Pericles – Andrew Rissik

Andrew Rissik argues here for the central importance of Shakespeare’s Pericles. This 1608 play, rarely performed, and textually corrupt, was left out of the 1623 First Folio, and is still regarded by scholars as verbally problematical and artistically weak. Yet Pericles, was, in Shakespeare’s own lifetime, one of his greatest commercial successes, a strange, haunting, fairy-tale-like drama of providential accidents that prefigures everything he wrote thereafter.

The play’s atmosphere and its dramatic preoccupations – the shaping power of time revealed by successive generations: the healing, holistic nature of providence: the power of on-stage magic and miracle to express and thus channel the deepest needs of the human soul – are a gateway to the final, philosophical and most openly mystical phase of Shakespeare’s creative life.

After Pericles, Shakespeare never returned to the kinds of plays he had written before. What followed were works that are all unmistakably Pericles-like: plays that look somehow beyond mortal life, and might now be characterised as Jungian fables of the soul’s destiny….

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