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The Two Noble Kinsmen
Act 1, scene 3

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Characters in the Play

Entire Play

The Two Noble Kinsmen, derived from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, begins as Athens defeats Thebes in war. Arcite and Palamon, Theban knights…

Prologue

The audience is welcomed to the play’s opening performance. The speaker apologizes for its inferiority to Chaucer, whose tale provides…

Act 1, scene 1

The wedding procession of Duke Theseus and his Amazonian bride Hippolyta is interrupted by three weeping queens whose dead kings…

Act 1, scene 2

Two noble cousins, Palamon and Arcite, discuss leaving Thebes, where the reign of their despised uncle Creon has corrupted the…

Act 1, scene 3

Pirithous leaves Athens to join Theseus in Thebes. Hippolyta and Emilia praise the strength of the bond between the two…

Act 1, scene 4

A victorious Theseus bids farewell to the three queens just as Palamon and Arcite are brought in wounded on stretchers….

Act 1, scene 5

The three queens take farewell of each other as the bodies of their dead husbands are carried off for separate…

Act 2, scene 1

The keeper of a jail in Athens discusses the terms of his daughter’s dowry with her wooer. The daughter enters…

Act 2, scene 2

Palamon and Arcite, after lamenting their prospect of lifelong imprisonment, rejoice that they are imprisoned together where nothing can ever…

Act 2, scene 3

Arcite decides he will not leave Athens and Emilia. Countrymen enter talking about their plans to dance at a May…

Act 2, scene 4

The jailer’s daughter, having fallen in love with Palamon, decides to find a way to free him from prison in…

Act 2, scene 5

Arcite, having won the competition disguised as a poor gentleman, is made an attendant upon Emilia. He and the other…

Act 2, scene 6

The jailer’s daughter, having set Palamon free and sent him off to await her in the woods, plans to bring…

Act 3, scene 1

Arcite, now Emilia’s attendant, is confronted by a still-shackled Palamon in the woods where the court is celebrating May Day….

Act 3, scene 2

The jailer’s daughter, unable to find Palamon, fearing that he has been eaten by wild animals and that her father…

Act 3, scene 3

Arcite brings Palamon food, wine, and files. He promises to return in two hours bringing swords and armor for their…

Act 3, scene 4

The jailer’s daughter, convinced that Palamon is dead and that her father will be hanged, begins to hallucinate.

Act 3, scene 5

The countrymen and the schoolmaster gather for the morris dance to be performed for Duke Theseus. When the countrywomen arrive,…

Act 3, scene 6

Arcite arrives in the forest with armor and swords. The two cousins dress each other in armor and prepare as…

Act 4, scene 1

The jailer receives the news that he and his daughter have been pardoned for Palamon’s escape, but that his daughter…

Act 4, scene 2

Emilia examines miniature portraits of Palamon and Arcite and is unable to choose between them. Theseus, hearing descriptions of the…

Act 4, scene 3

The jailer’s daughter is diagnosed by the doctor as suffering from love melancholy. He prescribes that the daughter’s wooer, who…

Act 5, scene 1

In preparation for the coming confrontation, Arcite and his companion knights pray for victory at the altar of Mars; Palamon…

Act 5, scene 2

The doctor observes the jailer’s daughter with the wooer pretending to be Palamon, and declares that she will soon be…

Act 5, scene 3

Emilia listens to the sounds of the combat as first one contestant and then the other seems to be winning….

Act 5, scene 4

As Palamon puts his head on the block for his beheading, word comes that Arcite has been crushed by his…

Epilogue

The speaker bids the audience farewell, hoping that the play has pleased them.

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Scene 3
Enter Pirithous, Hippolyta, Emilia.

PIRITHOUS 
 No further.
HIPPOLYTA  Sir, farewell. Repeat my wishes
 To our great lord, of whose success I dare not
 Make any timorous question; yet I wish him
5 Excess and overflow of power, an ’t might be,
 To dure ill-dealing fortune. Speed to him.
 Store never hurts good governors.
PIRITHOUS  Though I know
 His ocean needs not my poor drops, yet they
10 Must yield their tribute there.—My precious maid,
 Those best affections that the heavens infuse
 In their best-tempered pieces keep enthroned
 In your dear heart!
EMILIA  Thanks, sir. Remember me
15 To our all-royal brother, for whose speed
 The great Bellona I’ll solicit; and
 Since in our terrene state petitions are not
 Without gifts understood, I’ll offer to her
 What I shall be advised she likes. Our hearts
20 Are in his army, in his tent.
HIPPOLYTA  In ’s bosom.
 We have been soldiers, and we cannot weep
 When our friends don their helms or put to sea,
 Or tell of babes broached on the lance, or women
25 That have sod their infants in—and after ate them—
 The brine they wept at killing ’em. Then if

39
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 1. SC. 3

 You stay to see of us such spinsters, we
 Should hold you here forever.
PIRITHOUS  Peace be to you
30 As I pursue this war, which shall be then
 Beyond further requiring.Pirithous exits.
EMILIA  How his longing
 Follows his friend! Since his depart, his sports,
 Though craving seriousness and skill, passed slightly
35 His careless execution, where nor gain
 Made him regard, or loss consider, but
 Playing one business in his hand, another
 Directing in his head, his mind nurse equal
 To these so diff’ring twins. Have you observed him
40 Since our great lord departed?
HIPPOLYTA  With much labor,
 And I did love him for ’t. They two have cabined
 In many as dangerous as poor a corner,
 Peril and want contending; they have skiffed
45 Torrents whose roaring tyranny and power
 I’ th’ least of these was dreadful, and they have
 Fought out together where Death’s self was lodged.
 Yet fate hath brought them off. Their knot of love,
 Tied, weaved, entangled, with so true, so long,
50 And with a finger of so deep a cunning,
 May be outworn, never undone. I think
 Theseus cannot be umpire to himself,
 Cleaving his conscience into twain and doing
 Each side like justice, which he loves best.
EMILIA 55 Doubtless
 There is a best, and reason has no manners
 To say it is not you. I was acquainted
 Once with a time when I enjoyed a playfellow;
 You were at wars when she the grave enriched,
60 Who made too proud the bed; took leave o’ th’ moon,
 Which then looked pale at parting, when our count
 Was each eleven.

41
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 1. SC. 3

HIPPOLYTA  ’Twas Flavina.
EMILIA  Yes.
65 You talk of Pirithous’ and Theseus’ love.
 Theirs has more ground, is more maturely seasoned,
 More buckled with strong judgment, and their needs
 The one of th’ other may be said to water
 Their intertangled roots of love. But I,
70 And she I sigh and spoke of, were things innocent,
 Loved for we did, and like the elements
 That know not what nor why, yet do effect
 Rare issues by their operance, our souls
 Did so to one another. What she liked
75 Was then of me approved, what not, condemned,
 No more arraignment. The flower that I would pluck
 And put between my breasts—O, then but beginning
 To swell about the blossom—she would long
 Till she had such another, and commit it
80 To the like innocent cradle, where, Phoenix-like,
 They died in perfume. On my head no toy
 But was her pattern; her affections—pretty,
 Though haply hers careless were—I followed
 For my most serious decking. Had mine ear
85 Stol’n some new air, or at adventure hummed one
 From musical coinage, why, it was a note
 Whereon her spirits would sojourn—rather, dwell
 on—
 And sing it in her slumbers. This rehearsal—
90 Which fury-innocent wots well comes in
 Like old importment’s bastard—has this end,
 That the true love ’tween maid and maid may be
 More than in sex individual.
HIPPOLYTA  You’re out of breath,
95 And this high-speeded pace is but to say
 That you shall never—like the maid Flavina—
 Love any that’s called man.
EMILIA I am sure I shall not.

43
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 1. SC. 4

HIPPOLYTA Now, alack, weak sister,
100 I must no more believe thee in this point—
 Though in ’t I know thou dost believe thyself—
 Than I will trust a sickly appetite,
 That loathes even as it longs. But sure, my sister,
 If I were ripe for your persuasion, you
105 Have said enough to shake me from the arm
 Of the all-noble Theseus, for whose fortunes
 I will now in and kneel, with great assurance
 That we, more than his Pirithous, possess
 The high throne in his heart.
EMILIA 110 I am not
 Against your faith, yet I continue mine.
They exit.