Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Pericles, Prince of Tyre was first published in quarto in 1609. Despite a clear attribution to Shakespeare, the play was not included in the First Folio of 1623, perhaps because it was known to be the product of collaboration. Although Shakespeare was alone identified as author on the titlepage of the 1609 First Quarto, most scholars are now of the opinion that the first two acts were written by George Wilkins. Wilkins's prose account of the play, The Painful Adventures of Pericles Prince of Tyre, was published in 1608.

The quarto text of Pericles is not without its problems. A common view is that it is a transcription or recording of a text read aloud or performed, rather than being taken from an authorial or authoritative manuscript. Some editors have gone so far as to see Wilkins's prose narrative as another record of the play in performance, and have looked to it to help amend or correct some of the problematic passages in the play as published.

Pericles was among the most popular of Shakespeare's published plays during his lifetime. This is a copy of the Fourth Quarto, published by Thomas Pavier in 1619. The letters or 'signatures' at the bottom of the right hand page, which helped printers and binders identify the order in which pages were to be arranged, begin some way through the alphabet. This indicates that the play was printed as part of a collection and was perhaps intended to be bound with other Shakespeare plays Pavier published at the same time. This copy was once owned by Halliwell-Phillipps, and he has noted that its pages, very unusually, are not cut or trimmed.


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Further Study

This copy is in the University of Edinburgh library, shelfmark JA 3707. For the textual and publication history of the play, see Andrew Murphy, Shakespeare in Print (Cambridge, 2003), Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery, eds, William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion (Oxford, 1987), Laurie Maguire, Shakespearean Suspect Texts (Cambridge, 1996) and Brian Vickers, Shakespeare, Co-Author (Oxford, 2002).