Theme Of Tension In Shakespeare's Pericles And The Tempest

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In many of William Shakespeare’s late plays, the focus is often on the concept of sin, penance, and punishment, whether as the focal source of tension that drives the plot forward or as an undercurrent of tension that is craftily interwoven into the framework of the play itself. This is an idea that is explored in Shakespeare’s Pericles and The Tempest. However, while each play has male characters who commit sinful acts, it is the innocent loved ones — usually the child or the wife of the sinful, or morally problematic, male characters — who are forced to perform penitential acts to absolve the father or husband of sin. In the case of both Pericles and The Tempest, the problematic male characters are Pericles and Alonso, who are both figures…show more content…
In W.B. Thorne’s Pericles and the “Incest-Fertility” Opposition, he claims that all of Pericles’ following action in the play indicates that he “has been ‘tainted’ by the incest” (Thorne 47) and that his moral goodness has been marred “with a stain which he must eradicate through his own behaviour” (47) because he feels an “inflamed desire in [his] breast” (Per. 1.1.21), stirred by the beauty of Antiochus’ daughter, and expresses a wish to be a “son to great Antiochus” (1.1.27). This peculiar wish connects Pericles to the perverse family dynamics in Antioch and debases Pericles’ seemingly innate goodness. By desiring “this sinful dame” (1.CHO.31), solving the riddle and wishing to be Antiochus’ son, Pericles’ moral goodness is tainted because he has, metaphorically, “taste[d] the fruit of yon celestial tree” (1.1.22), which seems to be, in this context, a representation of the ‘forbidden’ fruit of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. As a result, Antiochus’ sin, or the ‘forbidden’ knowledge of the sin of incest itself, does seem to subconsciously haunt Pericles, as Throne suggests in his essay, because his decision to leave the “gentle babe Marina” (3.3.12) with Cleon and Dionyza “till she be married” (3.3.26) is indicative of his fear of committing incest with his own daughter in the absence of Thaisa. Ultimately, to…show more content…
The function of the mock-death is powerful because it forces Pericles and Alonso not only to acknowledge their actions, but also to cope with the loss their child, which is a punishment in itself. Pericles’ claim that “death remembered should be like a mirror” (Per. 1.1.46), which, essentially, indicates that an individual, who mourns the death of a loved one, should mirror death in their own actions, is of immense significance because it foreshadows the responses of Pericles and Alonso to the death of Marina and Ferdinand, respectively. While Pericles tries to remove the ‘taint’ of Antiochus’ sin with penitential-like acts of charity, bringing “corn to make [Cleon’s] needy bread / And give them life” (1.4.95-96) in Tarsus, he is unable to remove the forbidden knowledge of incest from his mind. Consequently, Pericles’ discovery of Marina’s death is significant because it is knowledge that makes him undergo a symbolical transformation: he mirrors his daughter’s fate in his own appearance and behaviour. As Pericles’ “main grief springs from the loss / of a belovèd daughter and a wife” (5.1.27-28), it transforms him into a personification of death itself because he “swears / Never to wash his face nor cut his hairs / [he] puts on a sackcloth” (4.4.27-29) and has “not spoken / To anyone, nor taken sustenance” (5.1.22-23) in

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