Dana Lloyd Spradley
A slightly redacted version published in Assays VII (1992)

 

 

Pericles and the Jacobean Family Romance of Union

 

 

Pericles is a deceptively non-topical and apolitical play, with the accent falling so much on the "deceptively" that generations of critics have been lured into thinking it essentially non-topical and apolitical, as well as one of Shakespeare's least successful works of dramatic art.[1]  How could a play that begins by conjuring up the ghost of its medieval source to serve as Chorus and presenter throughout possibly have any connection with the burning social and political issues of Shakespeare's own time?

To sing a song that old was sung,
From ashes ancient Gower is come….[2]

Given the way that Pericles puts all who might otherwise have pursued a topical social and political reading off its trail, it is hardly surprising that some of the best recent accounts of Pericles have been developed by psychoanalytic and thematic critics, who have focused our attention on the way this play works through the fundamental human dread of incest at the level of the primary process and in terms of universal family romance dynamics.[3] 

Unfortunately, however, a generalized psychoanalytic reading of Pericles cannot account for the most salient facts about its audience reception.  For while Pericles seems to have been one of Shakespeare's most popular plays with its contemporary audience, its popularity did not survive the seventeenth century and has never fully been revived.[4]  If the "aim of a psycho-analytic reading is the search for the emotional springs that make the spectacle an affective matrix in which the spectator sees himself involved and feels himself not only solicited but welcomed, as if the spectacle were intended for him," it must be admitted that few post-seventeenth-century spectators or readers of Pericles have felt as if the "affective matrix" it provides were specifically intended for them.[5]  On the other hand, the few topical and political accounts of Pericles that have recently appeared have not been nearly as illuminating as those focused on the plays which surround it in the development of Shakespeare's dramatic corpus.  Pericles does not share the relatively explicit topical riddles and references that characterize Coriolanus to a certain extent and Cymbeline in particular, nor has anyone yet discovered a very specific correlative for Pericles' central concern with father-daughter incest—nothing nearly so specific as the way Coppélia Kahn, in her combined psychoanalytic and socio-political reading of Timon of Athens, has been able to relate that play's "core fantasy" of bounty to the pleasures and anxieties aroused by King James's open-handed (and debt-producing) fashion of distributing court patronage in this period.[6]

I think that I may have uncovered just such a topical and political correlative for the incest theme of Pericles, one with which the specific form of the psychoanalytic family romance presented in this play resonates both richly and persuasively, in the ideological family romance that James and his propagandists employed in the promotion of his pet political project at the time, the Union of his two kingdoms of England and Scotland into the empire of Great Britain.  In what follows I will present this discovery in detail, using the associations between incest and Union established in the opening scene of Pericles to unravel the implications of the way the rest of the play works through this material in terms of the political fears and aspirations of its contemporary English audience.  I will argue that Shakespeare raises the scandalous specters of father-daughter incest and murderous parental violence here in a fashion which implicitly serves to parody and delegitimize not only Union but also the hereditary and absolutist premises on which James based his claim to rule England alone, and that the symbolic action of Pericles works not only to undermine this claim, but also to elaborate an alternative model of monarchy in which the king would enjoy an elective status merely, and no longer an absolute and hereditary one.  Moreover, this reading of the family-romance dynamics of Pericles will enable me to account for the peculiarly fairy-tale- or dream-like quality of its plot as the basis of this play's ability to attack and transform both the ideological promotion of Union and the ideology of kingship in Jacobean England at their very imaginary roots, by virtue of its own equally imaginary, dream-like dramatic disguise.

 

 

I.  Initial Topical and Political Situation of Scene One

 

The specific form in which the monstrous specters of incest and parental violence are raised in the opening scene of Pericles is both rather peculiar and peculiarly primal:  primal not in the Oedipal sense per se, since this is not a case of mother-son incest and filial violence, but rather in terms of the even more archaic figure of the patriarch of the so-called "primal horde" whom Freud discusses in Totem and Taboo.[7]  The incestuous relationship Antiochus enjoys with his daughter and the threat he poses to his potential son-in-law Pericles represent a nightmarish revival of the figure of this primal patriarch within the exogamous form of social organization which, according to Freud, his sacrificial murder by his sons founded.  By committing incest with his daughter and setting up a mechanism to eliminate all potential matrimonial rivals for her affection, Antiochus has not only violated the incest taboo fundamental to the expansion of exogamous society.  He has also reneged on the Oedipal contract between generations and families fundamental to its reproduction:  the promise which fathers implicitly make to sons that, if they will renounce their childish desire to replace the father directly by marrying their mother and instead submit to the instruction required to attain adult status, another father of a different family will allow them to marry one of his daughters someday, with the son thereby fulfilling this desire in a displaced and socially-reproductive fashion.

The deep and manifold resonances that the situation at Antiochus's court has with the figure of the father of the primal horde might encourage us to deal with this situation and the transformations of it later in the play strictly in terms of currently available psychoanalytic and anthropological theories.  However, the choice of this mode of analysis would, it seems to me, be a mistake, even in terms of a purely psychoanalytic mode of analysis.  For as Freud himself noted in The Interpretation of Dreams, when we dream of incest or familial violence, or when a dramatist includes such fantasies in the poetic daydreams he produces for us to share, this does not mean we have a present wish or anxiety that such situations might occur.  Rather in such cases the dream-work makes use of these long-repressed materials as the disguised and distorted mode of expression for another present wish or anxiety which troubles us in our latent dream thoughts even more.  While our actual present anxieties cannot escape the agency of dream censorship, these primal scenarios of incest and familial violence in which they find manifest expression can escape.  They are so monstrous that the censorship is not armed to meet them, especially when we do not in fact harbor such wishes ourselves—just as, in Freud's analogy, Solon's penal code had no law against patricide, the act being so unthinkable on the one hand, and its criminality so obvious on the other.  And when a dramatist includes such fantasies in a play—with Freud citing the example of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex—they do not represent the issues that a psychoanalyst should consider to be the central concern of the theatrical daydream it induces.  Instead, in Freud's account Sophocles hitches what is in fact the central concern of the play—"the contrast between the supreme will of the gods and the vain attempts of mankind to escape the evil that threatens them"—to the primal anxieties stirred in us by Oedipus's discovery that he has unwittingly committed both incest and patricide, in order to make the play's exploration of this theological issue more emotionally convincing than it would otherwise have been.[8]

It will be my contention here that the murderous and incestuous scenario conjured up at the beginning of Pericles and revisited throughout the play operates in a similar fashion, and serves as the disguised and distorted mode of expression for ideological and political anxieties shared by Shakespeare and the members of this play's contemporary English audience, anxieties much more intimately related to this particular scenario than the theological anxieties that Freud extracts from Oedipus Rex.  Before uncovering the most intimate topical and political resonances that are latent in the opening scene at Antiochus's court, however, it may prove useful to situate the anxieties it stirs with respect to Pericles' contemporary political and theatrical context in a more general fashion initially, if only in order to provide a preliminary justification for the more detailed and specific examination to follow.  I will begin by approaching the incest scenario of scene one, then, much as Freud does that of Oedipus Rex, as a bit of intrigue that lends a certain measure of emotional persuasiveness to topical and political instigations with which the specter of father-daughter incest itself has no very intimate connection at all—instigations concerning the theory of the divine right of kings and the mode of theatrical realization it was achieving at court in the early Jacobean period.

In the first place, it is fairly clear from the terms Shakespeare has Pericles employ in his attempt to appeal to Antiochus's conscience after deciphering his incest riddle—an appeal that represents a marked departure from Shakespeare's sources, where the Pericles character accuses Antiochus of incest much more directly and succinctly[9]—that this highly-charged situation is presented as a kind of "worst-case" scenario which reveals just how criminal an absolute monarch like Antiochus can become, given the lack of any earthly constraints on his power:

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.  (1.1.104-07)

In his appeal to Antiochus here, Pericles echos propositions fundamental to the reigning ideology of kingship in the early Jacobean period:  specifically, that the king, as god's earthly lieutenant, is above the law since he is himself the lawgiver; hence no matter how wicked a king might be, his subjects have absolutely no right to judge and punish him.  However commonplace these propositions are, of course, James himself had given canonical expression in his The Trew Law of Free Monarchies in 1598, a tract he had republished for the benefit of his new English subjects immediately upon his ascension to the throne in 1603.[10]  By having Pericles naively echo such propositions in his appeal to Antiochus, Shakespeare would seem to be performing what amounts to an implicit reductio ad absurdum on them dramatically:  a divinely-appointed king is above the law and can do anything he wants, with his subjects having no lawful right to intervene except through "patience, earnest prayers to God, and amendment of their liues"[11]—even commit incest with his daughter and murder all her suitors?

On the other hand, the specific mode of theatrical elaboration that Shakespeare gives to the situation at Antiochus's court also betrays certain topical and political resonances which would seem to lend it an implicitly parodic function as well.  In staging this scene Shakespeare comes perilously close to reproducing the theatrical mode of a Jacobean court masque, in particular a masque commissioned to celebrate a court wedding, though of course in an actual masque of this genre there would have to be no revelation of incest and Pericles would have to be successful in his suit.  While he violates the convention of giving only silent parts to the noble and royal masquers, still Shakespeare makes the role of Antiochus's daughter an almost completely silent one—she has but two lines—and reinforces her association with a creature of masque through the divinizing descriptions that Antiochus and Pericles produce in praising her.  More, the daughter enters to musical accompaniment, in the sumptuous costume of a bride; going by Antiochus's description she even seems to be brought in on a machine decorated to represent the garden of the Hesperides, a common figure for the British island itself in Jacobean iconography:

Before thee stands this fair Hesperides,
With golden fruit, but dangerous to be touch'd;
For death-like dragons here affright thee hard.  (1.1.28-30)

Yet these resonances with the court masque are here deployed in a situation which radically demystifies the divine self-delusions that masques fostered in their royal and aristocratic audience.  For the supposedly divine mystery that beats at the heart of this elaborate spectacle and justifies the execution of the daughter's suitors is none other than the monstrous and merely earthly crime of incest:  "He's father, son, and husband mild; / I mother, wife, and yet his child" (1.1.69-70).  Not all the poetic and theatrical machinery of a court masque can disguise the earthly criminality of Antiochus's relationship to his daughter from Pericles within the fiction, once he has deciphered the seemingly theological riddle posed to him in the course of the performance and found its proper solution to be merely sexual and familial.[12]  Though we can only speculate concerning the implications that Pericles' contemporary audience may have drawn from such a scene, it seems likely that it would have reinforced whatever native skepticism of the divine illusions of royal power and aristocratic privilege promoted by the court masque they had, lest they, like all suitors before Pericles, should similarly "lose their heads" in uncritical subservience to their imaginary power.

 

 

II.  "O Astonishing Wedding"

 

The innovations that Shakespeare introduces into Pericles' response to the riddle and the masque-like mode in which he presents the opening scene as a whole both serve to suggest that this play is dedicated to performing a certain amount of topical and political work on the imagination of its contemporary audience.  Still, the relevance of the specific kind of incest and threatened familial violence presented in the opening scene and revisited throughout the play for this audience has yet to be demonstrated.  In order to prepare the ground for the argument to be presented here—that they function as an implicit and scandalously nightmarish parody of the bodily and familial symbolism that James and his supporters employed in the ideological promotion of the Union of England and Scotland—we must next turn to a brief reconstruction of how Union was promoted from its initial presentation in early 1604 to the form it had attained just prior to Pericles' composition and first performances in late 1607 or early 1608.  By doing so we will be able to see how James had unwittingly, if only symbolically, managed to involve himself in an incestuous "marriage" with any or all of his political "daughters" England, Scotland, or even the united Great Britain herself by the time of Pericles, an incestuous marriage that was almost exactly parallel with the one the legendary Antiochus and his unnamed daughter are presented as sharing in the opening scene of the play.

James seems to have thought that the Union of his two kingdoms had been accomplished at the very moment of his ascension to the English throne in 1603 by virtue of the fact that both kingdoms now had a single sovereign; he consequently expected the English Parliament to recognize this fact by putting a Union in both name and deed into immediate legal effect.  As James would later recall in a speech to Parliament, "When I first propounded the Vnion, I then though[t] there could haue bene no more question of it, then of your declaration and acknowledgement of my right vnto this Crowne [of England], and that as two Twinnes, they would haue growne vp together."[13]  In his first speech to Parliament on 19 March 1604, then, James had no qualms about deploying the long-traditional figures of the king as husband of the realm and head of the body politic in such a fashion as to cast himself in the role of a political bigamist and two-bodied monster in an attempt to persuade Parliament to reaffirm his symbolic normalcy through their speedy agreement to Union:

What God hath conioyned then, let no man separate.  I am the Husband, and all the whole Isle is my lawfull Wife; I am the Head, and it is my Body…:  I hope therefore no man will be so vnreasonable as to thinke that I that am a Christian King vnder the Gospel, should be a Polygamist and husband to two wiues; that I being the Head, should haue a diuided and monstrous Body….[14]

Strange as it may seem, James himself seems to have taken these matrimonial and bodily figures fairly seriously:  in this first speech to Parliament he relies on them almost exclusively to make his point that Union is an immediate political necessity.  By having this speech promptly printed and distributed for the edification of the English public at large, James must also have wished to impress the persuasive force of these figures upon the imagination of his English subjects outside Parliament as well.[15]

The members of the English Parliament, however, and in particular of the House of Commons, seem not to have taken his symbolic argument in favor of Union nearly so seriously as James might have wished.  Instead of immediately putting Union into effect, they debated its advisability at length and delayed taking any action on it, even what must to James, when he proposed it, have seemed the merely token step of eliminating the name of England and adopting that of Great Britain in its place.[16]  Sir Edwin Sandys, for example, in a speech to the Commons on 26 April 1604, worried that if the English Parliament voted to abolish the name of England, they might likewise abolish their very institutional existence along with the name, leaving England and indeed Great Britain itself without a lawmaking body:  "We can give no laws to Britain because we are but parcel.  Scotland cannot because it is another part.  Together we cannot, because several corporations."  The adoption of a change of name might also entail the abolition of all the specifically English liberties that James's subjects in that nation currently enjoyed:

The King by his oath at coronation tied to maintain our liberties, etc.  The subject by oath of allegiance tied to serve the King, to maintain all rights annexed to the Crown, etc.  He [as King of Great Britain] may exact another oath of us.  We have no warrant to require any of him.[17]

While many other practical obstacles to Union were debated by James's first Parliament in the three sessions that took place between its opening in March 1604 and its dissolution in July 1607, the principal sticking point throughout this long period of debate remained Parliament's fear that Union would necessarily entail the abolition of its long-established institutional privilege to protect the liberties of the subjects it represented, and hence a ceding of potentially tyrannical power to the king and the effective loss of any independent English national identity as well.[18]

Given Parliament's continuing resistance to and delay in putting Union into effect, it is understandable that James would eventually tire of playing the roles of political bigamist and two-bodied monster in which he had cast himself in his initial attempts to promote Union.  Worse, as James himself noted in his speech to the Union committee on 20 April 1604, "the question of the union had become alehouse talk" within a month of the speech in which he had conjured up these figures; vivid and memorable as these figures are, it seems likely that knowledge of the scandalous roles James had given himself in it must soon have become a little too common among his English subjects at large.[19]  And so starting in late 1606 and early 1607, James began to disseminate a different matrimonial configuration for the Union project, one elaborated in terms of the equally long-traditional figure of the king, not as the husband of the realm, but as the father of the nation.  Into this traditional figure, James introduced a novel matrimonial variation of his own to make it suitable for the promotion of Union:  that this father was currently arranging a marriage between his two national children, England and Scotland.  James broadcast this idea by arranging actual marriages to serve as living figures of Union (with court masques to celebrate them), by giving sympathetic pamphleteers free rein to present it to the nation, and by presenting it to Parliament himself in a speech of 31 March 1607 which, as with his 19 March 1604 speech, was promptly printed for the consumption of his English subjects at large.[20]

The most important of these court marriages in helping to negotiate a decisive transition to this new mode of promoting Union was the one James arranged between the Scottish Lord Hay and the only daughter and heir of the English Lord Denny on Twelfth Night 1607.  Even without poetic elaboration, this marriage could serve as a living figure of the matrimonial Union of James's Scottish "son" and his English "daughter" as arranged by their "father" James, with all the enduring institutional implications of this political Union likewise figured by Honora Denny's status as an English heiress—this Union too would be an "hereditary" one.  And though the author James commissioned to compose the masque celebrating this wedding, Thomas Campion, did not lend Union nearly the thematic centrality that Jonson had accorded it a year earlier in Hymenaei, he did help disseminate the ideological import of this marriage in a poetic epistle to James included at the very beginning of the published 1607 text of the masque, the concluding lines of which make the parallel between the Hay-Denny marriage and Anglo-Scottish Union patent:

O then, great Monarch, with how wise a care
Do you these bloods deuided mixe in one,
And with like consanguinities prepare
The high, and euerliuing Vnion
     Tweene Scots and English:  who can wonder then
     If he that marries kingdomes, marries men?[21]

Emboldened by this success, James employed this new matrimonial model himself in urging Parliament to bring their preparations, the necessity of which he was now in the symbolic position to acknowledge, to a satisfactory close in his next speech on 31 March 1607—though James tactfully varied the respective genders of the national bride and groom so as to allay any fears that England would be given the subservient role of wife in Union itself, as it had been in the living figure of Union wrought by the Hay-Denny marriage:

Vnion is a mariage:  would he not bee thought absurd that for furthering of a mariage betweene two friends of his, would make his first motion to haue the two parties be laid in bedde together, and performe the other turnes of mariage?  must there not precede the mutuall sight and acquaintance of the parties one with another, the conditions of the contract, and Ioincture to be talked of and agreed vpon by their friends, and such other things as in order ought to goe before the ending of such a worke?…Euery honest man desireth a perfect Vnion, but they that say so, and admit no preparation thereto, haue mel in ore, fel in corde.…you are to be the husband, they the wife:  you conquerours, they as conquered, though not by the sword, but by the sweet and sure bond.[22]

While James does not explicitly refer to his own role as the "father" in Union in this speech, the pamphleteer Nicholas Breton made a virtue of didactic clarity on this point in his 1607 A Murmurer:

Is not vnion a kind of marriage, wrought by the hands of God? and performed in the hearts of his people?…let then these two kingdomes be one, marrie them in loue, and since our King is the Father that giues them, while God himselfe doth vnite them, what Subiect or Christian can be so vngratious as not to giue his consent to them?[23]

Unfortunately for the success of James's project, however, this new wrinkle in the ideological promotion of Union did little or nothing to satisfy Parliament's practical objections to putting it into effect.  Indeed, it may only have succeeded in providing those subjects resistant to Union with all the symbolic ammunition necessary to justify their continuing disaffection from both James and his project.  Consider some of the implications of the unprecedented connection between the hitherto conceptually distinct figures of the king as "father of the country" and "husband of the realm" which this new matrimonial wrinkle would have effected.  James starts presenting himself as a father giving his son and daughter England and Scotland (or Scotland and England) away in marriage to each other—but he's still on record as saying he is himself the husband of both England and Scotland, and can't really go back and retract the ex cathedra pronouncements already made on this score.  But how could James be both their father and their husband?  Well, there's only one way he could be both:  if England and Scotland were his daughters, daughters to which he is also married.  This would of course make James not only a bigamist, as he's already admitted, but an incestuous father as well—and an incestuous father whether or not Union should ever be accomplished.  For while Union in its earlier matrimonial configuration would have succeeded in removing the taint of "bigamy" from James's relationship to his two national "wives," in this new configuration it will in no way remove the additional taint of "incest," but only reduce the number of national "daughters" with whom James is symbolically committing this crime from two to one.

It might seem highly unlikely that we could possibly find evidence of anyone drawing such an absolutely delegitimizing conclusion at the time, no matter how widespread the disaffection for James's project exhibited in the institutionally protected confines of Parliament, where members enjoyed a certain measure of freedom of speech, might have become among the English population at large.  Yet oddly enough, direct evidence that such conclusions were drawn does in fact exist, in the form of a Latin poetic epistle written by  the very person James had commissioned to compose the Hay-Denny marriage masque—the aforementioned Thomas Campion.  Campion prefixed the following Latin epistle to James the father of Union, here given in translation, to the published text of the masque on the very next page after the one on which his English epistle quoted above appeared:

Whether of England, and in the same spirit of Scotland the father, or the husband
      You might be I am uncertain, or neither, or even (as King) both at once.
For one man to join two wives to himself at the same time,
      We believe this, with you yourself prohibiting it, to be a sin.
And indeed, for a parent to violate his daughters with a conjugal
      Embrace, who would not consider it to be a crime?
But each marries you with divine success;
      Yet one bride, one bride's beloved.
O astonishing wedding, how could you lead two women down the aisle,
      And one! you alone, James, can do so:
You lightly compound two divided lands into one
      And make them one forever both in name, and in fact:
And to each daughter, and to each wife, father and husband you are made;
      To them united, in truth a spouse, and in love a parent.[24]

In this ostensibly—and, though it seems difficult to conceive, perhaps even actually—complimentary paean to both of the two contradictory strains of matrimonial and familial symbolism that James had deployed in promoting Union at once, Campion draws precisely the same symbolic conclusions presented in the previous paragraph.  He begins by recalling James's earlier presentation of himself as the husband of England, Scotland, and Union, and registers his confusion at James's new image of himself as their father as well—for wouldn't that imply not only that he's a bigamist, as James himself had already admitted, but also a father involved in incest with his daughters?  Campion allows that the miraculous power conferred by James's hereditary right to rule both England and Scotland might resolve the issue of bigamy—only he can lead two women down the aisle and make them one—but as for the issue of father-daughter incest, Union will only confirm it.  Without Union, James had already made himself "father and husband" to both his English and his Scottish daughter and wife; yet even with Union fully accomplished, James will remain "in truth a spouse, and in love a parent" to his sole daughter and wife, Great Britain.  And by communicating these implicitly scandalous and inherently quite delegitimizing conclusions concerning the "family romance" of Union to the readers of his masque at large—if only in Latin, and whether in full consciousness of their potential ideological and political effects or not—Campion may even have helped to develop and confirm oppositional conclusions they had already begun to draw for themselves concerning the "incestuous" political character of Union.

Our reconstruction of the implicitly incestuous outcome of James's ideological efforts to promote Union not only indicates how, despite his best efforts, James had unfortunately managed to give the familial symbolism of an accomplished Union an even more monstrous character than the bigamous one Union was initially intended to resolve.  It also serves to uncover the precise topical and political overtones that the specific form of incest conjured up at the beginning of Pericles may have had for this play's contemporary audience, overtones which, in André Green's formulation quoted above, might very well have made many a contemporary spectator feel "as if the spectacle were intended for him," thus helping to account for Pericles' great initial popularity with its audience.  What many a contemporary English spectator may have seen on stage was their worst collective nightmare of what Union might imply, realized in terms of the very same living familial and matrimonial figuration and theatrical mode of expression for it that James had employed in the court marriages he had arranged and the masques he had commissioned to promote Union.  The masque-like figure of the incestuous King Antiochus would stir associations with the figure of King James himself as the incestuous "father" and "husband" in Union.  Antiochus's daughter would elicit associations with any or all of the three "daughters" and "wives" involved in incest with their "father" James in Union, Great Britain, England, or Scotland:  as with the figure of the daughter in Campion's Latin epistle, the figure of Antiochus's daughter in Pericles would seem to be overdetermined.  The figure of Prince Pericles could be associated with any or all of James's potential "sons" or sons-in-law in Union, Scotland, England, or even England's representative legal body, the English Parliament itself—though not James's English political "son" per se, Parliament could be considered his potential political "son-in-law."  Pericles' role in the Union parallel here would also seem to be overdetermined, in a manner appropriate to the poetic and dramatic daydream in which Shakespeare involves his audience through their imaginative submission to this spectacle.  The nightmare that Pericles finds himself involved in at Antiochus's court would seem, then, making use of the most troubling of these associations, to be the nightmare of Union conceived, not only as an "incestuous marriage" between James and Great Britain, but also as the elimination of any role for either England or the English Parliament to play in the political “husbandry” of a united kingdom.

Further, it must be assumed that this nightmarish spectacle would involve the unconscious more than the conscious minds of Pericles' contemporary audience:  these associations are not made apparent by any more or less direct, realistic or rational reference to the parallel Jacobean situation, something far too risky for Shakespeare to do considering the utterly scandalous resonances here.  Rather this opening nightmare would have been experienced as deeply moving for reasons the members of its contemporary audience—and perhaps even its author—couldn't quite put their finger on, and stir anxieties whose actual origins in James's ideological and political promotion of Union would remain just beyond the boundaries of their conscious recognition.  Or at least so we must suppose would have been the case with the vast majority of Pericles' contemporary audience.  For if these highly subversive associations had been available to the conscious apprehension of many of them, it is difficult to conceive how this play could have escaped the attention of James's censors, and the King's Men been allowed to continue performing it before the crowds it seems never to have failed to attract during this period.

Nevertheless, such an hypothesis need not dissuade us from using the materials at our disposal to raise one specific  and highly suggestive determination in particular to fully conscious apprehension,  if only to give at least one possible and relatively coherent system of associations among many less coherent its full interpretive due.  Although the specifically Parliamentary determination I will present would perhaps have been in no way consciously accessible to the vast majority of Shakespeare's contemporary audience, still it may very well have been the principal determination in which this scene would have most affectively addressed their deepest unconscious fears and anxieties concerning Union.  Antiochus would of course continue to be associated with James, but with James as the father and husband of his daughter England in particular, even if the daughter's association with the prospect of a united Great Britain would also continue to persist.  As we saw James himself admit in his speech of 31 March 1607 quoted above, even he realized that the issues of Union and of his hereditary right to the English crown itself were "two Twinnes," and that Parliament's resistance to Union betokened a resistance to his absolute rule over England alone.  This association of Antiochus's daughter with England alone would be encouraged by Gower's initial presentation of her as Antiochus's late Queen's "female heir" (1.Chorus.22).   That is, she could be associated with the late Queen Elizabeth's posthumous daughter and "female heir," the English nation itself, now caught in the incestuous clutches of her new or "surviving" father James.  In this determination, Pericles would be associated with Parliament, and with the House of Commons in particular.  Shakespeare's decision to change the name of this character from the traditional Apollonius of his sources would encourage this association, the most famous historical Pericles being Pericles of Athens, the leader of the common faction in the Athenian assembly.  Moreover, the political entity who, in the Union parallel, was required by James to answer the “riddle” of Union was the English Parliament; like Pericles, once Parliament had discovered the implications of Union it wanted no part of it, and some members of the Commons in particular may even have begun to doubt whether they wanted any part in James's English "family" on the absolutist terms that Union had brought out in it either.  Finally, the political entity threatened with extinction by Union was less the English nation, which was mainly threatened with the loss of its independent national identity and the possible depredations of royally-connected Scots, than the English Parliament:  as noted earlier, what the English Parliament most feared in Union was the loss of its institutional power and even its very institutional existence once England had become absorbed into Great Britain.

That this particular way of construing the topical and political resonances of the figures presented in scene one could have been emotionally operative among the members of Pericles' contemporary audience finds a certain degree of confirmation in further variations on the symbolism of Union which James conjured up in his last and most threatening speech on the subject on 2 May 1607.  Even if this speech, unlike those previously cited, was never published for public consumption, and so may not have contributed nearly so directly to a developing symbolic understanding of the familial dynamics of Union among James's English subjects at large, still it will provide a useful indication, left behind by the very person who seems to have thought about Union most consistently and insistently in these terms, of the way a number of them may have begun to work out its symbolic implications for themselves by the time of Pericles.

James took the occasion of this speech to close off the opening for further debate and delay provided by his admission in his 31 March speech that Parliament had a right to work out the details of an "absolute and full" Union before putting it into effect.  Instead, James now insisted that, "because I spake of an absolute Union, to say, or think I wished nothing in the mean Time, were absurd:"

It is already a perfect Union in me, the Head.  If you wanted a Head, that is me, your King over you all; or if you were yourselves no Body; then you had Reason to say, it were unperfect….I remember, at the Beginning, when I first craved an Union, my Desire was to have a perfect Union:  then this whole Body drew back; said, it could not be dispatched at once; it were fit it were entered into by little and little; devised all Restrictions they could, to tie it within Bounds….[25]

James here casts Union in terms of an operation that would put his head not so much on the body of a united Great Britain as on the representative "Body" of the English Parliament itself.  For as James has unfortunately found out to his chagrin, Parliament seems to have a head of its own, with intelligence sufficient to have resisted James's first attempts at "perfect Union," and to have devised further objections to a Union James considers to have been already accomplished by his bare ascension to the English throne.  Indeed, in a moment of what would appear to be real sexual confusion, James even manages to conflate the "Body" of Parliament with the body of his English national wife:  "at the Beginning, when I first craved an Union, my Desire was to have a perfect Union:  then this whole Body drew back."  In any event, for Union to be accomplished on the corporeal terms used here,

it would seem that the body of the English Parliament would have to lose its head and accept James's as its replacement.  This way of conceiving the conflict between James and Parliament in Union provides a rather precise analogue to the threat Pericles faces at Antiochus's court:  for Antiochus to keep his own union with his daughter intact, Pericles must, like all previous suitors, similarly lose his head.

Further, in this speech James presents Union in familial terms which tend to associate her more with the English nation itself as the late Queen Elizabeth had "given birth" to it than with Great Britain as a whole:

   When a Child is in the Mother's Womb, though it hath all the Lineaments and Parts of a Body, yet it is but an Embrio, and no Child; and shall be born in his due Time:  When it is born, though it then be a perfect Child, yet it is no Man: it must gather Strength and Perfection by Time:  Even so is it in this Case of Union.  The Union is perfect in me; that is, it is an Union in my Blood and Title; yet but in embr[io]ne perfect.  Upon the late Queen's Death, the Child was first brought to Light; but to make it a perfect Man, to bring it to an accomp[l]isht Union, it must have Time and Means; and if it be not at the first, blame not me; blame Time; blame the Order of Nature.[26]

James's conceptual strain here is even more intense, though focused on the reproductive origins rather than the sexual consummation of Union.  It is fairly clear that James decides toward the middle of this passage to cast himself in the role of a parent to Union; unfortunately, the developmental metaphor with which the passage begins causes James to get his genders crossed:  "When a Child is in the Mother's Womb…it is but an Embrio, and no Child…The Union is perfect in mein embr[io]ne perfect."  Experiencing some discomfort, no doubt, at the prospect of bringing Union to term, James seeks and immediately finds a more appropriate figure to replace him in the role of Union's biological mother:  the late Queen Elizabeth.  This move allows James to step back into the more reassuring role of guardian or step-father to a Union no longer conceived of as merely embryonic, but rather a full-fledged "Child:"  "Upon the late Queen's Death, the Child was first brought to Light."  However, this metaphorical move also succeeds in uncovering an alternate genealogy for Union:  Union could be, not James's, but Elizabeth's baby, a child born—"first brought to Light"—at the very moment of her death.  Considering that Elizabeth must have given birth to it through a kind of political parthenogenesis, this child may never grow into the "perfect Man" James expects; and when she does grow up, as Elizabeth's posthumous child she would likely turn out to be, not the full Union, but merely England itself—the English nation as Elizabeth had "given birth" to it during the long travails and triumphs of her reign.

By giving passionately impolitic expression to his anger at Parliament’s delay toward the end of this speech, so passionately that it may have become a matter of somewhat general knowledge through the conduit of political gossip by the time Pericles was first presented a few months later, James unwittingly adds the final touches to the Parliamentary parallel we have been reconstructing:

   It is said also, that if you deal by Bills, they are like to have a cold Effect; prejudging the good Disposition of the whole House.  I am sorry to hear of such Speeches, against Duty, almost against Allegiance.…It is no Marvel, if Men of that Coat have neither Hopes nor Fears from me; and fear I shall be well advised, what I do with them.  I looked for no such Fruits at your Hands; such personal Discourses, and Speeches; which, of all other, I looked you should avoid, as not beseeming the Gravity of your Assembly.  I am your King:  I am placed to govern you, and shall answer for your Errors:  I am a Man of Flesh and Blood, and have my Passions and Affections as other Men:  I pray you, do not too far move me to do that which my Power my tempt me unto.[27]

If Parliament debates and delays any further before presenting and taking action on specific "Bills" aimed at putting Union into effect, James here threatens them with a passionate attack, to the point perhaps, or at least so it would seem, of executing some members for the treasonous character of their speeches.  It was in fact James's implied threat here to the very basis of Parliament's own institutional role—the members' right to freedom of debate—that gave his opponents the opportunity to frustrate his desire for Union conclusively.  After this speech, the House of Commons ceased to discuss Union and turned instead to a lengthy reassertion of this long-established right—a move that Pericles within the fiction would seem to recall in his final appeal to Antiochus's conscience in scene one, "All love the womb that their first being bred, / Then give my tongue like leave to love my head" (1.1.107-108).  Once they had reaffirmed this right to use their tongues pretty much as their heads wished, the Commons arranged to accomplish next to nothing on Union until James dismissed them on 3 July, utterly balked in his desire for Union, and with his threats to revenge himself on Parliament and its members in such an eventuality still ringing in their (and perhaps quite a few of their countrymen's) ears—and no doubt stirring the kind of anxieties concerning the possibility of royal retribution to which Pericles gives expression in 1.2.1-34 in a possible extension of this Parliamentary parallel, anxieties which induce him to begin the long sequence of wide-ranging voyages dramatized in the remainder of Pericles.[28]

 

 

III.  The Nightmare of Union Revisited and Transformed

 

The familial and political situations encountered by Pericles, his wife and daughter over the course of the rest of the play serve both to present several further variations on the opening nightmare of Union and to transform the familial symbolism of absolute rule delegitimated by these variations.  Through its symbolic transformations, Pericles develops an alternate familial model for the relation of king to country which serves imaginatively, and might one day serve politically as well, to fulfill the wish that the power of the king might be limited so as to prevent such nightmares from ever arising in the future.

Before developing this thesis in detail in the remainder of the present essay, however, I should perhaps reassure my readers once again that in unravelling the topical parallels of the familial and political situations presented in Pericles, I do not intend to argue that this play should be interpreted as a political allegory merely, involving one-to-one equations between figures in the play and their Jacobean analogues which an ideal contemporary spectator would have been able consciously to draw.  For if that were the case, the several conflicting parallels between the situation at Antiochus's court and the Jacobean Union would undermine the play’s allegorical import from the very beginning and reduce even this scene’s highly concerted emotional effect to mere logical confusion.  Rather what I do intend to argue here is that Pericles represents not so much a political allegory as an allegory of politics.  Through the topically and politically overdetermined figures and situations presented in Pericles, Shakespeare would seem to be engaging in the continuation of politics, at a time when James had put the institutional agency of the English Parliament out of action, by other means, poetic and theatrical means:  Pericles is engaged in a kind of ideological warfare with James on the battlefield created by the very familial symbolism of rule to which James and his Union allies had given such vivid public expression.  Yet Shakespeare can only risk engaging his royal opponent at the very figurative roots of both Union and the ideology of absolute monarchical power in England, at a level sufficiently subterranean that his subversive theatrical actions can go on almost entirely unnoticed, and yet also be made most effective, at the very deepest levels of his audience's political imagination.[29]

After the opening salvos at Antiochus’s court, Pericles revisits the nightmare of Union two further times, in both instances by precipitating Pericles' daughter Marina into a couple of equally monstrous variations on the Jacobean family romance of Union.  Since Marina, like both Antiochus's unnamed daughter and her own mother Thaisa, betrays an association with the late Queen Elizabeth's English national daughter in her status as a dead Queen's “female heir”—and a much closer association than either of the others, Marina's own birth being an explicitly posthumous one that occurs just offstage in 3.1—each of these further variations on the opening situation at Antiochus's court can serve to bring a slightly different anxiety concerning the prospect of Union into focus.

The first variant arises when Dionyza hatches her plot to murder Marina for eclipsing the beauty and accomplishments of her own natural daughter Philoten—thereby raising the primal specter of maternal envy explored in such fairy tales as "Snow White" and "Cinderella."  Yet this situation also provides an exact familial analogue for contemporary English apprehensions concerning Union.  Here the three female roles that were condensed into the single figure of Antiochus's daughter in scene one—James's single "wife," Great Britain, and the "daughters" who would unite to form her, England and Scotland—are split into three separate figures.  Cleon's wife Dionyza occupies the position of Great Britain in this familial analogue of Union.  His daughter Philoten derives her association with Scotland from her status as Cleon's natural daughter, given that James's own "natural" political family was Scottish.[30]  Marina, as already noted, figures as the familial analogue of the late Queen Elizabeth's natural daughter, England, here caught in the role of a foster-daughter in Cleon’s Unionesque family.  The English anxiety addressed by this familial situation is the fear that "Great Britain" was just another name for Scottish domination.[31]  Here in Cleon and Dionyza’s extended family, however, it is not the king on whom Shakespeare focuses these anxieties, but rather his "wife" the united Great Britain "herself."  However honorable James might be in his promises not to prefer his native Scottish subjects over the English, the anxiety addressed through Dionyza’s actions is the possibility that in a Scottish-dominated Union, James would not be willing or able to limit the scope of their national envy.

Marina is saved by pirates only to be precipitated into Pericles' third and final nightmarish variation on Union:  the bawdy-house "family" into which the pirates sell her in Mytilene (4.1-2).  Here again it is Marina's "foster-mother" the Bawd, and not her "foster-father" the Pander, who poses the greatest threat.  She will ensure Marina's sexual exploitation by "gentlemen of all fashions," in particular, and rather anachronistically, by a Spaniard whose "mouth water'd and he went to bed with her very description" and by the "French knight" "Monsieur Verolles" (4.2.24, 98-99, 103-04):  the first a representative of another enemy nation with whom James wished to establish peaceful relations; the second a representative of one of those enemy neighbors with whom Scotland already enjoyed a trading alliance.[32]  So conceived, the brothel of Mytilene turns the "blessings" of "outward" and "inward peace" and the expansion of international trading relations that James had offered England in his first speech to Parliament into curses:  like Marina within the fiction, England would be laid open to foreign exploitation by the new national alliances envisioned in Union and the pax Britannia James hoped it would inaugurate.  And not only to foreign exploitation, here figured in its crudest sexual sense, but also internal exploitation by Scotland:  a nation whose familial analogue in the brothel is incarnated in the figure of Marina's fellow servant and "foster-brother" Boult, to whom the Bawd promises the right to "cut a morsel off the spit" after the Spaniard and the Frenchman have had their share (4.2.129-30).  The Union resonances of this bawdy-house "family" thus recuperate and render monstrous the newly preferred model of Union as the "marriage" of England to her Scottish foster- or step-"brother" disseminated by the Hay Denny marriage and the masque that celebrated it.

Taken together, these three monstrous familial or quasi-familial situations serve to demolish the ideological attractiveness of Union systematically, in whatever variation James might choose to emphasize in the continued promotion of it.[33]  In addition to this systematic reduction of the family dynamics of Union to nightmare status, Pericles also presents several progressive transformations of its dysfunctional familial symbolism into an alternative model for the relation of king to kingdom which Shakespeare here seems concerned to promote.

Pericles' first transformation of the familial symbolism of rule occurs at the court of "the good King Simonides" (2.1.43).  Unlike Antiochus, Simonides is not involved in incest with his daughter, and is only too willing to marry her to the worthiest candidate for son-in-law who presents himself—Pericles—despite the fact that Pericles has entered the matrimonial tournament he stages looking so shabby that he's called "The mean Knight" (2.2.59), and that he knows nothing for certain about Pericles' parentage (2.5.77-79).  Instead, Pericles is accepted into Simonides' royal family purely on the basis of his own demonstrated merits, merits which form the foundation of Simonides' daughter Thaisa's choice of him to be her husband.  Yet strangely, although Simonides agrees with his daughter's choice, he nevertheless feels some consternation that Thaisa thinks she has the right to make it with or without his consent; he consequently decides to play an odd little practical joke which induces Pericles into thinking he faces a replay of the situation at Antiochus's court until Simonides finally reveals the truth (2.5).  What perhaps justifies the somewhat unaccountable peculiarities of tone and incident in this scene is that it would seem to be engaged in its symbolic register in a radical transformation the traditional royal role of "husband of the realm," a role which had just become "husband of the king's daughter" through James's manipulation of it in the promotion of Union, into the role of a husband chosen or elected by the national daughter herself on the basis of demonstrated merit.  No wonder even the good King Simonides is a little perturbed at "how absolute" his daughter Thaisa considers herself to be in making this choice within the fiction, "Not minding whether I dislike or no!" (2.5.19-20).[34]

Moreover, Pericles here occupies this newly transformed role of an elective "husband of the realm" even more explicitly as, in effect, the representative of the three common fishermen who save him after he washes up on the shores of Pentapolis and furnish him with the "pair of bases" (2.1.159-60) he needs to enter Simonides' marriage tournament.  Indeed, the second fisherman is only too quick to remind Pericles of the political patronage he will owe them after likewise fishing up Pericles' lost paternal armor for him:[35]

2. Fish.  Ay, but hark you, my friend; 'twas we that made up this garment through the rough seams of the waters:  there are certain condolements, certain vails.  I hope, sir, if you thrive, you'll remember from whence you had them.

Per.  Believe't, I will.  (2.1.147-52)

Nor does Shakespeare allow Pericles to marry Thaisa before he interpolates a scene in which Pericles' own Tyrian lords seem to indicate that he rules as an elected, and not a hereditary monarch in his native kingdom of Tyre, despite all earlier appearances to the contrary:

1. Lord.  …if the prince do live, let us salute him.…
If in his grave he rest, we'll find him there;
And be resolv'd he lives to govern us,
Or dead, gives cause to mourn his funeral,
And leaves us to our free election,

2. Lord.  Whose death indeed the strongest in our censure,
And knowing this kingdom is without a head—
Like goodly buildings left without a roof
Soon fall to ruin—your noble self,
That best know how to rule and how to reign,
We thus submit unto—our sovereign.

All.  Live, noble Helicane!  (2.5.21, 27, 30-40)[36]

Whether Pericles is a hereditary monarch or not, his Tyrian lords here seem to think that once he's dead, they will have the right to freely elect his successor.  By agreeing to Helicanus's proposal that they first undertake a year-long search for Pericles and see if they can't "find and win [him] unto return" (2.5.52), the lords in effect re-elect him king when they manage to do so.  They thus confirm the common fishermen's and the national daughter Thaisa's parallel "election" of him in Pentapolis, in a fashion which on the whole would seem to suggest a model combining popular and parliamentary suffrage in the choice of a sovereign.

Of course, given that in Pentapolis Simonides is still in the role of father and king, and Pericles in the role of son-in-law and hence matrimonial "heir-apparent" merely, the tensions between this elective model of monarchy and the hereditary one it serves to transform have not yet been fully resolved:  how exactly does an elective "heir-apparent" take over the role of king in a hereditary monarchy?  At this stage in the political family romance of Pericles the answer would seem to be:  by leaving Pentapolis and going back to rule his own hereditary kingdom of Tyre.  The figurative ground has not yet been adequately prepared to resolve this tension as yet:

        …The sum of this,
Brought hither to Pentapolis,
Y-ravished the regions round,
And every one with claps can sound,
"Our heir-apparent is a king!
Who dream'd, who thought of such a thing?"
Brief, he must hence depart to Tyre.  (3.Chorus.33-39)

This plot development serves to return the familial and political action of the play back before its point of departure in Antiochus's incestuous court;  for on the voyage back to Tyre, Thaisa seemingly dies in giving birth to Pericles' own daughter Marina, an event which returns us to the moment when Antiochus's wife "died and left a female heir" (1.Chorus.22) some years before the opening of the play.  Only Pericles himself is now precipitated into the position that Antiochus once occupied, and Marina into the position of Antiochus's daughter before the onset of incestuous relations with her father.  By thus beginning all over again and replaying its Jacobean-style family romance from the viewpoint of Marina, the symbolic action of Pericles can work to eliminate James's claim that his matrimonial union with England began immediately upon his ascension to the throne, and that it entailed the Union of England and Scotland at the very same moment:  "It is already a perfect Union in me, the Head…it is now perfect in my Title and Descent."[37]

In the first place, Marina is removed from Pericles' paternal custody as soon as possible after her birth and deposited with Cleon and Dionyza to raise (3.3), thus foreclosing the possibility of any kind of father-daughter "union" early on.  Once Marina has reached marriageable age and been sold into the brothel at Mytilene, the notion that she would thereby enter into immediate "matrimonial" union with the character in the position of ruler there, the governor Lysimachus, is refuted through Marina's ability to persuade him that she has no intention of consenting to an illegal sexual union with him (or with anyone else for that matter) during their first encounter in the brothel.  Even more significantly, Marina convinces Lysimachus not to hustle her into one by calling his own legitimacy to rule into question if he should attempt to do so:

Lys.  …O, you have heard something of my power, and so stand aloof for more serious wooing.  But I protest to thee, pretty one, my authority shall not see thee, or else look friendly upon thee.  Come, bring me to some private place; come, come.

Mar.  If you were born to honour, show it now;
If put upon you, make the judgement good
That thought you worthy of it.

Lys.  How's this? how's this?  Some more; be sage.  (4.6.85-94)[38]

Whether Lysimachus is a hereditary or an elected ruler makes no difference:  in either case, to enjoy a sexual, "matrimonial union" with his subject Marina without the benefit of marriage would undermine the legitimacy of his position as ruler.  In terms of its Jacobean analogue, Marina's argument here would seem to demolish the legitimacy of James's claim to have already effected the Union of England and Scotland through his de facto "marriage" to both of them, and even his claim to rule England alone solely by virtue of his own "Title and Descent," with or without “her” consent.[39]  For although no Unionesque threat of "incest" is posed by Lysimachus's desire for sexual union with Marina, still, as this scene implies, even with the role of father eliminated from both Union and its twin, James's right to rule England alone, a matrimonial union between king and country conceived as occurring without the consent of James's subjects would amount to the political equivalent of sexual exploitation or even rape.

Shakespeare does in fact proceed to eliminate the king from the role of father completely, at least in the entirely symbolic register in which Pericles produces its most pronounced ideological effects, in the very next scene of the play.  While it is of course true that in this scene Marina is recognized by and reunited with her own natural father Pericles, still the precise terms in which Pericles celebrates this reunion here both remove him from the role of a symbolic father and reverse the direction of the lines of authority that would normally run from father to daughter.  For in the catatonic state into which grief has plunged him, Pericles has utterly lost his ability to rule or even to recognize his daughter; it is Marina's own power to revive him and her vocal persistence in this task that succeed in restoring his awareness of their relationship and his ability to exercise either royal or paternal authority at all.

In recognition of this fact, Pericles apostrophizes Marina in terms which symbolically reverse their natural familial roles and the lines of authority that would customarily run between them:  "O, come hither, / Thou that beget'st him that did thee beget" (5.1.194-95).  With this phrase Pericles, while on the one hand reaffirming his natural relationship to Marina founded on the fact of his paternity, on the other hand symbolically reverses his generational relationship to her in a fashion which both implicitly overturns the ideology of patriarchal authority and also effectively interrupts the genealogical transmission of royal power from father to child.  While Pericles may once have "begotten" Marina in the natural genealogical mode this term suggests, he here affirms that she has just re-begotten him, and that he owes his restoration to sanity and rule to a Marina he here casts in the role of his own spiritual mother.  If Pericles should decide to return to Tyre and resume the kingship, in terms of this transformation the hereditary foundation of his right to rule would no longer be derived from his old genealogical relationship to the king who was his father, but from his new "genealogical" relationship to the spiritual "mother" who here re-begets him as her "son"—his once natural daughter, now spiritual mother Marina.

This transformation brings even the traditional familial symbolism and actual reproductive mechanism of hereditary monarchy into line with the way this play promotes an elective alternative to it:  it grounds royal power in the power of the national "daughter" to give birth to it, and not in the the king's hereditary and "paternal" right alone.  And not only is the role of father effectively eliminated here from the symbolism of royal rule:  with his elimination the threat of royal "incest" that emerged through James's own manipulations of this symbolism in support of Union is also entirely avoided.

Yet if both Pericles and Marina should return to their native kingdom of Tyre, after this transformation Pericles would, it seems, no longer have the right to rule there, since as Marina's spiritual son he would be at most her "heir apparent"—the very role he earlier occupied in Pentapolis, though here derived from a new strain of symbolism which has already in effect removed the paternal obstacle to elective "husbandry" encountered there.  In terms of this new symbolism the only man who might have the right to rule Tyre would be, not Marina's royal father, but whomever Marina should consent to marry.  This is in fact the conclusion that will be drawn in Pericles' final transformation of the familial symbolism of rule, a transformation wrought by the respective destinations Pericles proposes for the two royal couples that exist at the end of the reunion scene with Thaisa:

Per.                   …Thaisa,
This prince, the fair betrothed of your daughter,
Shall marry her at Pentapolis.…
                        …there, my queen,
We'll celebrate their nuptials, and ourselves
Will in that kingdom spend our following days.
Our son and daughter shall in Tyrus reign.  (5.3.70-72, 79-82)

Pericles will rule as Thaisa's consort in her native kingdom of Pentapolis, and Lysimachus as Marina's consort in her own native kingdom of Tyre, with this solely matrimonial model of elective monarchy completely erasing all vestiges of the "incestuous" model of absolute hereditary monarchy with which Pericles began from the familial and political wish-fulfillment wrought at its close.

With the king's traditional patriarchal role thus symbolically eliminated, Pericles concludes by presenting three alternate scenarios for how this role might be eliminated historically as well.  The first scenario is the easiest to imagine, and is introduced by Thaisa's convenient recollection that "Lord Cerimon hath letters of good credit, sir, / My father's dead" (5.3.77-78):  the king dies of natural causes, and with him dies his old patriarchal role, leaving his daughter Thaisa and her husband Pericles free to rule in terms of the newly-evolved model of elective monarchy.  The second scenario is a bit more fanciful:  the reigning father-king could abdicate and yield up his power to his national daughter and her royal consort—a scenario enacted here by Pericles himself, who is only too willing to do so since he already has a similarly modelled elective monarchy of his own to return to.

The third and final scenario for the elimination of both the person and the role of a father-king is presented in the very last lines of Gower's Epilogue:

For wicked Cleon and his wife, when fame
Had spread his cursed deed to th' honour'd name
Of Pericles, to rage the city turn,
That him and his they in his palace burn:
The gods for murder seemed so content
To punish; although not done, but meant.
So on your patience evermore attending,
New joy wait on you!  Here our play has ending.  (Epilogue.11-18)

Foster-father Cleon and his entire Scottish-associated family are eliminated in a popular revolution justified by their murderous intentions against the existence of his English-associated foster daughter—a popular rebellion here accorded the panoply of a divine sanction to boot, contrary to the most cherished assumptions of the divine-right theory of kingship.[40]  A stark and shocking exemplum with which to conclude, made all the more shocking for being entirely Shakespeare's invention.[41]  Still, the byword of the final couplet that Shakespeare has his surrogate Gower address to Pericles' contemporary audience remains "patience."  Not, perhaps, the merely passive patience of a figure like Pericles, but the more active patience a figure like Marina displays within the fiction in resisting the sexual violence threatened her in the brothel, and in responding to the actual violence visited upon her by Pericles when she attempts to wake him from his trance, not with physical violence of her own in return, but solely through discursive means:  the kind of exemplary patience Shakespeare himself displays in adopting the indirect mode of ideological and political warfare he wages through the symbolic and dramatic means of Pericles.



 

 

Notes

 

I would like to thank my colleagues Steve Bretzius and Kevin McLaughlin at Harvard, Susan Aronstein, Mark Booth, and Duncan and Janice Harris at the University of Wyoming, my editors Peggy Knapp, Gary Waller, and Gabriele Bernhard Jackson at Assays, and this past summer's Folger Institute director Jean Howard for their valuable commentary on earlier versions of this essay and the encouragement they gave me to continue working on this project.

[1]In this essay I have deliberately avoided engaging the hotly contested issue of whether Shakespeare composed Pericles in its entirety.  I am much more concerned here with what symbolic and political effects the play as written may have produced among the members of its contemporary audience than with precisely  who was responsible for initiating their production at any particular point in the text.  Still, if only for the sake of expository clarity and convenience, I have not scrupled to name the responsible agent "Shakespeare" throughout; nor, if the reading that follows is at all close to the mark, does it seem entirely coincidental that the question of authorship should have remained so murky for so long in the case of this play.

[2] William Shakespeare, Pericles, ed. and intro. F. D. Hoeniger, The Arden Shakespeare (London:  Methuen, 1963), 1.Chorus.1-2; all further references to this edition of Pericles appear in the text.

[3] Ruth Nevo, Shakespeare's Other Language (New York:  Methuen, 1987), p. 34.  Besides Nevo's chapter on Pericles, see also the classic C. L. Barber essay, "'Thou that beget'st him that did thee beget':  Transformation in 'Pericles' and 'The Winter's Tale,'" Shakespeare Survey 22 (1969), and the extension of it in C. L. Barber and Richard P. Wheeler, The Whole Journey:  Shakespeare's Power of Development (Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1986).

[4] A pamphlet published a year after Pericles joined the repertoire in late 1607 or early 1608 makes reference to "a Crowd / of Ciuill Throats stretched out so lowd" that one would think they had all come "to see Shore or Pericles."  Its first 1609 Quarto was reprinted in 1609, 1611, 1619, 1630 and 1635.  Ben Jonson complained about how popular it had still remained relative to his own plays at the time of his 1631 Ode to Himselfe.  Pericles, ed. Hoeniger, pp. xxxix-xl, lxvi.

[5] André Green's description of what a psychoanalytic reading should be able to accomplish, cited approvingly by Nevo p. 34.

[6] Coppélia Kahn, "'Magic of bounty':  Timon of Athens, Jacobean Patronage, and Maternal Power," Shakespeare Quarterly 38 (1987), 34-57.  Recent topical and political accounts of Pericles include chapters or segments of the following:  Steven Mullaney, The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988); Leonard Tennenhouse, Power on Display:  The Politics of Shakespeare's Genres (London:  Methuen, 1986); David M. Bergeron, Shakespeare's Romances and the Royal Family (Lawrence:  University Press of Kansas, 1985); and Glynne Wickham, "From Tragedy to Tragi-Comedy: 'King Lear' as Prologue," Shakespeare Survey, 26 (1973).  To these might be compared the following recent accounts of Coriolanus, Timon, and Cymbeline:  Annabel Patterson, Shakespeare and the Popular Voice (Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell, 1989), the chapter on Coriolanus; Leah S. Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare: Local Reading and its Discontents (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), the chapter on Cymbeline; Glynne Wickham, "Riddle and Emblem: A Study in the Dramatic Structure of Cymbeline," in English Renaissance Studies Presented to Dame Helen Gardner, ed. John Carey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980); and Kahn's essay on Timon.

[7] Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo:  Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics, trans. James Strachey (New York:  Norton, 1952), pp. 140-46.

[8] Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. and ed. James Strachey (1955; rpt. New York:  Avon Books, 1965), pp. 294-301.

[9] John Gower, Confessio Amantis, Book VIII, 1554 ed., rpt. in Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, ed. Geoffrey Bullough, VI (London, 1966; rpt. New York:  Columbia University Press, 1977), 380, lines 426-35; Laurence Twine, The Patterne of Painefull Adventures, 1594? ed., rpt. in Bullough, VI, 428.

[10] James I, The Trew Law of Free Monarchies, in The Political Works of James I, rpt. from the ed. of 1616, ed. and intro. Charles Howard McIlwain (1918; rpt. New York:  Russell & Russell, 1965), pp. 54-55, 63-64, 67; for the publication dates of this pamphlet see McIlwain's introduction, p. ciii.

[11] James, The Trew Law, p. 67.

[12] Both Gower's (p. 379, lines 413-17) and Twine's (p. 428) versions of the riddle are not nearly so sublime, and are told from the position and in the voice of the explicitly criminal father.  In this both are much closer to the Latin Gesta Romanorum version which Shakespeare might also have known, while Shakespeare's has the more ostensibly complimentary tone of Campion's Latin epistle to James presented below.  For an account of the Gesta version and its modifications in Gower and Shakespeare see P. Goolden, "Antiochus's Riddle in Gower and Shakespeare," Review of English Studies ns 6 (1955), 245-51.

[13] James's Speech of 31 March 1607, in his Political Works, p. 291.

[14] James’s Speech of 19 March 1604, in his Political Works, p. 272.

[15] Wickham, "From Tragedy," p. 37, seems to have been the first critic to have taken much notice of the prompt publication of this speech.

[16] Owing to continued Parliamentary opposition, James finally had to take this step by royal prerogative on 20 October 1604; see his proclamation of that date in Stuart Royal Proclamations, ed. James F. Larkin and Paul L. Hughes, I, (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1973), 94-98.

[17] Wallace Notestein, The House of Commons 1604-1610 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971), p. 82.

[18] Some of the major obstacles to Union brought up in Parliamentary debate were the difficulties of reconciling England's common and Scotland's civil law systems, their different systems of land tenure and inheritance, their different foreign alliances, their competitive trade practices, and their different forms of religious worship and church government; to this should be added the need to abolish the many hostile laws each of these long antagonistic nations had enacted against the other.  James summarizes and responds to most of the objections in his Speech of 31 March 1607, pp. 290-305.

Notestein, pp. 24-254, gives a fairly complete account of the development of Parliamentary opposition to James during this period; for further specifics, see the Journals of the House of Commons, Folio ed. I (London, 1803) for this period.  One indication of just how widely an awareness of this initial matrimonial configuration of Union and later variations on it must have been disseminated is that some direct or indirect knowledge of James's speech would have been required for his English subjects to have any inkling of what the motto on a new series of coins issued in November 1604—Quae Deus conjuxit, nemo separet—was supposed to mean; see Stuart Royal Proclamations, I, 100-01, for the proclamation introducing this new series of coins.

[19] Notestein's paraphrase of James's observation in this speech, p. 80.

[20] Wickham, "From Tragedy," p. 42, again seems to have been the first to take much notice of the immediate publication of this speech.  Marcus, pp. 118-23, presents several informative and amusing observations on this topic which influenced my own research at a certain stage.

[21] Thomas Campion, The Discription of a Maske…in honour of the Lord Hayes, and his Bride, in Campion's Works, ed. Percival Vivian (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909; orig. publ. London, 1607), p. 59, lines 16-21.

[22] James's Speech of 31 March 1607, pp. 293-94.

[23] Nicholas Breton, A Murmurer (London, 1607), sig. G3.

[24] Campion, p. 60, my translation:

Angliæ, et vnanimis Scotiæ pater, anne maritus
      Sis dubito, an neuter, (Rex) vel vterque simul.
Vxores pariter binas sibi iungat vt vnus,
      Credimus hoc, ipso te prohibente, nephas.
Atque, maritali natas violare parentem
      Complexu, quis non cogitat esse scelus?
At tibi diuinis successibus vtraque nubit;
      Vna tamen coniux, coniugis vnus amor.
Connubium O mirum, binas qui ducere, et vnam
      Possis!  tu solus sic, Iacobe, potes:
Diuisas leuiter terras componis in vnam
      Atque vnam æternum nomine, reque facis:
Natisque, et nuptis, pater et vir factus vtrisque es;
      Vnitis coniux vere, et amore parens.

[25] James, Speech of 2 May 1607, as reported in the Journals of the House of Commons, I, 366-67.

[26] James, Speech of 2 May 1607, p. 367.

[27] James, Speech of 2 May 1607, pp. 367-68.

[28] When Parliament was summoned again in 1610, Union quickly became a dead issue:  "When Sir William Maurice, at the beginning of the session of 1610, brought up the question of the union, he was greeted by whistling.  That subject the Commons were not inclined to revive" (Notestein, p. 256).  The Union of England and Scotland was not in fact accomplished until the early eighteenth century, a couple of decades after William of Orange and the Stuart heiress Mary had established a constitutional monarchy in England.

[29] For a possible metatheatrical reference to this mode of ideological operation, see Pericles' observations on the "blind mole," 1.1.101-03; what Pericles dreads to do, however, is precisely what his creator Shakespeare has sufficient confidence to risk doing.

[30] Philoten's potential association with James's Scottish daughter is also suggested by the very sound of her name if it is accented on the second syllable and the vowel "o" is pronounced as in Scotland—Philoten—a vocal parallel confirmed by the near anagram of Scotland formed by the name of the natural son of Cymbeline's evil Queen in Shakespeare's next play, Cloten.

[31] James apologized for his early preferment of Scottish nobles at the expense of English ones, and addressed the English anxiety that "this Vnion will be the Crisis to the ouerthrow of England, and setting vp of Scotland" in his speech of 31 March 1607, pp. 294-95.

[32] James, Speech of 19 March 1604, pp. 270-71.

[33] Although the first two of these three familial situations are present in his sources in the same general form, this does not preclude Shakespeare from having employed them in a fashion which implicitly parodies Union:  he may very well have chosen to dramatize precisely this story at this particular time because of the resonances the situations at Antiochus’s and Cleon’s courts had just then managed to attain with Union.  Indeed, Shakespeare's own awareness of how each could be seen as a symbolic analogue of Union may itself have been induced by whoever decided to republish Laurence Twine's 1576 version of this story in 1607, under the name of Twine's brother Thomas (Bullough, VI, 355).  Moreover, Shakespeare at times introduces subtle innovations that tend to reinforce the Union parallels, for example when he lends Dionyza’s envious hatred of Marina a palpably nationalistic character through her hypocritical double-entendre, "I love the king your father and yourself / With more than foreign heart" (4.1.32-33).

As for the third familial analogue of Union just discussed, Marina's bawdy-house "family" in Mytilene, it is entirely Shakespeare's invention:  he introduces the character of the Pander's wife the Bawd and through her recreates this collection of characters as a "family."  Shakespeare also gives a name and a much more grotesquely elaborated role in this family to the relatively insignificant prototypes of Boult in his sources (Gower, pp. 406-08; Twine, pp. 455-59).

[34] The issue of whether Thaisa has the right to freely choose her marriage partner with or without her father's consent, and Simonides' subsequent practical joke on Pericles, are entirely Shakespeare's invention, and have no parallels in either Twine's (pp. 442-43) or Gower's (pp. 392-93) versions of this scene.

[35] Shakespeare not only increases the number of fishermen present in his sources from one to three and greatly expands the scene they enact with Pericles so that it can include such observations as these, but also does not allow Pericles to reveal his royal identity to them as he does in Twine, a development which would detract from his role here as the common fishermen's representative in Simonides' marriage tournament.  Indeed, there is no marriage tournament at all in either Gower or Twine, and the fisherman's role in each is limited to clothing and feeding Pericles and showing him the way to the city (Gower, p. 386; Twine, p. 434-35).

[36] There is no corresponding scene in either Gower or Twine:  Shakespeare entirely invents the Tyrian Lord's assertion of their right to "free election" of their sovereign here.  It should also be noted that Shakespeare has the second lord transform the "head-body" metaphor for the relation of sovereign to subjects into an edification one, and that the event which has precipitated the lords' reassertion of their right to "free election" here is Helicanus's elevation of Escanus into a Jacobean-style court favorite (2.4.17-21).

[37] James, Speech of 2 May 1607, p. 367.

[38] Marina's appeal to Lysimachus's conscience here differs entirely from Shakespeare's only source for this scene in Twine, where Marina reveals her own name and royal lineage to dissuade Lysimachus from his having his way with her (Twine, p. 457).

[39] That James did not require anyone's consent to rule, and that no such contractual consent should be taken to be implied by the coronation ceremony, was in fact one of the fundamental propositions of the theory of absolute hereditary monarchy presented in The Trew Law, one James continually and often rather impoliticly insisted on in his speeches to Parliament; see The Trew Law, pp. 68-69, and James's Speech of 19 March 1604, p. 269, for example.

[40] See James, The Trew Law, pp. 67-68, for James's refutation of the notion that popular rebellion could ever enjoy a divine sanction.

[41] The divinely-sanctioned popular rebellion against Cleon and Dionyza pictured here has no precedent in Gower and Twine, both of whom have the Pericles character invade Tharsus and sanction the trial and execution of Cleon and Dionyza on his own authority (Gower, pp. 420-21; Twine, pp. 475-76).