death by the duplicitous Dionyza, is instead abducted by pirates and sold to a brothel in Myteline.

When Pericles returns to Tarsus for Marina, he learns instead of her reported death. Desolate, he withdraws into himself, for three months speaking to no one. But when his ship arrives at the port of Mytilene, Pericles is introduced to a stranger, and to the wonders of life’s graces.

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