Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
Gower tells us that we are to imagine Pericles at Tyre, Thaisa at Ephesus, and Marina growing up and educated alongside Philoten, the daughter of Cleon and Dionyza. Mariana has always excelled, so like a good cheerleader’s mom, Dionyza has decided to have Marina killed: “the king and queen of this determined wasteland attempt to kill Marina, to kill the child who emblematizes the springtime and the harvest of the land” (Garber 761). “Act IV, at its best and worst, reads like a Jacobean Perils of Pauline, with Marina always on the verge of being either murdered or raped” (Bloom 608).
Dionyza warns her servant Leonine, who will murder Marina, against conscience and pity. The girl enters with flowers, mourning her long-supposed-dead mother. Philoten is not accompanying her, so step-mom advises she take a restorative stroll along the beach with Leonine lest Daddy come back and find her looking uncared for.
Marina reports stories she’s heard about her birth night. Leonine tells her to say her prayers. She doesn’t understand why Dionyza would want her killed: “I never kill’d a mouse, nor hurt a fly; / I trod upon a worm against my will, / But I wept for ‘t” (IV.i.77-79). She sees the good in Leonine but he is resolved. As he is about to murder Marina, pirates come. Leonine runs away and the pirates kidnap Marina. Leonine looks on, assured that he can report her dead. But he’d better wait a minute: if they just rape her and leave her there, he’ll still have to kill her.
In Mytilene, a whorehouse owner confides in his servant Boult and a woman called just “Bawd” how difficult is it in this business to get good new whores. But they’re missing out on market opportunities with just the three old worn-out whores.
Boult returns with the pirates who sell Marina to him as a high-priced virgin and he places Marina under the tutelage of the Bawd, who doesn’t understand why she would want to have been killed earlier given the nice life she could have now. Boult returns from advertising publicly this new attraction at the whorehouse. He shall stir up more interest: “thunder shall not so awake the beds of eels as my giving out her beauty stirs up the lewdly inclin’d” (IV.ii.142-144). Marina is rather dismayed at how commercial it all is and prays to Diana for protection. “On the stage even more than in print Marina is a desperately touching figure as she stands listening to their materialistic assessment of the commercial value of her body” (Wells 335).
Cleon rues the decision to have Marina killed and wonders what they’ll tell Pericles. Dionyza calls him a coward: “Why are you so foolish? Can it be undone?” (IV.iii.1) — echoing Lady Macbeth and already thought by some to represent Catherine de Medici (Ogburn and Ogburn 130). They never promised she’d live. And they’ll get away with this in front of Pericles if Cleon doesn’t chicken out. This murder is actually a kindness — to their own daughter. Also,
Is almost finished, and her epitaphs
In glitt’ring golden characters express
A general praise to her, and care in us
At whose expense ’tis done. (IV.iii.42-46)
Cleon calls his wife a harpy. The harpy is one of the supporters of the coat-of-arms of the Earl of Oxford (Clark 73). The notion of birds reporting crimes (IV.iii.21-23) is traditional (Asimov 197).
Gower apologizes for the play’s ignoring linguistic diversity and tells us that Pericles and Helicanus are sailing to Tharsus. Escanes was left in charge at Tyre. A dumb show reveals Pericles being shown the tomb and putting on sackcloth. Gower reports that Pericles has sworn never to wash or cut his hair; he has put to sea and encountered another tempest. Gower recites the monument’s inscription: Dionyza’s doggerel for Marina.
Two gentlemen mention how that new whore keeps reforming all the brothel’s customers with her fine preachings on virtue. “Pericles is a wholly virtuous and largely passive figure, patient under the many tribulations he has to undergo, and in his daughter Marina, child of the sea, passivity becomes an active force after she has been captured by pirates and cast into a brothel, opposing itself to the corruption around her and effecting conversions by its own simple, almost mystic power” (Wells 333).
The whorehouse staff stew about Marina’s promotion of purity and goodness. The city’s governor, Lysimachus, arrives in disguise and doesn’t especially want v.d. “For flesh and blood, sir, white and red, you shall see a rose, and she were a rose indeed, if she had but–” (IV.vi.34-36). The Bawd demands that Marina treat this guy well. After some confusing discussion at cross-purposes, Marina’s story comes out: “That the gods / Would set me free from this unhallowed place, / Though they did change me to the meanest bird / That flies i’ th’ purer air!” (IV.vi.99-102). Lysimachus hopes she doesn’t think he was there for any vile reason and he gives her some money.
Whorehouse admin. is angry and Boult is told to rape Marina. The two discuss the relative merits of various occupations. Boult asks, “What would you have me do? Go to the wars, would you? where a man may serve seven years for the loss of a leg, and have not money enough in the end to buy him a wooden one?” (IV.vi.170-173). Marina offers Boult all her money if he’ll help her out of the whorehouse and into a teaching job. She doesn’t seem to realize what a lateral move that is, but Boult agrees to the plan.