I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Probably not one of the best among Shakespeare’s plays, this romance is still quite enjoyable. The version which I saw was recorded in 2015 at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival (Stratford, Ontario, Canada). It was extremely well acted and the presentation was beautiful. Instead of employing John Gower as a narrator, a chorus of priestesses of Diana were introduced. Some of the narration was even beautifully sung, a touch which I loved.
Many of the themes that Shakespeare was interested in make another appearance in Pericles. There is some exploration of what it takes to be a good ruler. People are lost and found again. Other people fall instantly in love (a perennial happening in the Bard’s plays). And purity, beauty, and royalty are rescued from the disaster.
For me, the most moving line was uttered by Pericles, when he finds the wife that he has believed dead for years. He himself had pushed her coffin overboard during the storm. When they are reunited, he declares, “O, come, be buried a second time within these arms.” That one little sentence brought tears to my eyes.
I can see where modern audiences might not be impressed by the lack of logic in several aspects of the play—for instance, why does Pericles wife become a priestess of Diana instead of contacting him to let him know that she is alive? Plus, the coincidence of Pericles, his queen, and his daughter, all ending up in one place at play’s end is beyond belief. Pericles acknowledges this when he cries, “This, this. No more, you gods! Your present kindness makes my past miseries sports.”
If you are a fan of the Bard, I would recommend that you see Pericles performed. If you are unsure about Shakespeare, try one of his better known plays, perhaps Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet, and if you enjoy those, consider seeing Pericles.