The moment Pericles recognises Marina is the cornerstone of the play - the father-daughter relationship takes precedence over that of husband and wife, in contrast with The Winter's Tale. Pericles the play is also uncomplicated in comparison because Pericles the person, unlike Leontes, has done no wrong, and the only thing that has torn his family apart is bad luck. There remains the faint shadow of incest and of prostitution; after all, Marina meets her future husband in a brothel. Even Pericles initially pushes her away, just as Posthumus does to Imogen in Cymbeline: "Shall's have a play of this? Thou scornful page, / There lie thy part" (Cymbeline 5.6.228-9). The difference between being recognised and being mistaken is so slight, and has such enormous consequences that what it is to be someone, and recognised as such, becomes puzzling, even uncanny. Marina asks, "Is it no more to be your daughter than / To say my mother's name was Thaisa?" (5.1.208-9). Recognition assumes magical and momentous proportions in the romances, requiring a very different kind of drama to romantic comedies, for example.


Pericles was one of the most popular plays of its time. This popularity did not survive into the eighteenth century, either with audiences or with editors who, put off by the play's lack of drama and characterisation, were reluctant to regard it as part of the Shakespearean canon. Victorians were even more put off by the brothel scenes, and only in the twentieth century did interest in the play revive. T.S. Eliot, for whom the theme of recognition had great poetic interest, took Pericles as a source for "Marina". W.H. Auden's The Sea and the Mirror (1944) is a version of The Tempest and Louis MacNeice made Autolycus into a figure who represents the late Shakespeare and his theatrical practice in the poem "Autolycus". These poems are suggestive in that they lead us to better appreciate the poetic aspect of the play despite its undramatic plot. In one way, the poetic aspect of the play were always noticed, but as Shakespearian gems set in anotherwise muddy plot, rather than as signs of a more poetic approach to plot itself. The play presents itself not as drama, events portrayed, but as an old story brought to life. The place stories have on a stage is a theatrical problem that occupies all of the romances; in Pericles the problem appears the moment Gower appears.


The way the story moves between a tale told to a scene shown is foregrounded in the figure of Gower, who makes the audience imaginative collaborators in the process, which becomes an issue for the play itself. Pericles' recognition of Marina is drawn out almost as if the playwright wanted to achieve the stasis of a picture rather than the action of the play. Where Gower presides over the story's transitions from one medium to another, Marina presides over a moment when the story and language itself is pushed beyond the limits of its expressive power, when language is overwhelmed as by a sea.

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