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THE story on which this play is formed, is of great antiquity. It is found in a book, once very popular, entitled Gesta Romanorum, which is supposed by Mr. Tyrwhitt, the learned editor of The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer, 1775, to have been written five hundred years ago. The earliest impression of that work (which I have seen) was printed in 1488;* in that edition the history of Appolonius King of Tyre makes the 153d chapter. It is likewise related by Gower in his Confessio Aman tis. Lib. VIII, p. 175-185, edit. 1554. The Rev. Dr. Farmer has in his possession a fragment of a MS. poem on the same subject, which appears, from the hand-writing and the metre, to be more ancient than Gower. The reader will find an extract from it at the end of the play. There is also an ancient romance on this subject, called Kyng Appolyn of Thyre, translated from the French by Robert Copland, and printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1510. In 1576 William Howe had a licence for printing The most excellent, pleasant, and variable Historie of the strange Adventures of Prince Appolonius, Lucine his wyfe, and Tharsa his daughter. The author of Pericles having introduced Gower in his piece, it is reasonable to suppose that he chiefly followed the work of that poet. It is observable, that the hero of this tale is, in Gower's poem, as in the present play, called Prince of Tyre; in the Gesta Romanorum, and Copland's prose Romance, he is entitled King. Most of the incidents of the play are found in the Conf. Amant, and a few of Gower's expressions are occasionally borrowed. However, I think it is not unlikely, that there may have been (though I have not met with it) an early prose translation of this popular story, from the Gest. Roman. in which the name of Appolonius was changed to Pericles; to which, likewise, the author of this drama may have been indebted. In 1607 was published at London, by Valentine Sims, “The patterne of painful adventures, containing the most excellent, plea sant, and variable Historie of the strange Accidents that befell unto Prince Appolonius, the lady Lucina his wife, and Tharsia his daughter, wherein the uncertaintie of this world and the fickle state of man's life are lively described. Translated into English by T. Twine, Gent." I have never seen the book, but it was without doubt a re-publication of that published by W. Howe in 1576.
Pericles was entered on the Stationers' books, May 2, 1608, by Edward Blount, one of the printers of the first folio edition of Shakspeare's plays; but it did not appear in print till the following year, and then it was published not by Blount, but by Henry Gosson; who had probably anticipated the other, by getting a hasty transcript from a playhouse copy. There is, I believe, no play of our author's, perhaps I might say, in the English language, so incorrect as this. The most corrupt of Shakspeare's other dramas, compared with Pericles, is purity itself. The metre is seldom attended to; verse is frequently printed
There are several editions of the Gesta Romanorum before 1488. Douce.
as prose, and the grossest errors abound in almost every page. I mention these circumstances, only as an apology to the reader for having taken somewhat more licence with this drama than would have been justifiable, if the copies of it now extant had been less disfigured by the negligence and ignorance of the printer or transcriber. The numerous corruptions that are found in the original edition in 1609, which have heen carefully preserved and augmented in all the subsequent impressions, probably arose from its having been frequently exhibited on the stage. In the four quarto editions it is called the much admired play of PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE; and it is mentioned by many ancient writers as a very popular performance; particularly, by the author of a metrical pamphlet, entitled Pymlico, or Run Redcap, in which the following lines are found:
"Amaz'd I stood, to see a crowd
"Of civil throats stretch'd out so loud:
"Did swarm with gentles mix'd with grooms;
"Came to see Shore or Pericles."
In a former edition of this play I said, on the authority of another person, that this pamphlet had appeared in 1596; but I have since met with the piece itself, and find that Pymlico, &c. was published in 1609. It might, however, have been a republication.
The prologue to an old comedy called The Hog has lost his Pearl, 1614, likewise exhibits a proof of this play's uncommon success. The poet, speaking of his piece, says:
if it prove so happy as to please,
"We 'll say, 'tis fortunate, like Pericles."
By fortunate, I understand highly successful. The writer can hardly be supposed to have meant that Pericles was popular rather from accident than merit; for that would have been but a poor eulogy on his own performance.
An obscure poet, however, in 1652, insinuates that this drama was ill received, or at least that it added nothing to the reputation of its author:
"But Shakspeare, the plebeian driller, was
Verses by J. Tatham, prefixed to Richard Brome's Jovial Crew, or the Merry Beggars, 4to. 1652. The passages above quoted shew that little credit is to be given to the assertion contained in these lines; yet they furnish us with an additional proof that Pericles, at no very distant period after Shakspeare's death, was considered as unquestionably his per. formance.
In The Times displayed in Six Sestiads, 4to. 1646, dedicated by S. Sheppard to Philip Earl of Pembroke, p. 22. Sestiad VI, stanza 9, the author thus speaks of our poet and the piece before us:
"See him, whose tragick scenes Euripides
Compare great Shakspeare; Aristophanes
"He wrote of lustful Tarquin's rape, shows he
For the division of this piece into scenes I am responsible, there being none found in the old copies.—See the notes at the end of the play. Malone.
The History of Apollonius King of Tyre was supposed by Mark Welser, when he printed it in 1595, to have been translated from the Greek a thousand years before. [Fabr. Bib. Gr. v. p. 821.] It certainly bears strong marks of a Greek original, though it is not, (that I know) now extant in that language. The rythmical poem, under the same title, in modern Greek, was retranslated (if I may so speak) from the Latin-aro Aalvin ns es Papam grwoodv. Du Fresne, Index Author, ad Gloss. Grec. When Welser printed it, he probably did not know that it had been published already (perhaps more than once) among the Gesta Romanorum. In an edition, which I have, printed at Rouen in 1521, it makes the 154th chapter. Towards the latter end of the XIIth century, Godfrey of Viterbo, in his Pantheon or Universal Chronicle, inserted this romance as part of the history of the third Antiochus, about 200 years before Christ. It begins thus [MS. Reg. 14. C. xi.]:
"Filia Seleuci regis stat clara decore,
"Matreque defunctâ pater arsit in ejus amore.
"Res habet effectum, pressa puella dolet."
The rest is in the same metre, with one pentameter only to two hexameters.
Gower, by his own acknowledgement, took his story from the Pantheon; as the author, (whoever he was) of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, professes to have followed Gower. Tyrwhitt. Chaucer also refers to this story in The Man of Lawe's Prologue:
"Or elles of Tyrius Apollonius,
"How that the cursed king Antiochus
"Beraft his doughter of hire maidenhede,
"That is so horrible a tale for to rede" &c.
There are three French translations of this tale, viz.-" La Chronique d'Appolin, Roy de Thyr;" 4to. Geneva, bl. 1. no date; -and Plaisante et agreable Histoire d'Appolonius Prince de Thyr en Affrique, et Roi d'Antioche; traduit par Gilles Corozet," 8vo. Paris, 1530;-and (in the seventh volume of the Histoires Tragiques &c. 12mo. 1604, par François Belle-forest, &c.) "Accidens diuers aduenus à Appollonie Roy des Tyriens: ses malheurs sur mer, ses pertes de femme et fille, et la fin heureuse de tous ensemble."
In the Introduction to this last novel, the translator says:Ayant en main une histoire tiree du Grec, et icelle ancienne, comme aussi je l'ay recuellie d'un vieux livre écrit à la main" &c.
But the present story, as it appears in Belle-forest's collection, (Vol. VII, p. 113, & seq.) has yet a further claim to our notice, as it had the honour (p. 148-9) of furnishing Dryden with the outline of his Alexander's Feast. Langbaine, &c. have accused this great Poet of adopting circumstances from the Histoires Tragiques, among other French novels; a charge, however, that demands neither proof nor apology.
The popularity of this tale of Appolonius, may be inferred from the very numerous MS. in which it appears.
Both editions of Twine's translation are now before me. Thomas Twine was the continuator of Phaer's Virgil, which was left imperfect in the year 1558.
In Twine's book our hero is repeatedly called-" Prince of Tyrus." It is singular enough that this fable should have been re-published in 1607, the play entered on the books of the Stationers' Company in 1608, and printed in 1609.
I must still add a few words concerning the piece in question. Numerous are our unavoidable annotations on it. Yet it has been so inveterately corrupted by transcription, interpolation, &c. that were it published, like the other dramas of Shakspeare, with scrupulous warning of every little change which necessity compels an editor to make in it, his comment would more than treble the quantity of his author's text. If therefore, the silent insertion or transposition of a few harmless syllables which do not affect the value of one sentiment throughout the whole, can obviate those defects in construction and harmony which have hitherto molested the reader, why should not his progress be facilitated by such means, rather than by a wearisome appeal to remarks that disturb attention, and contribute to diminish whatever interest might otherwise have been awakened by the scenes before him? If any one of the trivial supplements, &c. introduced by the present editor are found to be needless or improper, let him be freely censured by his successors, on the score of rashness or want of judgment. Let the Nimrods of ifs and ands pursue him; let the champions of nonsense that bears the stamp of antiquity, couch their rusty lances at the desperate innovator. To the severest hazard, on this account, he would more cheerfully expose himself, than leave it to be observed that he had printed many passages in Pericles without an effort to exhibit them (as they must have originally appeared) with some obvious meaning, and a tolerable flow of versification. The pebble which aspires to rank with diamonds, should at least have a decent polish bestowed on it. Perhaps the piece here exhibited has merit insufficient to engage the extremest vigilance of criticism. Let it on the whole, however, be rendered legible, before its value is estimated, and then its minutia (if they deserve it) may become objects of contention. The old perplexed and vitiated copy of the play is by no means rare; and if the reader, like Pericles, should think himself qualified to evolve the intricacies of a riddle, be it remembered, that the editor is not an Antiochus, who would willingly subject him to such a labour.