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Marina

Pericles’ Marina is a motherless daughter of a different kind than Beatrice. She is introduced to the audience as an infant at the same time her mother dies, and then reappears as a teenager in the play’s fourth act. Her first speech in the play is a meditation on her lost mother, Thaisa, and the effects of her mother’s absence on her life: ‘Ay me, poor maid, / Born in a tempest when my mother died, / This world to me is as a lasting storm, / Whirring me from my friends’ (4.1.16-19). Marina attributes all her life’s hardships to her mother’s absence, and mourns Thaisa’s loss throughout the play’s action. Though Marina laments her mother’s absence, she draws strength from thoughts of Thaisa, and it is this absence that allows Marina to survive her hardships, as will be explored below.

Marina’s circumstances contrast Beatrice’s because she has a surrogate mother in Dionyza. For this reason, it would seem that she has every opportunity to benefit from a mother’s guiding role. However, Dionyza despises Marina and contracts Leonine to murder her (4.1.1-11).10 This antipathy is evidence enough to conclude that Dionyza did not play the mother to Marina.11 Despite Dionyza’s malice toward Marina, the play’s chorus, Gower, demonstrates that Marina possesses all the qualities Bullinger and Salter dictate for young women. Gower notes that the grown Marina ‘hath gained / Of education all the grace / Which makes her both the heart and place / Of general wonder’ (4.0.8-11). He lauds her appearance and her talents in the feminine arts of sewing and singing. However, Marina also possesses the strength of spirit and quick thinking that characterize Beatrice and exhibits these attributes during her tenure in Mytilene in the play’s fourth act.

Like the motherless daughters in Shakespeare’s other three late plays, Marina encounters threats to her personal safety.12 Dionyza hates her, and is the creator of the series of events in which Marina is threatened with murder by Leonine, kidnapped by pirates, and sold into prostitution, where she is continually menaced with the possibility of rape. She calls upon her mother’s absence in the brothel in Mytilene, wishing that she had found death at Leonine’s hand or that the pirates who kidnapped her ‘had but o’erboard thrown me / For to seek my mother’ (4.2.60-1). Even through her grief, Marina accesses the courage of Shakespeare’s motherless daughters and repeatedly asserts her power to control her own body. Though Marina does not see it as such, her mother’s absence acts as a force that enables her to withstand Mytilene’s trials. Without the thought of Thaisa as a touchstone for strength in her life, Marina may well have succumbed to her tribulations, like Hero, with passivity and a fainting spell. While Bolt and the Bawd praise Marina’s ‘qualities’, her ‘good face’, her ‘excellent good clothes’, and ‘say what a paragon she is’ to increase the price her suitors might pay, Marina steadfastly refuses to submit (4.2.43-4, 131-2). In response, she tells the Bawd, ‘If fires be hot, knives sharp or waters deep, / Untied I still my virgin knot will keep’ (4.2.138-9). Marina is both a model of virtue and a resilient motherless daughter.

In the brothel in Mytilene, Marina defends her chastity by turning her would-be suitors back into proper gentlemen. Instead of cowering in the face of adversity, Marina uses her brain to keep herself safe. David Mann posits that Shakespeare’s heroines must suffer ‘threats to [their] chastity and loss of identity before finally winning through’ (2008, 203), and Marina exemplifies this as she repeatedly talks her way out of her suitors’ would-be beds and back onto the safe grounds of virtue. The Bawd complains ‘Fie, fie upon her. She’s able to freeze the god Priapus and undo a whole generation (4.5.12-13). When the governor of Mytilene himself, Lysimachus, comes to the brothel to purchase Marina, the audience watches her negotiate with a suitor for the first time. She entreats him to remember his station and maintain his honor: ‘If you were born to honour, show it now; / If put upon you, make the judgment good / That thought you worthy of it’ (4.5.96-8). He responds by calling her ‘a piece of virtue’ (4.5.116) and leaving the brothel with a renewed commitment to morality. His departure engenders a renewed animosity in the Bawd, and she commands her henchman, Bolt, to ‘Crack the glass of [Marina’s] virginity and make the rest malleable’ (4.5.147). At this threat, Marina calls on her wits one last time and uses her words to change her fortunes (4.5.177-88). The sequence of dangers Marina encounters and withstands is to a degree not seen again in the romances until Cymbeline’s Imogen. While Thaisa is safely ensconced in a temple of virgins, her daughter is battling to maintain her virginity.13

The reunion between Thaisa and Marina is similar to the reunion between Hermione and Perdita in The Winter’s Tale in that neither mother is prolix. (I will return to The Winter’s Tale reunion in more depth below.) Where a difference appears, however, is that mother and daughter each speak to one another in the moment of recognition.14 Thaisa's welcome to her daughter is significantly shorter than Hermione's, but Marina gets to greet her mother while Perdita does not. After Thaisa greets her lost husband, Marina says ‘My heart / Leaps to be gone into my mother’s bosom’ (5.3.44-5). After a brief interlocution by Pericles, Thaisa responds: ‘Blest, and mine own!’ (5.3.48). This exchange is significant on two fronts. First, it suggests Marina’s desire to be taken care of by her mother, or to revisit a childhood ideal of mother and daughter. Chodorow writes that ‘a person’s early relationship to her or his mother leads to a preoccupation with issues of primary intimacy’ and everyone with an experience of ‘primary love and primary identification [has] some aspect of self that wants to recreate these experiences’ (1978, 78-9).

Marina, who was separated from her mother at birth and raised by a woman who hated her, wants to recover these experiences, rather than recreate them, since she did not experience her mother’s love as a child. Second, Marina’s greeting to her mother is her last line in the play, suggesting that their reunion is Marina’s reward for withstanding her trials, and once her mother is restored, she needs no longer be autonomous—she can return to, or enjoy for the first time, her role as a child beloved of her mother. I will return to the discussion of daughters’ autonomy below.

 
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