• “But anyway, back to Pericles, Prince of Tyre (the play’s full title) – which intrigues because it is so important in the canon while being a strange jumble of a play. Much of it probably isn’t by Shakespeare, in fact; these days the latest software tells us that the first two acts (or more) may be by one George Wilkins (who published his own account of the legend prior to the play’s quarto edition; it didn’t make it into the First Folio).”
    • “Now to many observers, the mixed (or contested) authorship of the play somehow makes it of lesser artistic interest than the rest of the canon. But to my mind, the reverse is actually true. Indeed, Pericles fascinates me precisely because, like Timon of Athens, it seems half-finished, so viewing it is like viewing a cross-section cut out of the Bard’s work process.”
    • “But let’s back up a bit and ponder the whole Shakespearean authorship question. No, not that authorship question – the whole Earl-of-Oxford boondoggle is an utter waste of time. I mean the question of what Shakespearean “authorship” actually means – for I certainly don’t think Shakespeare was an author in the Romantic sense of being the “onlie begetter” of his plays, the lone genius who forged our conscience in the smithy of his soul. Not that educated people quite believe that; even schoolboys know the Bard borrowed his plots – but few seem to grasp what this means, that it makes Shakespeare something of a critic of his own raw material, a re-shaper and re-caster rather than, well, an “original,” for lack of a better word.  Indeed, you could argue (to paraphrase a famous quip about musicals) that a Shakespearean text isn’t written – it’s re-written.”
    • “But why did George Wilkins’ Prince of Tyre capture the imagination of the Bard?  Part of its appeal perhaps lay in its timing: Shakespeare began working on Pericles just as the birth of a granddaughter no doubt inspired a sense of rapprochement with his semi-abandoned wife and family.  But as Celia comments in As You Like It, “There is more in it.” I have little doubt that as Shakespeare surveyed the “rough cut” of Pericles he began to perceive in it an amazing coincidence (rather like the many in the play itself): its stripped-down, cartoonish tropes paralleled and even extended many of the deep themes that had been moving beneath the surface of his own oeuvre.  Storms and shipwrecks, identities lost and found, families broken and healed, societies rejuvenated; twins and doubles and hints of magic; he had been trading in these (in more sophisticated form) since The Comedy of Errors, that is for his entire artistic life.”
    • “Even more artistic wobbles I’m afraid dominated the first two “Wilkins” acts. The opening presentation of incest (Pericles discovers his intended bride has already been bedded by her father) had little threatening force, and director Allyn Burrows played the ensuing pursuit of his hero largely for laughs – as many a misguided production does, even though curious stage directions such as “Enter Pericles, wet” clearly indicate that rebirth is the business at hand.  Real evil is afoot in the action, too (as well as genuine good), but all this seemed lost in broader-than-broad antics… “

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