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Pericles, Prince of Tyre.


MR. DOUCE observes that the very great popularity of this play in former times may be supposed to have originated from the interest which the story must have excited. To trace the fable beyond the period in which the favourite romance of Apollonius Tyrius was composed, would be a vain attempt: that was the probable original; but of its author nothing decisive has been discovered. Some have maintained that it was originally written in Greek, and translated into Latin by a Christian about the time of the decline of the Roman empire; others have given it to Symposius, a writer whom they place in the eighth century, because the riddles which occur in the story are to be found in a work entitled Symposii Ænigmata. It occurs in that storehouse of popular fiction the Gesta Romanorum, and its antiquity is sufficiently evinced by the existence of an Anglo Saxon version, mentioned in Wanley's list, and now in Bene't College, Cambridge. One Constantine is said to have translated it into modern Greek verse, about the year 1500, (this is probably the MS. mentioned by Dufresne in the index of authors appended to his Greek Glossary), and afterwards printed at Venice in 1563. It had been printed in Latin prose at Augsburg in 1471, which is probably as early as the first dateless impression of the Gesta Romanorum*.

* Towards the latter end of the twelfth century Godfrey of Viterbo, in his Pantheon, or Universal Chronicle, inserted this romance as part of the history of the third Antiochus, about two hundred years before Christ. It begins thus [MS. Reg. 14, c. xi.]:

Filia Seleuci 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.'-Tyrwhitt,

A very curious fragment of an old metrical romance on the subject was in the collection of the late Dr. Farmer, and is now in my possession. This we have the authority of Mr. Tyrwhitt for placing at an earlier period than the time of Gower. The fragment consists of two leaves of parchment, which had been converted into the cover of a book, for which purpose its edges were cut off, some words entirely lost, and the whole has suffered so much by time as to be scarcely legible. Yet I have considered it so curious a relic of our early poetry and language that I have bestowed some pains in deciphering what remains, and have given a specimen or two in the notes toward the close of the play. I will here exhibit a further portion, comprising the name of the writer, who appears to have been Thomas Vicary, of Winborn Minster, in Dorsetshire. The portion I have given will continue the story of Appolonius (the Pericles of the play):

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He lyvede after this do was,

And had twey sones by iunge age

That wax wel farynge men:

the kyndom of Antioche

Of Tire and of Cirenen,

Came never werre on hys londe

Ne hung. ne no mesayse

Bot hit yede wel an hond,
He lyvede well at ayse.

He wrot twey bokys of hys lyf,
That in to hys owene bible he sette
at byddynge of hys wyf,

He lafte at Ephese thr he her fette.
He rulde hys londe in goud manere,
Tho he drow to age,

Anategora he made king of Tire,
That was his owene heritage.

best sone of that empire

He made king of Aitnage

that he louede dure,

Of Cirenen thr was

Whan that he hadde al thys y dyght

Cam deth and axede hys fee,

hys soule to God al myght

So wol God thr hit bee,

And sende ech housbonde grace

For to lovye so hys wyf

That cherysed hem wit oute trespace

As sche dyde hym al here lyf,

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have ytake hys bedys on hond
And sayde hys pat" nost" & crede,
Thomas vicary y understond
At Wymborne mynstre in that stede,
y thoughte you have wryte

Hit is nought worth to be knowe,
Ze that woll the sothe y wyte
Go thider and men wol the schewe,
Now Fader & sone & holy gost
To wham y clemde at my bygynninge,
And God he hys of myghtes most
Brynge us alle to a goud endynge,
Lede us wide the payne of helle
O God lord & prsones three

In to the blysse of heuene to dwelle,
Amen pr Charite.

Explicit APPOLONI TYRUS REX nobilis & v'tuosus, &c.

This story is also related by Gower in his Confessio Amantis, lib. vii. p. 175–185, edit. 1554. Most of the incidents of the play are found in his narration, and a few of his expressions are occasionally borrowed. Gower, by his own acknowledgment, took his story from the Pantheon of Godfrey of Viterbo; and the author of Pericles professes to have followed Gower. Chaucer also refers to the story in The Man of Lawe's Prologue :

'Or elles of Tyrius Appolonius,

How that the cursed King Antiochus,
Beraft his doughter of hire maidenhede;
That is so horrible a tale for to rede,' &c.


A French translation from the Latin prose, evidently of the fifteenth century, is among the Royal MSS. in the British Museum, 20, c. ii. There are several more recent French translations of the story: one under the title of La Chronique d'Appolin Roi de Thyr,' 4to. Geneva, blk. 1. no date. Another by Gilles Corrozet, Paris, 1530, 8vo. It is also printed in the seventh vol. of the Histoires Tragiques de Belleforest, 12mo. 1604; and, modernized by M. Le Brun, was printed at Amsterdam in 1710 and VOL. IX.

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