Friday, December 12, 2008

Play of the Week: Pericles

This is a sprawling play that seems as wandering in its traversing of the Mediterranean as it does in its rhyme and meter. Written as a collaboration between William Shakespeare and George Wilkins, Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a huge argument in favor of a single person termed "Shakespeare." As you read you can discern the difference between the "good verse" and "bad verse" and soon notice how the good verse sounds much more like a familiar author.

Pericles has many episodic adventures that are strangely reminiscent of Homer's Odyssey. Add to that some of the brothel scenes from Measure for Measure and a daughter character like in Cymbeline or Winter's Tale and you basically have the formula for Pericles.

While undeniable not one of Shakespeare's finer works, Pericles still maintains some merit. If you are able to clean up the sloppy verse and trim the wanderings so they are not meanderings, there is a lovely story that deals with a family overcoming all odds to restore a sort of balance to their world. Each one of them faces several coming of age trials before they are reunited in an ending that will not fail to move the audience. Thankfully Shakespeare seems to be the one who stepped in to pen the ending, because its universality and ability to bring tears is seemingly "actor-proof."

Like some of Shakespeare's other great plays - Twelfth Night, King Lear, and The Tempest - the characters have to weather a storm before they can come out where they are supposed to be. Like a archetypal hero who must be cleansed before he can finish his journey, theses characters all have something that they must overcome. The union they find in the end is made more stunning because of the hardships that they face.

Take a moment to revisit this unfamiliar work by our Bard. Enjoy the tale of adventure and redemption. And don't forget "Enter Pirates."

Happy Birthday: John Osborne (1929-1994) & Bill Knighy (b. 1949)
Happy Birthday (December 13): Robert Prosky (1930-2008) & Christopher Plummer (b. 1929)
Happy Birthday (December 14): George Furth (1932-2008)

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