"The world to me is but a ceaseless storm": Pericles, The Porpoise, and the Resistance of Exile


Rebekah Bale


Mark Haddon’s 2019 novel The Porpoise represents a complex mixture of genres and styles, combining a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Pericles with a novelized version of the play as well as a meta-textual interlude featuring Shakespeare and George Wilkins, his collaborator on the play. Pericles itself has moved into the limelight in recent years with many more performances and much more critical attention. Previously dismissed largely due to its fragmentary form and troubling content, its combination of incestuous secrets, isolation, hospitality and the responsibility we have towards each other as strangers, migrants and refugees all seem to resonate with our current situations and anxieties. The Porpoise taps into these concerns but adds to them a nuanced portrayal of one of Shakespeare’s less successful peers, George Wilkins. The combination makes for a complex novel, comfortable with Shakespeare as both cultural icon and character. At the same time, the novel highlights the random choices and “fates” which determine the success and failure of all its character quests. This article investigates how Haddon fictionalizes Shakespeare and engages with the story of Pericles as a contemporary morality tale while also focusing on the images of travel, exile and migration developed throughout the novel.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.