This world to me is as a lasting storm,– Marina
Whirring me from my friends.
The image in the quotation above, of a young woman caught in a cyclone as all she loves flies away from her, encapsulates Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Incest, torrential storms, shipwrecks, starvation, political tumult, murders, attempted rape: the world of this play is a world of trauma. In this production we find Pericles at the beginning exhausted, silent, catatonic. He’s been shipwrecked, nearly drowned, driven from his kingdom, lost both his beloved wife and his adoring daughter, and, finally, his will to live. His withdrawal into stupor, then, is a behavior entirely consistent with traumatic stress disorder.
Gower revives Pericles as the play begins, and leads the broken, traumatized man–and us–on a journey through the events that shattered his spirit. Gower knows that catharsis can come from a skillful retelling of Pericles’s story, helping him to confront his grief and learn to accept it. To make his story come to life, we have split the part of Pericles into two: the younger man who sets out to rule his kingdom and build a family, and the older man who, bludgeoned by his experiences, looks on as his life unfolds before him once more.
By the time Gower sends us out of the theater at play’s end, Pericles, Prince of Tyre has shown us fear, hatred, loss, love, redemption and asked us, in this world of lasting storms, whether we should ever relinquish hope.