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Virtue Versus Vice
Pericles, Thaisa, and Marina represent virtuous people who face tremendous suffering. These three main characters clearly stand for virtue in an allegorical sense. They are not shown to possess any vices, or even to commit any errors. Most of their suffering is caused by wicked people who possess little, if any, virtue. Antiochus is the first to set in motion suffering in retaliation against Pericles' virtue. Cleon and Dionyza also contribute to Marina's suffering.
A comparison of the leaders in the play reveals that good and just leaders not only earn the love of their people, but the rewards of fate. Antioch, as a prime representative of vice, is struck by lightning. Cleon and Dionyza receive no real punishment for their treatment of Marina, but are saved by Pericles' own virtuous forgiveness.
The opening scene itself deals with this theme. The lovely princess of Antioch initially seems like a "celestial tree" and turns out a "glorious casket stored with ill." The father-daughter bond turns out to be sinful, whereas it had once looked so tempting and so luxurious. When Pericles is approaching Tarsus, Cleon fears that white flags on Tyrean ships may be enemies disguised as friends. But Pericles is on a friendly visit carrying grains for the starving people of Tarsus.
Pericles competes for the hand of Thais dressed and bearing himself as a shabby pauper, but Simonides warns that virtue is an inner cloak. Still later, Pericles takes Cleon and Dionyza for his trusted friends. They betray his trust.
Thaisa and Marina are taken for dead but are actually alive. Finally, the gods are seen to be cruel but they are accepted as benign Providence at the end.
Disorder Versus Order
Throughout the play, there are storms that create chaos in the lives of the main family. Breaches of morality are seen as disorder. The fact that Antiochus can be so tyrannical as to murder the innocent only to conceal his incestuous lust can also be seen as causing a breach of order. The actions of evil people create disorder in the kingdom of Tyre. At the end, all is resolved by the reactions of the virtuous. Harmony is restored, as symbolized by the marriage of Marina and Lysimachus. The king of Tyre is reunited with his queen.
The Role of a King
Antiochus is a tyrant and a bad king. His wickedness is evident both in the public and private spheres. Simonides is a good king, respected by his people. He is also a good father. Pericles follows the example of Simonides, who reminds him of his own father. He looks out for his country, and has every concern for his ability to protect them. He is a good ruler and a good person. He deals honestly with the followers like Helicanus. He tries to remove all hardships from the paths of his people, and even aids another kingdom in its time of catastrophe.