Find out who wrote Pericles, when it was written and first performed and where the story came from.


Most believe Pericles to be a collaboration between William Shakespeare and George Wilkins, Shakespeare having written the last three acts of the play and Wilkins the first two. Popular consensus places the play as being written in 1608. Zorzi Giustinian, who served as Venetian Ambassador to London from January 1606-8, records having seen a performance of the play, and its entry in the Stationer's Register is dated as 20 May 1608.

Published in a Quarto edition the following year, it was omitted from the First Folio of 1623, but included in the third edition of 1664, where it is described as 'written by W Shakespeare and published in his lifetime.'

Pericles,1969, directed by Terry Hands. Thaisa (Susan Fleetwood) dances with Pericles (Ian Richardson).
Photo by Reg Wilson © RSC Browse and license our images


The story is derived from the legend of Apollonius, King of Tyre, a romance which retained its popularity throughout the Middle Ages and well into the Renaissance. The most popular re-telling in English was in John Gower's Confessio Amantis, written in the late fourteenth century and printed in two editions in 1532 and 1554. 

The character of Gower guides us through Shakespeare's play, and although Shakespeare deviates in some details from Confessio, it is indisputably his main source. A secondary source is Lawrence Twine's The Patterne of Painfull Adventures, available in several editions between 1576 and 1607.

You may also like