‘Certain condolements, certain vails’: Staging Rusty Armour in Shakespeare's Pericles

  • Susan Harlan New York University


This paper examines the rusty suit of armour that a fisherman draws out of the sea in Act 2 of Shakespeare’s Pericles. My focus is twofold: first, I examine what this prop might have looked like on stage, how it might have been acquired by the theatre, and why it is ‘rusty’ or ruined. Second, I examine how found, claimed, or inherited material objects – such as stage properties – allow one to engage with questions of inherited literary or dramatic form and the notion of military ‘spoiling’. Armour was a common spoil of war in early modern Europe, and I am interested in how Pericles’ armour functions as a spoil, or claimed military object, in the play. I pose the following question: how can the notion of spoiling be used to examine Shakespeare’s treatment of romance as a genre that is itself spoiled in the sense of claimed and decayed?