The speech was given as the keynote for the Orlando Shakespeare Festival’s Playfest in November 2015. McLaughlin’s version of Pericles was commissioned by Oregon Shakespeare Festival as part of Play On!, their Shakespeare translation project for which 36 playwrights have been commissioned to write translations of all 39 Shakespeare plays over the course of the next three years. McLaughlin’s translation of Pericles is one of the first finished since it was slated to be produced in February-March of 2016 at Orlando Shakespeare Festival, directed by Jim Helsinger, who is also the artistic director of the theater. McLaughlin was part of the Playfest in November in Orlando, where an early draft was read by members of the company as part of the festival and she also gave this keynote. The Play On! project out of Ashland has been highly controversial among the theater community and she sought to clarify her understanding of it and what she learned in the course of writing her translation.          

Last spring I got an odd email from Lue Douthit, literary manager at Oregon Shakespeare Festival—by far the largest Shakespeare festival in the country—where she’s been working for twenty years or so. She wrote, “I’m sending you this as an email instead of calling you because I don’t want you to hang up on me.” Then she elaborated her crazy idea, which was to give the entire Shakespeare canon of 39 plays to 36 playwrights and have each one “translated,” as she put it, into “modern verse.” After which she wrote, “I know, I know.…” Then she put in the clincher, which was that she had already selected a play for me and that my translation was already slated for production at the Orlando Shakespeare Festival. After which she ended with, “Call me if you’re curious.” Well, what could I do? I drafted a somewhat skeptical email back to her saying that I always thought that the reason Shakespeare’s plays were considered so great was because they were…by Shakespeare? But then I broke down and gave her a call.

         The translation project was born of a desire to match a diverse group of modern writers with every play and see what that encounter of the contemporary and the iconic might generate. The plays created are not intended in any way to be thought of as replacements for the original texts. They might be thought of as companion texts, standing independently as their modern authors’ work but also in direct response to the original.

         As for the term “translation,” which has raised several eyebrows, not to say fists, the writers on the project are tasked with trying to find some personal and stylistic equivalent to Shakespeare’s rigor of language and his metaphorical density. The plays generated are thought of as translations rather than adaptations because the writers aren’t taking liberties. This isn’t about creating another West Side Story. We render every line of Shakespeare’s text, matching his scansion fairly closely, and when he rhymes, we rhyme. Sometimes, as you’ll see in my examples, my translations are a different length from Shakespeare’s. But my primary goal is to render the content, translating, as Jim puts it, “gist for gist.” The attitude is “First, do no harm.” Much of the language is crystal clear and can be left as it is exactly. If we do touch the language, we seek only to illuminate, untangle syntax that trips modern listeners up, and find images that we can understand quickly but that have some of the same heightened scale and ambition. Lue, who dreamed the whole project up, says it’s a matter of “reaching up toward” rather than a “dumbing down.” We are trying to honor the power of the language by clearing the static from the lines. But it’s still got to be poetry. We can’t flatten it out. In other words, if the play is difficult, it will still be difficult, but not because the language is impossible for us to grasp.

         It’s also a giant research project, a chance for playwrights to engage intimately with these works just as artists from every other facet of the theater—actors, directors, designers, dramaturgs—have been doing for all these many years. We get to look at the plays from inside them. It has been, as you can imagine, fascinating.

         What I get to do is what my husband Rinde does every night when he plays the Goldberg Variations on the piano. He says he does it not just because the music is so sublime, but because playing it allows him to put his hands in the same position that Bach put his hands in. It’s one thing to study Shakespeare’s plays as a scholar and someone who appreciates the work; it’s an entirely different thing to have the chance to look at what he was doing, while working the same coal-face within the mine.

         Every Shakespeare production you’ve ever seen is an adaptation of the original text. In the first place, theater is always contemporary since it’s always performed by living people in the present tense with contemporary assumptions about what is possible in the theater and with all the cultural references of the moment. We don’t tend to see plays, for instance, as an alternative to watching the bear-baiting down the street. The theater has changed enormously in 400-odd years. The means we have of creating our effects are vast—lighting and sound and all manner of stagecraft. We’ve invented entire professions that were unknown when the plays were first produced. For instance, dramaturgs, who are there to assist the production by providing research and a scholarly perspective, and, well, directors, who didn’t exist in Shakespeare’s day and now seem essential. We expect intermissions. Women are allowed to act. But one thing that isn’t different is that theater audiences get to hear the lines only once, and they generally expect to understand the language in the moment that they hear it. There isn’t any way to check the footnotes while you’re watching a play, so whatever we are going to pick up is grasped in the present tense even as we are being rushed into the future by the power of the story.

         The play that Lue chose for me, Pericles, turns out to have been a strangely apt one for me. I’ve spent much of my writing life working in response to classical Greek plays, and this play takes place in the dying Hellenistic world and is presided over by Greek gods. I’ve adapted nearly a dozen Greek plays now, each one quite differently, but always with the desire to encounter those great works and explore them from the inside instead of merely admiring them from the distance of the present. When I begin work on one of those plays, I feel a palpable sense of transgression. There is the real feeling that anything I do will taint the glorious original. As if I could. In the case of the Greek plays, however, I’m already protected because I’m working from English translations, so the contact is adulterated. I am holding the source with gloves, as it were. With Shakespeare, it sizzles in my hands; the power is palpable.

In Pericles, Shakespeare uses a chorus, which he does in Henry V as well, but in this play he does it differently; he evokes an actual medieval poet, Gower, 200 years dead, who would have been familiar to the literate members of the audience. Gower frames the play, providing exposition and “stepping into the gaps” of time, as he puts it, to expound on what’s going on and what’s about to happen. He speaks in a kind of parody of “medieval” verse, which immediately sets a tone of storytelling and ritual, in direct contrast to the heightened, naturalistic tone of tragedy or the flip, vernacular tone of comedy. He alerts us to the idea that we are dealing in allegory rather than realism and that we need to adjust our expectations accordingly. He also provides a frame that reminds us constantly that what we are watching is a play and that we must participate by using our imaginations if the play is to work.

         I began at the beginning of Pericles, and it took me a while to find my feet. The first section of the Gower speech that starts the play goes like this in the original:

 

GOWER

         To sing a song that old was sung,
         From ashes ancient Gower is come,
         Assuming man’s infirmities,
         To glad your ear, and please your eyes.
         It hath been sung at festivals,
         On ember-eves and holy-ales;
         And lords and ladies in their lives
         Have read it for restoratives:
         The purchase is to make men glorious,
         Et bonum quo antiquius eo melius.
         If you, born in these latter times.
         When wit’s more ripe, accept my rhymes,
         And that to hear an old man sing
         May to your wishes pleasure bring,
         I life would wish, and that I might
         Waste it for you like taper-light.

 

         As you see, he has Gower speak in four syllable lines, tetrameter, rather than ten syllables and five stressed feet, pentameter, which is the form Shakespeare uses for the verse sections of the rest of the play. The tetrameter line, with the addition of those rhymed couplets, lends itself more to song than to natural speech. You understand it as verse as you wouldn’t necessarily understand the longer pentameter lines of the rest of the play as verse unless you were looking at the text. I started by simply putting it into pentameter, not necessarily iambic, rather than tetrameter, and thought that the rhymes were the important thing to master and that any meter would do the trick. But once I’d shown it to the folks in Oregon and to Jim, the general response was that, though it was clear and had the right general feel, they all missed the quality that a four-foot line gave as opposed to the five-foot line, which was too close to the verse used for the rest of the play. Jim also missed that archaic opening, “To sing a song that old was sung,” which, he felt, immediately gave us the welcome sense that we were in a specific language-world, and invited us to participate in a ritual, the heightened mythical world, rather than the flat realism of the everyday.

         So in the latest pass (not, I assume, my last) this is what I did with it:

 

GOWER

To sing a song that old was sung

Long dead, a poet, Gower, is come.

Reborn, I stand here as I stood

By firesides in darkened woods

At harvests and when fasts were broken;

Both high- and low-born heard it spoken.

Let echoes of the past remind

Your modern ears of simpler times.

I’ll tell of ancient rights and wrongs,

Of what we feared or praised in songs.

If a man dead for centuries

Can tell a story that will please

You watching on this living night,

My candle’s tale I set alight.

 

That image of Gower as the storyteller is what defines him more than anything else, and the play is concerned always with what we make of our stories—how we tell them, and why.

         Once we are past Gower’s introductory speech, we are into the first scene, which he’s just set for us at the lavish palace of Antioch, the greatest kingdom in Syria, but a truly sinister place. We know, as Pericles does not, that the widower king, Antiochus, is engaging in incest with his daughter, and has devised a riddle that every man who comes to try his luck at winning the hand of the king’s lover/daughter must answer or be killed. But when Pericles walks into the palace and sees the severed heads of all the suitors who failed before him, he isn’t shaken; he’s feeling lucky. This first scene quickly establishes a central theme of the play, and of the genre of romance, which is the deceptiveness of appearances. Pericles learns almost immediately the danger of succumbing to a lust based entirely on what he sees, or rather what he wants to see, since he is also driven by ambition and an abstract notion of what heroism looks and sounds like. The beautiful princess is mute and nameless and surrounded by death, but the brash young man, who is working from ideas rather than knowledge, risks everything for her.

         The riddle the king uses as the means to keep the suitors for his daughter/lover from taking her is an admission of his sin so bald that surely no one has ever been in any confusion as to its answer:

 

         I am no viper, yet I feed
         On mother’s flesh which did me breed.
         I sought a husband, in which labour
         I found that kindness in a father.
         He’s father, son, and husband mild;
         I mother, wife, and yet his child:
         How they may be, and yet in two,
         As you will live, resolve it you
.

 

         When faced with this in performance, everybody who has ever taken this play on has had to decide whether this riddle is posed as a false conundrum or as a true test of intelligence. If it’s a test of wits, I think we have to agree that the bar is pretty low. In my first passes at the riddle, I tried to make it at least a little more difficult, thinking that I would up the suspense a bit if I did. But then I realized that if Shakespeare had wanted the riddle to work as riddles generally do—to pose a difficult question—he would have done that. He was, well, Shakespeare. In any case, we are in no doubt about what is going on here, which is incest, because Gower has told us that in the opening speech. That knowledge lends the whole first section of the play an added horror as we watch Antiochus drooling over his beautiful prey while Pericles, oblivious to anything but his own ideals about heroism, tries to vie with him in speaking of his love for a princess he knows nothing about.

         This is a test one can’t win. It’s a perfect closed circle of deliberate malice. It’s like those witchcraft drowning trials. If the alleged witch didn’t drown, she was executed as a witch. If she drowned she was regarded as innocent. Either way, she’s dead.

So I made my translation of the riddle as transparent as Shakespeare’s:

 

A viper eats her mother’s heart

And like her I feed at my start.

For all male kind and kindred ties

I look no farther than his eyes.

As father, son, and husband, he

Has mother, wife, and child in me.

All six are here, and yet just two;

It’s yours to say how this is true.

The choice is clear: to speak it out

Or silent, die, and leave the doubt.

 

         Instead of a real riddle, this is more like an elaborate and lurid confession, the sort of thing that evil figures tend to do in tales such as this—I can’t help but think of all those voluble Bond villains nattering away about their crimes and how they got away with them as Bond struggles to free himself and the sands slide through the hourglass. But it also speaks to something in us that longs to confess our sins despite (or because of?) the horror we know they will inspire in others. It’s not a question of whether Pericles will figure it out. He will. He is supposed to. But if he says he hasn’t, he will be killed because those are the rules of the game. If he says he has and speaks the truth of the riddle he will be killed because he has spoken the unspeakable. The riddle, if there is one, is what to do with that knowledge once he inevitably discovers the truth. That’s the only riddle Pericles actually solves—how to answer the riddle without actually answering it—and he gets away with it only barely. His speech in turn poses a riddle for Antiochus. Pericles makes clear that he knows, Antiochus knows that he knows, but if he presses him further to say that exactly, the king risks openly stating his own crime. His only choice of action is to dissemble further and stall for time while he plans Pericles’ murder, just as Pericles takes the opportunity to escape.

         Fleeing, which Pericles does for the whole first half of the play, isn’t all that heroic an action. It is evidence of panic, and however pragmatic and even smart it is, in the face of a direct threat against his life, to head back to his little kingdom of Tyre, it is not the action of a great king, merely of a young and canny prince who wants to save his neck. He had thought this was going to be a straightforward knight’s story—a gallant fellow arrives in a great kingdom and in the course of an afternoon defies the odds by figuring out a riddle, then comes home with a beautiful new princess and the keys to a mighty kingdom to which he is the heir. He is now radically disillusioned.

         By opening the play this way, Shakespeare has his hero running in flight, almost from the start, and with a limp. It will render him cautious, introspective, restless and depressed for much of the play.

         His anxiety about the consequences of his glimpse at the loathsome crime of incest causes Pericles to worry that though the guilty king didn’t manage to kill him in Antioch, nothing keeps the king from pursuing Pericles to Tyre and throwing the full force of an army against him. His people, Pericles fears, would suffer for his unwitting insight into Antiochus’s secret by being thrust innocently into a war they cannot win. And so he flees again, this time not only to save his own life, but to keep the vengeance of a much more potent king from destroying Pericles’ people along with him. Again, it’s odd for a hero to flee rather than to stand and fight, but it makes pragmatic sense and is justifiable as the action of a political leader. More importantly, it puts him on the road toward a real hero’s journey, rather than a notional one. Because the first step of a real hero is into apparent catastrophe.

         The first stage of the hero’s journey is to lose everything, and in doing so to tumble from the highest status to the lowest, and be stripped of any choice or agency other than to beg for mercy from whichever strangers you find yourself at the feet of.

         All the trappings of wealth, power, and everything that he thinks defines him must be taken from the hero. He must be stripped of the ego and stand empty-handed before his fate in order to see what he’s really made of. He must be humbled. And what better to humble a man than to take to the sea?

         After a tempest at sea nearly kills him, Pericles is spit up, naked, onto a foreign shore, where he throws himself at the mercy of some lowly fishermen, who take pity on him after teasing him a bit for his high-falutin’ speech (he speaks in verse, they speak in prose). They then offer him food, shelter, and—literally—the shirts off their backs.

         Shakespeare has him speak to the fishermen this way:

 

PERICLES

         What I have been I have forgot to know;
         But what I am, want teaches me to think on:
         A man throng’d up with cold. My veins are chill,
         And have no more of life than may suffice
         To give my tongue that heat to ask your help;
         Which if you shall refuse, when I am dead,
         For that I am a man, pray you see me buried.

 

Which I in turn translated this way:

 

PERICLES

Whoever I was once, I am not now;
And what I have become is made of need.
Rigid with cold, my heart is pumping ice,

What strength I’ve left throws me here at your feet
To beg for pity, which, if you refuse,
I only ask that you will bury me.        

 

         In my version, which is pretty close to the original, the Fisherman responds thus:

 

1 FISHERMAN   

What’s he talking about burying him for? God forbid anybody go around dying as long as I have a shirt to give you! Here, put it on, and you get yourself warm. Now, look at him, what a handsome fellow! You’re coming home with me, and we'll have meat for holidays, fish for fasting-days, and even sausages and flapjacks, and you’ll be welcome with us.

 

         You can feel how much Shakespeare loved these fishermen. They are simple characters but honest ones, and when a prince can eavesdrop on the casual conversation of people such as this, he learns much about how shrewd their judgment can be of their so-called betters. When the fisherman, for instance, calls his king the “good King Simonides,” Pericles makes a comment, almost to himself, which I translate as “Happy king, to be spoken of so well / By subjects so far out of his hearing.” He is gaining pointers on how a real statesman behaves, which is not about surface but about qualities that can be felt by honest folk such as this, the least of the king’s subjects.

         When Pericles hears that the next day is the princess’ birthday and a tournament is being held at the court in which knights from all over the world are jousting in competition for her, he longs to go. Unlike his first foray into knightly conquest, this time his ambition has nothing to do with winning the princess or the crown; what he wants is to restore his identity as a man of honor. As if by magic, once he’s expressed that desire, the sea tosses ashore his battered armor, his legacy, the only relic he inherited from his noble father. With help from the fishermen, he sets off to court to compete with the best knights in the world. He enters the tournament as a stranger, his armor rusty and old-fashioned. The other knights, incapable of seeing below the surface—just as Pericles once was—sneer at him before being summarily trounced by him.

         Even at the victory feast, sitting as the recognized champion, Pericles can’t shake his humility. He shies away from praise and seems oddly depressed for a man who has outmatched all his rivals and whom the princess clearly favors. But then, he’s snake-bit; he’s had it with kings and their daughters and all such contests. He didn’t come here to swagger, only to excel. He doesn’t make speeches this time, only murmurs politely in response. This is so different from the smooth and overly confident boy who, when Antiochus addressed him as Prince Pericles, immediately answered, “Who would be son to King Antiochus,” then spouted love poetry at the nameless beauty, matching her father’s tone, not realizing that he was speaking to her jealous lover. Pericles’ melancholy only makes him that much more intriguing for the princess, who tries her best to engage him in conversation, but he has lost all his slickness. He is now a real hero instead of a boy who merely mimics one. The riddle of incest and his canny flight from a hostile, twisted king shocked him into disillusioned adulthood and political savvy, but it was his ordeal and humbling by the storm at sea that brought his character into focus.

         Everything that matters most in the play takes place at sea, on deck, or below decks. The sea is viewed as an implacable force that, like the god Neptune, can only be worshipped, never negotiated with. As a playwright of a seafaring nation, Shakespeare was fascinated by the inscrutable power of the sea to make things happen and force fate. Every time Pericles heads out to sea, his fortunes change in some way. Shakespeare gives us three tempests at sea to contemplate, and conjures them with some of the most powerful language in the play.

         Gower describes the tempest that Pericles and pregnant Thaisa endure on their way back to Tyre like this:

 

         And so to sea. Their vessel shakes
         On Neptune’s billow; half the flood
         Hath their keel cut; but fortune’s mood
         Varies again; the grisled north
         Disgorges such a tempest forth,
         That, as a duck for life that dives,
         So up and down the poor ship drives.
         The lady shrieks and well-a-near
         Does fall in travail with her fear;
         And what ensues in this fell storm
         Shall for itself itself perform.
         I nill relate, action may
         Conveniently the rest convey;
         Which might not what by me is told.
         In your imagination hold
         This stage the ship, upon whose deck
         The sea-tost Pericles appears to speak.

 

I liked that image of the duck diving up and down in the waves and the sense not only that the birth at sea is brought on by the storm but that childbirth is likened to the tempest in miniature, both terrible and creative at once:

 

And so to sea. The great waves break
Against their ship. The weather turns
And soon the sea with fury churns.
Their salt-streaked vessel ducks and dives.
They cling and fear for all their lives.
At the center of the sea
The lady screams, “The child in me!”
And labor turns its mortal vise.
Her belly’s wracked as birth pangs slice.
Her body, like the ship, is pinned:
The storm without, the storm within.
I won’t relate what happens then;
Imagination needs again
To see the ship, all brined with tears
Where sea-tossed Pericles appears.

 

         As you see, I hewed close to the original in several phrases.

The beginning “And so to sea” just seemed an unimprovable call to adventure, and the final image of “storm-tossed Pericles” demands to be kept since that might as well be his epithet.

         And notice how, once again, we are reminded that our imaginations are called upon to create this scene.

         After the harrowing shipwreck and Thaisa’s apparent death while giving birth to Marina, Pericles is urged by the superstitious sailors to get his wife’s corpse off the ship as a way of appeasing the raging storm. He packs the body into a watertight casket and casts it out onto the water after a wrenching speech to the woman he has lost.

Shakespeare’s text is:

 

PERICLES

         A terrible childbed hast thou had, my dear;
         No light, no fire: th’unfriendly elements
         Forgot thee utterly; nor have I time
         To give thee hallow’d to thy grave, but straight
         Must cast thee, scarcely coffin’d, in the ooze;
         Where, for a monument upon thy bones,
         And e’er-remaining lamps, the belching whale
         And humming water must o’erwhelm thy corpse,
         Lying with simple shells.

 

Which I’ve translated as:

 

PERICLES

A terrible childbed you have had, my dear,
No light, no fire. The harsh elements
Forgot you completely, nor have I time
To give you proper funeral rites, but now
Must cast you, barely coffined, to the sea,
Where all that marks your grave will have to be
The cold eternal stars. The spouting whale
And aching water must hang over your corpse,

Where you lie with simple shells.

 

         There is a bluntness and oddness, at least to my ear, in the verbs “belching” and “humming,” which I felt could be conveyed to us by the more familiar notion of a “spouting” whale and “aching” water, which I think captures something of the feel of void and cold that Shakespeare’s image creates for me. I also liked the idea of giving the sea a verb, so that the water was doing something, and thought that perhaps what the vastness of the ocean hanging over her coffin at the bottom of the sea might be doing could be characterized as “aching.” And finally the image of her lying “with simple shells” had to be left as it was, since it is what the passage so carefully, and heartbreakingly, builds toward.

         That notion of how the ocean transforms—the Shakespearean idea of a “sea change”—brings to mind the more famous passage in The Tempest:

 

Full fathom five thy father lies;

     Of his bones are coral made;

Those are pearls that were his eyes;

     Nothing of him that doth fade

But doth suffer a sea change

Into something rich and strange.

 

         Like the passage from Pericles, it’s a eulogy for a character who turns out not to be dead. Both capture the uncanny nature of what the sea does to those whose fates have put them in its power, but they are also passages about what art can make of grief and suffering, which is something extraordinary. What we have lost becomes translated into something rare and strange by our imaginations. We cannot see for ourselves what’s at the bottom of the sea; that mortal body is lost forever. But by the force of our imaginations and our hearts, we find it there in images of grand, eerie otherness.

         The scene in Pericles shifts to the shore of Ephesus, where it is a few hours later, the storm only just dying down and dawn not yet broken. We meet a whole new set of characters, but principally Cerimon, who is introduced as a great healer. Cerimon is responsible for one of the eeriest and most beautiful moments in the play, which is the retrieval of the seemingly lifeless Thaisa from death. Shakespeare has Cerimon say:

 

         Gentlemen, this queen will live.

Nature awakes a warm breath out of her.

         She hath not been entranc’d above five hours;

See, how she ’gins to blow into life’s flower again!

 

1 GENTLEMAN                             

         The heavens, through you, increase our wonder,

         And set up your fame forever.

 

CERIMON                   

         She is alive! Behold—

 

I knew that it was important to retain that notion of a woman “breathing into life’s flower,” which is so idiosyncratic and strangely right. It’s something one can see, the fragility of that moment, the sense that there is such a thing as a “life’s flower.” I translated the passage this way:

 

Gentlemen, this queen will live. Nature awakes;

Her breath is warm! She’s not been unconscious

For more than five hours. See, she starts

To breathe into her life’s flower again.

 

1 GENTLEMAN                             

The wonder of this deed shall seal your fame;

The gods act here.

 

CERIMON                   

She is alive! Behold—

 

         I first had the awed gentleman say “This deed shall seal your fame, the gods act here.” But then I found that the word “wonder” comes up several times in Pericles—usually in relationship to Cerimon or Pericles’ daughter Miranda—capturing that sense that there is something uncanny about those characters because they live outside the ordinary round of expectations and ambitions. David Skeele talks about the difference between wonder and surprise as being crucial to this Shakespeare play in particular. Surprise, he says, is the frustration of our expectations, whereas wonder is the fulfillment of them.

         Which brings us to the scene that Shakespeare seems to have built the play to hold: the recognition scene between Miranda and Pericles, in which the problem Pericles has had in the past with appearances is resolved because this time, the truth is just as strange and wondrous as it appears to be.

         The horrible lesson of the first scene, that Pericles must not trust appearances if incest can lurk beneath staggering beauty, is a crippling truth that drives him in repulsion and fear through the first half of the play. His distrust of appearance is finally calmed when he meets a strangely unflappable young woman who reminds him disturbingly of his dead wife and then, even more disturbingly, of what the daughter he thinks is dead might have looked like. He thinks this must be some tormenting vision, reminding him of all he has lost. Pericles asks,

 

What country are you from?
Was it these shores?

 

And she replies,                      

 

No, nor any shores at all.

And yet I had a mortal birth, my lord.

 

         In saying this, she makes herself a riddle that she is the answer to. This is an eerie echo of the silent beauty who was the answer to the first sinister riddle Pericles was asked in the court of Antiochus. This young woman who looks so like his wife says, “I am nothing more than I seem to be,” or, as Shakespeare says, “No other than I appear,” meaning: you can trust your eyes this time; they will not deceive you. It turns out she looks like his wife because she is his wife’s daughter. The truth is just as strange as it appears. She is mortal, not a goddess; she is not dead, she is returned to him. It is when reality, implausible as it seems to be, matches your wildest dreams that wonder walks into the room. Pericles’ whole life leads up to this moment of wonder, and it is the end point of all his trials.

         In keeping with the transformative and central role the sea has in the play, the recognition takes place on a ship at sea. Pericles has become unmoored by his suffering, incapable of speech, much less governing, living in the countryless country of inconsolable grief.

         After the wave of the scene has broken, Shakespeare grants Pericles an astonishing gift. He is given the privilege of hearing celestial music, the music of the spheres. No one else does. Except us. We, by the grace of the theater, are allowed to listen in on the music Pericles has spent a life of suffering to hear. Apparently Pericles’ life of patient endurance has finally made him sacred to the gods and privy to the secrets of the sublime. Finally, just as Pericles seems to succumb to despair, Shakespeare allows the stunted man to be reborn, begotten by his own begotten, as he puts it. There must be a sense here of the Christian notion of Christ begetting God in each of us. The child begets the father and is in turn begotten again in us. But Marina harkens back to pagan notions of the spring maiden, which are frankly female and far older than Christ. There were primitive rites of worship of such figures in England and Europe at the time, which Shakespeare would have known, but they all bear a sisterly likeness to the Greek goddess Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, goddess of the earth, who is abducted and taken down to the underworld but even there manages to keep the flame of her clear nature alive until she is returned to the surface of the earth with every spring, bringing with her the renewal of hope and all of nature.

         The ultimate human desire, nearly always unfulfilled, is that all that we have lost will be restored and all our dead will be returned to us. We cherish the hope too that all our suffering, which is our condition, only perfects our characters and that in the end we will be led to where all those we have ever loved wait for us. To see such a miracle, even when it is frankly presented as a fable, stirs us because it is a recognizable myth at the core of our consciousness. The sense it makes has nothing to do with naturalism or life as it is lived in the everyday, and everything to do with truth as we feel it at our essence. What resonates in Pericles is the profound longing that fuels dreams. And art.