Abstract

Abstract:

This essay argues that William Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre constitutes a genealogical journey outside the periphery of the West. While scholars tend to under-value the play’s geographic specificity, interpreting Pericles in the context of Western Christian culture, I discuss the play’s commitment to representing an authentic Eastern geography and what that commitment very well implies. In mapping a recognizably Eastern Mediterranean space, Pericles lays the groundwork for recreating a supra-rational experience of the sacred consistent with a set of beliefs that developed beyond the borders of Rome. Indeed, linguistic excavation indicates that the source for Pericles, the tale of Apollonius, has Greek roots that position it partly as an Eastern Christian text. This is because the story not only originated in Asia Minor, but it likely passed into Latin through a Byzantine epitome, blending Eastern Christian attributes into its pagan narrative. With Pericles, Shakespeare nurtures some of these attributes, staging them for the first time since the story’s inception. Although Shakespeare and his contemporaries had limited contact with the Greek Christian world, they would have been exposed to its culture and theology in humanist translations of Greek patristic writings, in travel narratives, even in Protestant polemical texts (such as John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments). These channels of exposure, together with the Eastern rootedness of the source itself, coalesce in Pericles, Shakespeare’s first experiment with tragicomic romance.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-0383
Print ISSN
0039-3738
Pages
pp. 472-504
Launched on MUSE
2018-06-29
Open Access
No
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