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The Two Noble Kinsmen
Act 1, scene 4

Synopsis:

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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 4
Cornets. A battle struck within; then a retreat.
Flourish. Then enter, through one door, Theseus,
victor, accompanied by Lords and Soldiers.
Entering through another door, the three Queens
meet him, and fall on their faces before him.


FIRST QUEEN 
 To thee no star be dark!
SECOND QUEEN  Both heaven and Earth
 Friend thee forever.
THIRD QUEEN  All the good that may
5 Be wished upon thy head, I cry “Amen” to ’t!
THESEUS 
 Th’ impartial gods, who from the mounted heavens
 View us their mortal herd, behold who err
 And, in their time, chastise. Go and find out
 The bones of your dead lords and honor them
10 With treble ceremony; rather than a gap
 Should be in their dear rites, we would supply ’t;

45
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 1. SC. 4

 But those we will depute which shall invest
 You in your dignities and even each thing
 Our haste does leave imperfect. So, adieu,
15 And heaven’s good eyes look on you.Queens exit.

Enter a Herald and Soldiers bearing Palamon
and Arcite on biers.


 What are those?
HERALD 
 Men of great quality, as may be judged
 By their appointment. Some of Thebes have told ’s
 They are sisters’ children, nephews to the King.
THESEUS 
20 By th’ helm of Mars, I saw them in the war,
 Like to a pair of lions, smeared with prey,
 Make lanes in troops aghast. I fixed my note
 Constantly on them, for they were a mark
 Worth a god’s view. What prisoner was ’t that told me
25 When I enquired their names?
HERALD  Wi’ leave, they’re called
 Arcite and Palamon.
THESEUS  ’Tis right; those, those.
 They are not dead?
HERALD 
30 Nor in a state of life. Had they been taken
 When their last hurts were given, ’twas possible
 They might have been recovered. Yet they breathe
 And have the name of men.
THESEUS  Then like men use ’em.
35 The very lees of such, millions of rates,
 Exceed the wine of others. All our surgeons
 Convent in their behoof; our richest balms,
 Rather than niggard, waste. Their lives concern us
 Much more than Thebes is worth. Rather than have
40 ’em

47
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 1. SC. 5

 Freed of this plight, and in their morning state,
 Sound and at liberty, I would ’em dead.
 But forty-thousandfold we had rather have ’em
 Prisoners to us than Death. Bear ’em speedily
45 From our kind air, to them unkind, and minister
 What man to man may do—for our sake, more,
 Since I have known frights, fury, friends’ behests,
 Love’s provocations, zeal, a mistress’ task,
 Desire of liberty, a fever, madness,
50 Hath set a mark which nature could not reach to
 Without some imposition, sickness in will
 O’er-wrestling strength in reason. For our love
 And great Apollo’s mercy, all our best
 Their best skill tender.—Lead into the city,
55 Where, having bound things scattered, we will post
 To Athens ’fore our army.
Flourish. They exit.