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Pericles is the protagonist of this play. At the onset of action, he is a young prince eager for love and adventure. Through the play the reader sees him growing into a mature man and coping with the stresses and losses he has, while at the same time still seeking to be a good ruler. Pericles (like his wife and daughter) is an ideal character. He represents "Virtue preserved from fell destruction's blast." Unlike the tragedies of Shakespeare, where conflict is brought about due to a "tragic flaw" in the hero, the hardship in Pericles is caused by external circumstances.
"Now, mild may be they life! For a more blustrous birth had never babe; Quiet and gentle they conditions! for Thou art the rudeliest welcome to this world That ever was prince's child."
For the infant's own well being and safety, he leaves her to be fostered by his "friends", showing that he is a devoted and concerned father. Finally, when told of her "death" he is shattered and becomes depressed and reclusive.
Briefly, the reader is shown that Pericles is a loving son. He derives comfort from the recovery of his father's armor from the sea, and sees it as his father's blessing. He is a trusting friend to Cleon and Dionyza, but shrewd with hostile forces such as Antiochus.
In the public life, Pericles is a good and honest ruler. He is shown faced with two examples: Antiochus, powerful but corrupt and ruthless; and Simonides "the good", respected by his people, hospitable and kind, a devoted father and a good judge of men. Pericles chooses Simonides as a role model, and even says Simonides reminds him of his own father.
Pericles flees from Antioch to Tyre, but he is concerned about his people. He fears Antiochus may invade his smaller country and wants to spare his people from this danger. He sees his relationship with his people as:
"no more but as the tops of trees Which fence the roots they grow by and defend them."
Pericles plans to avenge the attempted murder of Marina. Yet after his vision of the Goddess Diana, he gives up the plan and proceeds to Ephesus. This underlines his attitude of forgiveness and tolerance. The main characters in the play are fully formed from their first appearance and change little in substance. There is an absence of the dynamic struggle within the individual's own psyche which makes Shakespeare's tragedies so effective. The belief that a good king must also be a good human being are the primary aspects of Pericles, Prince of Tyre and several of Shakespeare's last plays,