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The Two Noble Kinsmen
Act 2, scene 1

Synopsis:

Contents

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 1
Enter Jailer and Wooer.

JAILER I may depart with little while I live; something I
 may cast to you, not much. Alas, the prison I keep,
 though it be for great ones, yet they seldom come;
 before one salmon you shall take a number of minnows.
5 I am given out to be better lined than it can
 appear to me report is a true speaker. I would I
 were really that I am delivered to be. Marry, what
 I have, be it what it will, I will assure upon my
 daughter at the day of my death.
WOOER 10Sir, I demand no more than your own offer,
 and I will estate your daughter in what I have
 promised.
JAILER Well, we will talk more of this when the solemnity
 is past. But have you a full promise of her?
15 When that shall be seen, I tender my consent.

Enter the Jailer’s Daughter, carrying rushes.

WOOER I have sir. Here she comes.
JAILER, to Daughter Your friend and I have chanced
 to name you here, upon the old business. But no
 more of that now; so soon as the court hurry is
20 over, we will have an end of it. I’ th’ meantime,
53

55
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 1

 look tenderly to the two prisoners. I can tell you
 they are princes.
DAUGHTER These strewings are for their chamber. ’Tis
 pity they are in prison, and ’twere pity they should
25 be out. I do think they have patience to make any
 adversity ashamed. The prison itself is proud of
 ’em, and they have all the world in their chamber.
JAILER They are famed to be a pair of absolute men.
DAUGHTER By my troth, I think fame but stammers
30 ’em. They stand a grise above the reach of report.
JAILER I heard them reported in the battle to be the
 only doers.
DAUGHTER Nay, most likely, for they are noble suff’rers.
 I marvel how they would have looked had they
35 been victors, that with such a constant nobility enforce
 a freedom out of bondage, making misery
 their mirth and affliction a toy to jest at.
JAILER Do they so?
DAUGHTER It seems to me they have no more sense
40 of their captivity than I of ruling Athens. They eat
 well, look merrily, discourse of many things, but
 nothing of their own restraint and disasters. Yet
 sometimes a divided sigh, martyred as ’twere i’ th’
 deliverance, will break from one of them—when
45 the other presently gives it so sweet a rebuke that
 I could wish myself a sigh to be so chid, or at least
 a sigher to be comforted.
WOOER I never saw ’em.
JAILER The Duke himself came privately in the night,
50 and so did they.

Enter Palamon and Arcite, in shackles, above.

 What the reason of it is, I know not. Look, yonder
 they are; that’s Arcite looks out.
DAUGHTER No, sir, no, that’s Palamon. Arcite is the

57
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 2

 lower of the twain; you may perceive a part of
55 him.
JAILER Go to, leave your pointing; they would not
 make us their object. Out of their sight.
DAUGHTER It is a holiday to look on them. Lord, the
 diff’rence of men!
Jailer, Daughter, and Wooer exit.