« PreviousContinue »
In the novel this becomes :
Poor inch of nature! . . . thou art as rudely welcome to the world as ever princess' babe was, and hast as chiding a nativity as fire, air, earth, and water can afford thee.
There may be no other passage so clearly Shakespearean as this, not only in what it copies but what it adds;1 but one such suffices to show that Shakespeare's hand had been set upon the play when Wilkins paraphrased it, and creates a presumption for the view that all that he ever did to it was already done. And what he had already was beyond question recently done; for all the marks of Shakespeare in Pericles are marks of Shakespeare's ripest time. We may therefore confidently date his share in 1607-08.
What his share amounted to is within certain share in limits, as has been said, unmistakable. The first two acts, helplessly reproducing the incoherent series of Pericles' pre-nuptial adventures, are equally devoid of the brilliance of his youth and of the subtle technique of his maturity. They combine the imperfect craft of the 'prentice with the dulness of the journeyman. Here and there, however, Shakespeare has certainly touched what he did not care to remodel, as in the lines
The blind mole casts
Copp'd hills towards heaven, to tell the earth is throng'd
-lines sharply contrasted, in their careless nobility of phrase and their defiance of rhythmic symmetries, with the careful rhetoric in which they are embedded. But the opening of the third act, by one of the
1 Mr. Collier adduces several striking ones, especially Marina's expostulation with Lysimachus
in iv. 6. If you were born to honour, show it now.'
most amazing transitions in literature, suddenly steeps
If you were born to honour, show it now;
O, that the gods
Would set me free from this unhallow'd place,
the Pericles with For speare's
Besides exhibiting Shakespearean style, these Affinities of portions of Pericles abound in Shakespearean motives. Especially close affinities bind them with 'Romances' which immediately followed them. the most part Pericles presents these common motives in a cruder form, so that it has been plausibly said to hold the same relation to The Tempest, The Winter's Tale, and Cymbeline that the Two Gentlemen holds to Twelfth Night and As You Like it. Like The
Tempest, these Marina-scenes open with storm, and Pericles, confronting its tragic cruelty, is as grand a figure as Prospero. Marina stands 'flower-like among her flowers' like Perdita, and reads the poisonous tenderness of a jealous foster-mother, like Imogen. The meeting of Pericles with Thaisa and with Marina is drawn with as profound a feeling for joy as that of Leontes with Perdita and with Hermione.
Hence the attractive theory which supposes the 'Marina.'
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. With 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. I. 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 Pericles. 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) 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