When Pericles discovers the dread answer to Antioch's riddle, he flees for his life straight into famine, shipwreck, love, fatherhood, and another shipwreck; he loses his wife and daughter,... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Edward Petherbridge ...
Gower
...
King Antiochus
...
Antiochus's Daughter
Mike Gwilym ...
Robert Ashby ...
Thaliard, Fifth Knight
John Bardon ...
Lord of Tyre, Fisherman of Pentapolis, Storm Sailor
Peter Gordon ...
Lord of Tyre, Pirate
Iain Mitchell ...
Lord of Tyre, Pirate
...
Helicanus
Toby Salaman ...
Escanes, Pandar
Norman Rodway ...
Cleon of Tarsus
...
Dionyza
Christopher Saul ...
Lord of Tarsus, Fourth Knight
Gordon Gostelow ...
Fisherman of Pentapolis
Richard Derrington ...
Fisherman of Pentapolis, Gentleman of Ephesus
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Storyline

When Pericles discovers the dread answer to Antioch's riddle, he flees for his life straight into famine, shipwreck, love, fatherhood, and another shipwreck; he loses his wife and daughter, and doesn't find them again until the story moves us through resurrection, attempted murder, pirates, prostitution, and divine revelation. Written by Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Details

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Release Date:

8 December 1984 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: Pericles, Prince of Tyre  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Part of the long running BBC Television Shakespeare project which ran between 1978 and 1985. See more »

Connections

Version of Pericles by Shakespeare on the Road (2016) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Gripping Greek Odyssey; Pure Shakespeare
13 October 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Pericles has more drama and events packed into it than any other Shakespeare play. Some have described it as a failed epic; I prefer to think of it more as an Odyssey- after all, it is set in Ancient Greece and the episodic nature is much in the vein of that storytelling.

The play has a shocking opening. Pericles, Prince of Tyre,(Mike Gwilym)comes to woo King Antiochus' daughter. All her potential suitors must solve a riddle if they are to marry her and many have died at the attempt. Pericles guesses correctly but wishes he hadn't: the king and the daughter have an incestuous relationship. Tortured by the information, he goes on the run, but during a shipwreck he is washed upon a strange island in only his pants. Pericles encounters many more struggles along the way as he desperately tries to build a life like his former. His lost daughter Marina (Amanda Redman) also faces her struggles as she is captured and placed in a brothel. Can Pericles hope for a miracle and find her again? I've cut out some bits in my summary because I don't want to spoil the suspense. Sitting there watching it, you're sure that things can't get any worse for Pericles and then Shaky and co. (more on that in the final paragraph) hits you with another bit of drama. You completely have to suspend disbelief with Pericles but not in the way that you have to do in some of Shaky's more famous plays when he forces contrivances. The play has fairytale-like qualities as miracles occur and you desperately cross your fingers hoping that Pericles will be rewarded for his virtues. The narrator Gower is constantly telling us to suspend our disbelief and use our imaginations and if you do this, the low-budget set becomes islands, palaces, and brothels.

There is some comedy in the play. The man-and-wife brothel owners are hilariously grotesque- a bit like M. and Mme Thenardier in Les Miserables. Marina is a beautiful piece of goods but she refuses to give up her virginity. To make matters worse, she converts the men that come to see her so they never go back to the brothel again.

As for the playing, well it's hard to compare because you will never see Pericles performed again in your lifetime. It's a play that doesn't work as well on paper as some of the other plays do but comes to life beautifully in performance. Gwilym is a tortured but tough Pericles, taking the blows life deals him with strong virtue and courage. He speaks the lines nicely and very naturally, so we get the full meaning. Juliet Stevenson is lovely as Pericles' wife Thaisa and Patrick Allen as her father is jokey and doting; a complete contrast to John Woodvine's suitably creepy Antiochus. Amanda Redman (the lead in Silent Witness until the current trio took over and ex-head of Waterloo Road) is a charming virtuous Marina, showing the same strength as her father. We have some familiar faces from the BBC Shakespeare series: Clive Swift (from Henry IV) plays an apothecary and Patrick Ryecart (Romeo in the BBC Romeo and Juliet) plays Marina's suitor. Annette Crosbie makes a brief appearance as Marina's wicked adopted mother.

So, what's all this about Shaky and co? Well, Pericles is part of the Shakespeare Apocrypha: plays that are thought to be collaborations with Shakespeare. It's thought that Shaky wrote just over half of the play, probably the latter half, and the other half was done by some hack. Unfortunately this means that any discussion of the play has to mention the authorship issue, making people think that the play isn't "proper Shakespeare". It's as if your husband's cheated on you with some hussy. For my part, the play's episodic nature could indicate that it was a collaboration but I think it was one in which Shakespeare had the upper hand.

Despite all the fuss about the authors, Pericles is a very Shakespearean play. The father-daughter relationship is a recurring theme in Shakespeare and in this play, we get three strong but very different father-daughter relationships. It contains the miracle that categorises it amongst Shakespeare's romances and is similar in character to The Winter's Tale. Tempests, as in many Shakespeare plays, feature heavily here in a literal and symbolic sense. And it's got the low-life characters of brothels that we see in Jacobean Shakespeare. Even if Shaky didn't write all of it, this is Pure Shakespeare.


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