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Pericles

Pericles Translation Act 1, Scene 1

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Enter ANTIOCHUS, Prince PERICLES, and followers

ANTIOCHUS

Young prince of Tyre, you have at large receivedThe danger of the task you undertake.

ANTIOCHUS

So, Prince of Tyre: you understand how dangerous the task you're about to attempt is?

PERICLES

I have, Antiochus, and, with a soulEmbolden'd with the glory of her praise,Think death no hazard in this enterprise.

PERICLES

I do, Antiochus. But your daughter is so beautiful that I wouldn't mind if I died trying to win the right to marry her.

ANTIOCHUS

Bring in our daughter, clothed like a bride, For the embracements even of Jove himself; At whose conception, till Lucina reign'd, Nature this dowry gave, to glad her presence, The senate-house of planets all did sit, To knit in her their best perfections.

ANTIOCHUS

Bring in my daughter. Put her in a wedding dress good enough for the king of the gods himself. From the time she was conceived to the time she was born, Nature worked to make her beautiful specifically for this moment of marriage, and the whole universe decided to make her as perfect as possible.

Music. Enter the Daughter of ANTIOCHUS

PERICLES

See where she comes, apparell'd like the spring, Graces her subjects, and her thoughts the king Of every virtue gives renown to men! Her face the book of praises, where is read Nothing but curious pleasures, as from thence Sorrow were ever razed and testy wrath Could never be her mild companion. You gods that made me man, and sway in love, That have inflamed desire in my breast To taste the fruit of yon celestial tree, Or die in the adventure, be my helps, As I am son and servant to your will, To compass such a boundless happiness!

PERICLES

Here she comes! She's as young and beautiful as the spring. She's kind to her subjects, and her noble, virtuous thoughts are well-regarded by all. Just the sight of her face makes me happy—it's like all sadness and anger evaporate in her presence. The gods that created me gave me the uncontrollable desire to either be with her or die trying. Since I'm obedient to the gods, I pray they'll help me secure my future happiness!

ANTIOCHUS

Prince Pericles,—

ANTIOCHUS

Prince Pericles—

PERICLES

That would be son to great Antiochus.

PERICLES

—who has every intention of being your son-in-law—

ANTIOCHUS

Before thee stands this fair Hesperides, With golden fruit, but dangerous to be touch'd; For death-like dragons here affright thee hard: Her face, like heaven, enticeth thee to view Her countless glory, which desert must gain; And which, without desert, because thine eye Presumes to reach, all thy whole heap must die. Yon sometimes famous princes, like thyself, Drawn by report, adventurous by desire, Tell thee, with speechless tongues and semblance pale, That without covering, save yon field of stars, Here they stand martyrs, slain in Cupid's wars; And with dead cheeks advise thee to desist For going on death's net, whom none resist.

ANTIOCHUS

—you see before you a beautiful woman. You can look, but don't touch! She's dangerous. Her beauty might lure you in, but if you're not deserving, you'll be killed just for trying to get a closer look.

[He points to a pile of skeletons] Those former princes, like you, were drawn here by the rumors. They were looking for adventure, too. As you can see by their silence (and their bare bones), they're all casualties of love with no grave to speak of, except the stars above. Take a hint from their corpses and turn back now before it's too late.

PERICLES

Antiochus, I thank thee, who hath taught My frail mortality to know itself, And by those fearful objects to prepare This body, like to them, to what I must; For death remember'd should be like a mirror, Who tells us life's but breath, to trust it error. I'll make my will then, and, as sick men do Who know the world, see heaven, but, feeling woe, Gripe not at earthly joys as erst they did; So I bequeath a happy peace to you And all good men, as every prince should do; My riches to the earth from whence they came; [To the Daughter of ANTIOCHUS] But my unspotted fire of love to you. Thus ready for the way of life or death, I wait the sharpest blow, Antiochus.

PERICLES

Thanks, Antiochus, for reminding me of my own mortality. Those frightening things are preparing my body, like theirs, for the worst that could happen: death. When we remember death, it should act like a mirror, reflecting back to us the truth that life is short, and that it's a mistake to put our faith in it. I'll make my will, then, like sick men do when they've experienced the world and, near death, are both sad and resigned to give up the joys experienced on earth. I wish the best to you and to all good men (as every prince should do), and give away all my belongings. 

[To ANTIOCHUS's DAUGHTER]  Except the pure fire of my love, which I give to you.

[To ANTIOCHUS] I'm ready. Whether I live or die, I can take it, Antiochus.

ANTIOCHUS

Scorning advice, read the conclusion then: Which read and not expounded, 'tis decreed, As these before thee thou thyself shalt bleed.

ANTIOCHUS

Since you won't listen to my advice, you'll have to face the consequences: if you read the riddle and can't answer it, you'll be killed like the others before you.

DAUGHTER

Of all say'd yet, mayst thou prove prosperous!Of all say'd yet, I wish thee happiness!

DAUGHTER

Of all the men who've tried, I hope you succeed! I hope this ends well for you!

PERICLES

Like a bold champion, I assume the lists, Nor ask advice of any other thought But faithfulness and courage. I am no viper, yet I feed On mother's flesh which did me breed. I sought a husband, in which labour I found that kindness in a father: He's father, son, and husband mild; I mother, wife, and yet his child. How they may be, and yet in two, As you will live, resolve it you. Sharp physic is the last: but, O you powers That give heaven countless eyes to view men's acts, Why cloud they not their sights perpetually, If this be true, which makes me pale to read it? Fair glass of light, I loved you, and could still, Were not this glorious casket stored with ill: But I must tell you, now my thoughts revolt For he's no man on whom perfections wait That, knowing sin within, will touch the gate. You are a fair viol, and your sense the strings; Who, finger'd to make man his lawful music, Would draw heaven down, and all the gods, to hearken: But being play'd upon before your time, Hell only danceth at so harsh a chime. Good sooth, I care not for you.

PERICLES

Like a knight going into a tournament, the only advice or help I need is faithfulness and courage.

[Reading the riddle from a scroll]
I'm not a snake, but I eat
My own mother's flesh. 
When I looked for a husband,
I found him in a father.
He's father, son, and husband;
I'm mother, wife, and child.
How is this possible?
I leave it up to you.

[Looking back up] Oh, that last part is a bitter pill to swallow. Oh, you gods that see everything we do on earth, how can you look down on such a horrible thing (if what I'm reading is true)? [He grabs ANTIOCHUS's DAUGHTER's hand] Beautiful princess, I did love you,  and would still love you, but now I know the dark secret behind that pretty face. I have to tell you: all my plans are unravelling, because a good man could hardly marry into such a depraved situation once he knows what's in store. You're gorgeous and your character makes you even more desirable; under normal circumstances, anyone would be lucky to marry you, and the gods would smile down on it. But you've been violated so young; it's a crime worthy of hell. I'm not interested in you at all.

ANTIOCHUS

Prince Pericles, touch not, upon thy life. For that's an article within our law, As dangerous as the rest. Your time's expired: Either expound now, or receive your sentence.

ANTIOCHUS

Don't touch her, Prince Pericles, if you value your life. That's the law, and it's as dangerous as the rest. Your time is up! Tell us the answer now, or prepare to die.

PERICLES

Great king, Few love to hear the sins they love to act; 'Twould braid yourself too near for me to tell it. Who has a book of all that monarchs do, He's more secure to keep it shut than shown: For vice repeated is like the wandering wind. Blows dust in other's eyes, to spread itself; And yet the end of all is bought thus dear, The breath is gone, and the sore eyes see clear: To stop the air would hurt them. The blind mole casts Copp'd hills towards heaven, to tell the earth is throng'd By man's oppression; and the poor worm doth die for't. Kings are earth's gods; in vice their law's their will; And if Jove stray, who dares say Jove doth ill? It is enough you know; and it is fit, What being more known grows worse, to smother it. All love the womb that their first being bred, Then give my tongue like leave to love my head.

PERICLES

Sir, no one likes to hear their sins repeated back to them—it would offend you to hear me say it. Anyone who found out about this before probably kept their mouth shut rather than telling. Evil spreads as quickly as dust on the wind. As the dust surrounds us and blinds us, we can no longer tell it's there; we start to think it's normal. The blind mole throws his hills of dirt toward heaven, to tell the gods the earth is filled with man's evil, and the worm dies because of itThe world is full of evil men like you, but kings are supposed to be gods on earth! When kings are corrupt, they can twist the law to conform to their evil desires (and when a god makes a mistake, who would dare to tell him?). You know your actions are wrong, and the fact that you know and still keep on doing it makes it even worse. By the love everyone has for their own mother, please don't kill me for what I've said!

ANTIOCHUS

[Aside] Heaven, that I had thy head! he has found the meaning: But I will gloze with him. Young prince of Tyre, Though by the tenor of our strict edict, Your exposition misinterpreting, We might proceed to cancel of your days; Yet hope, succeeding from so fair a tree As your fair self, doth tune us otherwise: Forty days longer we do respite you; If by which time our secret be undone, This mercy shows we'll joy in such a son: And until then your entertain shall be As doth befit our honour and your worth.

ANTIOCHUS

[To himself] I wish I had a mind like yours! He's figured out the meaning, but I'll talk him out of it.

[To PERICLES] Prince of Tyre: though, according to our law, I could kill you for not giving me a correct answer, I'll give you some more time on account of your noble blood and your way with words. If, in forty days' time, you reveal the secret, I'll welcome you as my son-in-law with a celebratory feast worthy of myself as a king and you as a prince.

Exeunt all but PERICLES

PERICLES

How courtesy would seem to cover sin, When what is done is like an hypocrite, The which is good in nothing but in sight! If it be true that I interpret false, Then were it certain you were not so bad As with foul incest to abuse your soul; Where now you're both a father and a son, By your untimely claspings with your child, Which pleasure fits an husband, not a father; And she an eater of her mother's flesh, By the defiling of her parent's bed; And both like serpents are, who though they feed On sweetest flowers, yet they poison breed. Antioch, farewell! for wisdom sees, those men Blush not in actions blacker than the night, Will shun no course to keep them from the light. One sin, I know, another doth provoke; Murder's as near to lust as flame to smoke: Poison and treason are the hands of sin, Ay, and the targets, to put off the shame: Then, lest my lie be cropp'd to keep you clear, By flight I'll shun the danger which I fear.

PERICLES

You're trying to hide your evil with a show of hospitality, but it's hypocrisy; it only looks good from the outside! If I'd really gotten the answer wrong, then that would mean you weren't dirtying your soul by committing disgusting incest. But now, by sleeping with your daughter, you're both father and son, acting more like a husband than a father . . . and she's filling the role her mother should, taking her mother's place in your bed. They're both like snakes who eat pretty flowers but produce deadly poison.

Goodbye, Antioch! I'm smart enough to know that a guy who's comfortable doing one evil thing won't hesitate to do another one if it'll keep him from being found out. One sin leads to another; murder is as close to lust as fire is to smoke. If I stick around, I'll be poisoned, or accused of treason, anything to keep me from exposing him. So, to save myself and not expose him, I'll leave here and escape the danger I'm afraid of.

Exit

Re-enter ANTIOCHUS

ANTIOCHUS

He hath found the meaning, for which we mean To have his head. He must not live to trumpet forth my infamy, Nor tell the world Antiochus doth sin In such a loathed manner; And therefore instantly this prince must die: For by his fall my honour must keep high. Who attends us there?

ANTIOCHUS

[To himself] He's figured out the riddle, which means I'll have to kill him. He can't survive another day to ruin my reputation, or to tell the world the hateful sin I've committed. The prince must die instantly for my honor's sake.

[To an unknown person] Who's there?

Enter THALIARD

THALIARD

Doth your highness call?

THALIARD

Did you call, sir?

ANTIOCHUS

Thaliard, You are of our chamber, and our mind partakes Her private actions to your secrecy; And for your faithfulness we will advance you. Thaliard, behold, here's poison, and here's gold; We hate the prince of Tyre, and thou must kill him: It fits thee not to ask the reason why, Because we bid it. Say, is it done?

ANTIOCHUS

Thaliard, you're my trusted servant, and I need you to do something for me under the utmost secrecy. You'll be rewarded for your service.

[He pulls out a bottle of poison and a bag of gold] Look, Thaliard, here's poison, and here's gold. I hate Pericles, Prince of Tyre, and I want you to kill him. Don't ask me why—it's because I said so. Understand?

THALIARD

My lord,'Tis done.

THALIARD

Sir, I understand.

ANTIOCHUS

Enough.

ANTIOCHUS

Good.

Enter a Messenger

ANTIOCHUS

Let your breath cool yourself, telling your haste.

ANTIOCHUS

Catch your breath, please. We can tell you've come in a rush.

MESSENGER

My lord, prince Pericles is fled.

MESSENGER

Sir, Prince Pericles is gone.

Exit

ANTIOCHUS

As thou Wilt live, fly after: and like an arrow shot From a well-experienced archer hits the mark His eye doth level at, so thou ne'er return Unless thou say 'Prince Pericles is dead.'

ANTIOCHUS

If you want to live, go after him! Be like an arrow shot by an experienced archer—hit the target I've got my sights on, and don't come back here until you can tell me that Pericles is dead.

THALIARD

My lord,If I can get him within my pistol's length,I'll make him sure enough: so, farewell to your highness.

THALIARD

Sir, if I can get within gunshot, I'll take him out. Goodbye, sir.

ANTIOCHUS

Thaliard, adieu!

ANTIOCHUS

Goodbye, Thaliard!

Exit THALIARD

ANTIOCHUS

Till Pericles be dead,My heart can lend no succor to my head.

ANTIOCHUS

I won't rest until Pericles is dead.

Exit

Pericles
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Bailey sincox
About the Translator: Bailey Sincox

Bailey Sincox is a PhD student in English at Harvard University, where she researches the theatre of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Her teaching experience includes accessible online courses with edX on Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice. She holds a Master's from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor's from Duke University.