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In what ways can Shakespeare's Pericles, Prince of Tyre be classified as a typical romance play?

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    Why is this question being flagged to be closed? It's a decent question, and there are clear elements of a "typical romance play". Just because the question is short doesn't make it bad, no less in need of being closed. Dec 5 '20 at 1:30
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The romances is a category of Shakespeare's plays that includes Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempeest. The Two Noble Kinsmen is sometimes also included into this category, even though it has less in common with Shakespeare's "canonical" romances.

  • Courtly versus pastoral scenes (Schmidgall: Shakespeare and the Courtly Aesthetic, 1981, cited on Wikipedia):
    • Pericles: There are scenes at court, but the pastoral is not really represented in the play.
    • Cymbeline: Cymbeline's court versus the cave in Wales where Guiderius and Arviragus grew up.
    • The Winter's Tale: Act 4, scenes 2-4 are pastoral, especially the sheep-shearing feast Act 4, scene 4. The other scenes are set at Leontes's court in Sicily.
    • The Tempest: Alonso and his courtiers versus the island's residents. See also Gonzalo's speech about a kind of utopia in Act 2, scene 1.
    • Note that this is not a new motif, since Shakespeare also used it in As You Like It.
  • "Older men are more prominently featured" (Wikipedia, citing Bieman's William Shakespeare: The Romances). I consider this characteristic questionable for the reasons given below:
    • Pericles: Pericles is still a young Prince at the beginning of the play.
    • Cymbeline: Cymbeline may be considered "old"; his sons Guiderius and Arvirargus were kidnapped twenty years before the events of the play. However, he is not as prominent in the play as Prospero in The Tempest.
    • The Winter's Tale: Leontes is hardly "old" at the beginnig of the play; his son Mamilius is still a child and his wife Hermione is pregnant.
    • The Tempest: Prospero is usually represented as old, even though his daughter Miranda is still a teenager.
  • "The presence of pre-Christian, masque-like figures" (Wikipedia, citing A. L. Rowse's The Annotated Shakespeare: Volume III):
    • Pericles: The Roman goddess Diana appears to Pericles in a dream.
    • Cymbeline: The Roman god Jupiter appears to Cymbeline.
    • The Winter's Tale: The Oracle at Delphos (Act 3).
    • The Tempest: Iris, Juno and Ceres in Act 4, scene 1.
  • A long time gap between two parts of the play:
    • Pericles: Many years pass between the first three acts (or the first 14 scenes) and the remainder of the play; based on Pericles's story in Act 5, scene 3 (or scene 23), fourteen years have passed since he lost his wife Thaisa.
    • Cymbeline: No, but twenty years have passed between the abduction of Cymbeline's sons Guiderius and Arviragus and the events in the play (see Act 3, scene 3).
    • The Winter's Tale: In Act 4, scene 1, the figure of Time tells us that sixteen years pass between the the end of Act3 and the remainder of the play (Act 4 and 5).
    • The Tempest: No, but there is a 12-year gap between Prospero and Miranda's shipwreck (related in Act 1, scene 2) and the beginning of the play.
  • Family members believed dead:
    • Pericles: In Act 3, scene 1, Pericles's wife Thaisa seems to die in childbirth. In Act 4, scene 1, (or scene 15) Marina is kidnapped by pirates; in Act 4, scene 4 (or scene 18) Pericles is made to believe that his daughter is dead.
    • Cymbeline: In Act 4, scene 2, Guiderius and Arviragus believe Innogen/Fidele is dead. When Innogen wakes up, she thinks she sees Posthumus's corpse (it is really the headless body of Cloten, who had disguised himself as Posthumus).
    • The Winter's Tale: Leontes believes his wife Hermione has died (Act 3, scene 1).
    • The Tempest: After being separated by the storm, Alonso and his son Ferdinand both assume the other dead. (See e.g. "Full fathom five" in Act 1, scene 2.)
    • Note that this is not a new motif, since Shakespeare also used it in Twelfth Night (Viola thinks her brother Sebastian has drowned).
  • Forced separations and improbable reunions (Dobson & Wells, page 395):
    • Pericles: See "Family members believed dead". Pericles is reunited with Marina in Act 5, scene 1 (or scene 21) and with Thaisa in Act 5, scene 3 (or scene 23).
    • Cymbeline: Innogen has married the commoner Posthumus, who is banished in Act 1, scene 1.
    • The Winter's Tale: Leontes and Perdita, Leontes and Hermione; to a lesser extent Leontes and Polixenes.
    • The Tempest: After the storm, Alonso and his courtiers land on a different part of the island than Alonso's son Sebastian.
  • Father-daughter relationships (Dobson & Wells, page 395):
    • Pericles: Pericles and Marina.
    • Cymbeline: Cymbeline and Innogen.
    • The Winter's Tale: Leontes and Perdita.
    • The Tempest: Prospero and Miranda.
    • Note that this is not a new motif, since Shakespeare also used it in King Lear (Lear and his daughers), Hamlet (Polonius and Ophelia) and The Merchant of Venice (Shylock and Jessica), for example.
  • Shipwreck at sea (Dobson & Wells, page 395):
    • Pericles: In Act 1, scene 4, Pericles suffers shipwreck near Persepolis. In Act 3, scene 1, there is another storm.
    • Cymbeline: No scenes at sea, nor a shipwreck.
    • The Winter's Tale: The ship that brought Antigonus to Bohemia is wrecked by a storm in Act 3, scene 3.
    • The Tempest: The ship that is taking Alonso, King of Naples, back to Italy is caught in a storm and runs aground in Act 1, scene 1.
    • Note that this is not a new motif, since Shakespeare also used it in The Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night.

According to Constance Jordan, the four plays have a common subject: "the restoration of good government" (page 1):

The plays depict the precarious state of rulers who by their absence invite anarchy or by their presumption threaten tyranny. These rules stand decisively apart from their subjects. (...) Chastened by various trials, Pericles, Cymbeline, Leontes, and Prospero submit at last to the constraints that attend mortality.


Sources:

  • Dobson, Michael; Wells, Stanley (editors): The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Jordan, Constance: Shakespeare's Monarchies: Ruler and Subject in the Romances. Cornell University Press, 1997.

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