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Pericles Scenes

Scene 4

Tarsus. A room in the Governor’s house.

(Cleon; Dionyza; Lords; Lord of Tarsus; Pericles; Attendants)

Cleon, Governor of Tarsus, grieves over the famine afflicting his town. A messenger brings news that a fleet is approaching, and Cleon fears that a neighbor is planning to take advantage of Tarsus’s weakness to invade it. In fact, it turns out to be Pericles, who has come with ships filled with food to relieve Tarsus from famine. Cleon’s gratitude is immense. (109 lines)

Enter Cleon, the Governor of Tharsus, with his wife Dionyza and others.


My Dionyza, shall we rest us here,

And by relating tales of others’ griefs,

See if ’twill teach us to forget our own?


That were to blow at fire in hope to quench it,

For who digs hills because they do aspire

Throws down one mountain to cast up a higher.

O my distressed lord, even such our griefs are;

Here they are but felt, and seen with mischief’s eyes,

But like to groves, being topp’d, they higher rise.


O Dionyza!

Who wanteth food and will not say he wants it,

Or can conceal his hunger till he famish?

Our tongues and sorrows to sound deep our woes

Into the air, our eyes to weep, till tongues

Fetch breath that may proclaim them louder, that

If heaven slumber, while their creatures want,

They may awake their helpers to comfort them.

I’ll then discourse our woes, felt several years,

And wanting breath to speak, help me with tears.


I’ll do my best, sir.


This Tharsus, o’er which I have the government,

A city on whom plenty held full hand,

For riches strew’d herself even in her streets;

Whose towers bore heads so high they kiss’d the clouds,

And strangers ne’er beheld but wond’red at;

Whose men and dames so jetted and adorn’d,

Like one another’s glass to trim them by;

Their tables were stor’d full, to glad the sight,

And not so much to feed on as delight;

All poverty was scorn’d, and pride so great,

The name of help grew odious to repeat.


O, ’tis too true.


But see what heaven can do by this our change:

These mouths who, but of late, earth, sea, and air

Were all too little to content and please,

Although they gave their creatures in abundance,

As houses are defil’d for want of use,

They are now starv’d for want of exercise;

Those palates who, not yet two summers younger,

Must have inventions to delight the taste,

Would now be glad of bread and beg for it;

Those mothers who, to nousle up their babes,

Thought nought too curious, are ready now

To eat those little darlings whom they lov’d.

So sharp are hunger’s teeth, that man and wife

Draw lots who first shall die to lengthen life.

Here stands a lord, and there a lady weeping;

Here many sink, yet those which see them fall

Have scarce strength left to give them burial.

Is not this true?


Our cheeks and hollow eyes do witness it.


O, let those cities that of plenty’s cup

And her prosperities so largely taste,

With their superfluous riots, hear these tears!

The misery of Tharsus may be theirs.

Enter a Lord of Tarsus.


Where’s the Lord Governor?



Speak out thy sorrows which thou bring’st in haste,

For comfort is too far for us to expect.


We have descried, upon our neighboring shore,

A portly sail of ships make hitherward.


I thought as much.

One sorrow never comes but brings an heir

That may succeed as his inheritor;

And so in ours, some neighboring nation,

Taking advantage of our misery,

Hath stuff’d the hollow vessels with their power

To beat us down, the which are down already,

And make a conquest of unhappy me,

Whereas no glory’s got to overcome.


That’s the least fear; for by the semblance

Of their white flags display’d, they bring us peace,

And come to us as favorers, not as foes.


Thou speak’st like him’s untutor’d to repeat:

Who makes the fairest show means most deceit.

But bring they what they will and what they can,

What need we fear?

Our ground’s the lowest, and we are half way there.

Go tell their general we attend him here,

To know for what he comes, and whence he comes,

And what he craves.


I go, my lord.



Welcome is peace, if he on peace consist;

If wars, we are unable to resist.

Enter Pericles with Lord and Attendants.


Lord Governor, for so we hear you are,

Let not our ships and number of our men

Be like a beacon fir’d t’ amaze your eyes.

We have heard your miseries as far as Tyre,

And seen the desolation of your streets;

Nor come we to add sorrow to your tears,

But to relieve them of their heavy load;

And these our ships, you happily may think

Are like the Troyan horse was stuff’d within

With bloody veins, expecting overthrow,

Are stor’d with corn to make your needy bread,

And give them life whom hunger starv’d half dead.


The gods of Greece protect you!

And we’ll pray for you.


Arise, I pray you, rise.

We do not look for reverence but for love,

And harborage for ourself, our ships, and men.


The which when any shall not gratify,

Or pay you with unthankfulness in thought,

Be it our wives, our children, or ourselves,

The curse of heaven and men succeed their evils!

Till when—the which I hope shall ne’er be seen—

Your Grace is welcome to our town and us.


Which welcome we’ll accept; feast here awhile,

Until our stars that frown lend us a smile.



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