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The Two Noble Kinsmen
Act 2, scene 2

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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 2
Palamon and Arcite remain, above.

PALAMON 
 How do you, noble cousin?
ARCITE  How do you, sir?
PALAMON 
 Why, strong enough to laugh at misery
 And bear the chance of war; yet we are prisoners
5 I fear forever, cousin.
ARCITE  I believe it,
 And to that destiny have patiently
 Laid up my hour to come.
PALAMON  O, cousin Arcite,
10 Where is Thebes now? Where is our noble country?
 Where are our friends and kindreds? Never more
 Must we behold those comforts, never see
 The hardy youths strive for the games of honor,
 Hung with the painted favors of their ladies,
15 Like tall ships under sail; then start amongst ’em
 And as an east wind leave ’em all behind us,
 Like lazy clouds, whilst Palamon and Arcite,
 Even in the wagging of a wanton leg,
 Outstripped the people’s praises, won the garlands
20 Ere they have time to wish ’em ours. O, never
 Shall we two exercise, like twins of honor,
 Our arms again, and feel our fiery horses

59
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 2

 Like proud seas under us. Our good swords now—
 Better the red-eyed god of war ne’er wore
25 Ravished our sides, like age must run to rust
 And deck the temples of those gods that hate us;
 These hands shall never draw ’em out like lightning
 To blast whole armies more.
ARCITE  No, Palamon,
30 Those hopes are prisoners with us. Here we are
 And here the graces of our youths must wither
 Like a too-timely spring. Here age must find us
 And—which is heaviest, Palamon—unmarried.
 The sweet embraces of a loving wife,
35 Loaden with kisses, armed with thousand Cupids,
 Shall never clasp our necks; no issue know us—
 No figures of ourselves shall we e’er see,
 To glad our age, and like young eagles teach ’em
 Boldly to gaze against bright arms and say
40 “Remember what your fathers were, and conquer!”
 The fair-eyed maids shall weep our banishments
 And in their songs curse ever-blinded Fortune
 Till she for shame see what a wrong she has done
 To youth and nature. This is all our world.
45 We shall know nothing here but one another,
 Hear nothing but the clock that tells our woes.
 The vine shall grow, but we shall never see it;
 Summer shall come, and with her all delights,
 But dead-cold winter must inhabit here still.
PALAMON 
50 ’Tis too true, Arcite. To our Theban hounds
 That shook the agèd forest with their echoes
 No more now must we halloo; no more shake
 Our pointed javelins whilst the angry swine
 Flies like a Parthian quiver from our rages,
55 Struck with our well-steeled darts. All valiant uses,
 The food and nourishment of noble minds,
 In us two here shall perish; we shall die,

61
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 2

 Which is the curse of honor, lastly,
 Children of grief and ignorance.
ARCITE 60 Yet, cousin,
 Even from the bottom of these miseries,
 From all that fortune can inflict upon us,
 I see two comforts rising, two mere blessings,
 If the gods please: to hold here a brave patience,
65 And the enjoying of our griefs together.
 Whilst Palamon is with me, let me perish
 If I think this our prison!
PALAMON  Certainly
 ’Tis a main goodness, cousin, that our fortunes
70 Were twined together. ’Tis most true, two souls
 Put in two noble bodies, let ’em suffer
 The gall of hazard, so they grow together,
 Will never sink; they must not, say they could.
 A willing man dies sleeping and all’s done.
ARCITE 
75 Shall we make worthy uses of this place
 That all men hate so much?
PALAMON  How, gentle cousin?
ARCITE 
 Let’s think this prison holy sanctuary
 To keep us from corruption of worse men.
80 We are young and yet desire the ways of honor
 That liberty and common conversation,
 The poison of pure spirits, might like women
 Woo us to wander from. What worthy blessing
 Can be but our imaginations
85 May make it ours? And here being thus together,
 We are an endless mine to one another;
 We are one another’s wife, ever begetting
 New births of love; we are father, friends,
 acquaintance;
90 We are, in one another, families;
 I am your heir, and you are mine. This place

63
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 2

 Is our inheritance; no hard oppressor
 Dare take this from us; here with a little patience
 We shall live long and loving. No surfeits seek us;
95 The hand of war hurts none here, nor the seas
 Swallow their youth. Were we at liberty,
 A wife might part us lawfully, or business;
 Quarrels consume us; envy of ill men
 Crave our acquaintance. I might sicken, cousin,
100 Where you should never know it, and so perish
 Without your noble hand to close mine eyes,
 Or prayers to the gods. A thousand chances,
 Were we from hence, would sever us.
PALAMON  You have made
105 me—
 I thank you, cousin Arcite—almost wanton
 With my captivity. What a misery
 It is to live abroad and everywhere!
 ’Tis like a beast, methinks. I find the court here,
110 I am sure, a more content; and all those pleasures
 That woo the wills of men to vanity
 I see through now, and am sufficient
 To tell the world ’tis but a gaudy shadow
 That old Time as he passes by takes with him.
115 What had we been, old in the court of Creon,
 Where sin is justice, lust and ignorance
 The virtues of the great ones? Cousin Arcite,
 Had not the loving gods found this place for us,
 We had died as they do, ill old men, unwept,
120 And had their epitaphs, the people’s curses.
 Shall I say more?
ARCITE  I would hear you still.
PALAMON  You shall.
 Is there record of any two that loved
125 Better than we do, Arcite?
ARCITE  Sure there cannot.

65
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 2

PALAMON 
 I do not think it possible our friendship
 Should ever leave us.
ARCITE  Till our deaths it cannot.

Enter Emilia and her Woman, below.

130 And after death our spirits shall be led
 To those that love eternally.Palamon catches sight
of Emilia.

 Speak on, sir.
EMILIA, to her Woman 
 This garden has a world of pleasures in ’t.
 What flower is this?
WOMAN 135 ’Tis called narcissus, madam.
EMILIA 
 That was a fair boy certain, but a fool
 To love himself. Were there not maids enough?
ARCITE, to Palamon, who is stunned by the sight of Emilia 
 Pray, forward.
PALAMON  Yes.
EMILIA, to Woman 140 Or were they all hard-hearted?
WOMAN 
 They could not be to one so fair.
EMILIA  Thou wouldst not.
WOMAN 
 I think I should not, madam.
EMILIA  That’s a good wench.
145 But take heed to your kindness, though.
WOMAN  Why,
 madam?
EMILIA 
 Men are mad things.
ARCITE, to Palamon  Will you go forward,
150 cousin?
EMILIA, to Woman 
 Canst not thou work such flowers in silk, wench?
WOMAN  Yes.

67
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 2

EMILIA 
 I’ll have a gown full of ’em, and of these.
 This is pretty color. Will ’t not do
155 Rarely upon a skirt, wench?
WOMAN  Dainty, madam.
ARCITE, to Palamon 
 Cousin, cousin! How do you, sir? Why, Palamon!
PALAMON 
 Never till now I was in prison, Arcite.
ARCITE 
 Why, what’s the matter, man?
PALAMON 160 Behold, and wonder!
 By heaven, she is a goddess.
ARCITE, seeing Emilia  Ha!
PALAMON  Do reverence.
 She is a goddess, Arcite.
EMILIA, to Woman 165 Of all flowers
 Methinks a rose is best.
WOMAN  Why, gentle madam?
EMILIA 
 It is the very emblem of a maid.
 For when the west wind courts her gently,
170 How modestly she blows and paints the sun
 With her chaste blushes! When the north comes
 near her,
 Rude and impatient, then, like chastity,
 She locks her beauties in her bud again,
175 And leaves him to base briers.
WOMAN  Yet, good madam,
 Sometimes her modesty will blow so far
 She falls for ’t. A maid,
 If she have any honor, would be loath
180 To take example by her.
EMILIA  Thou art wanton!
ARCITE, to Palamon 
 She is wondrous fair.

69
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 2

PALAMON  She is all the beauty extant.
EMILIA, to Woman 
 The sun grows high. Let’s walk in. Keep these
185 flowers.
 We’ll see how near art can come near their colors.
 I am wondrous merry-hearted. I could laugh now.
WOMAN 
 I could lie down, I am sure.
EMILIA  And take one with you?
WOMAN 
190 That’s as we bargain, madam.
EMILIA  Well, agree then.
Emilia and Woman exit.
PALAMON 
 What think you of this beauty?
ARCITE  ’Tis a rare one.
PALAMON 
 Is ’t but a rare one?
ARCITE 195 Yes, a matchless beauty.
PALAMON 
 Might not a man well lose himself and love her?
ARCITE 
 I cannot tell what you have done; I have,
 Beshrew mine eyes for ’t! Now I feel my shackles.
PALAMON 
 You love her, then?
ARCITE 200 Who would not?
PALAMON  And desire her?
ARCITE 
 Before my liberty.
PALAMON  I saw her first.
ARCITE 
 That’s nothing.
PALAMON 205 But it shall be.
ARCITE  I saw her, too.
PALAMON Yes, but you must not love her.

71
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 2

ARCITE 
 I will not, as you do, to worship her
 As she is heavenly and a blessèd goddess.
210 I love her as a woman, to enjoy her.
 So both may love.
PALAMON  You shall not love at all.
ARCITE Not love at all! Who shall deny me?
PALAMON 
 I, that first saw her; I that took possession
215 First with mine eye of all those beauties
 In her revealed to mankind. If thou lov’st her,
 Or entertain’st a hope to blast my wishes,
 Thou art a traitor, Arcite, and a fellow
 False as thy title to her. Friendship, blood,
220 And all the ties between us I disclaim
 If thou once think upon her.
ARCITE  Yes, I love her,
 And, if the lives of all my name lay on it,
 I must do so. I love her with my soul.
225 If that will lose you, farewell, Palamon.
 I say again, I love, and in loving her maintain
 I am as worthy and as free a lover
 And have as just a title to her beauty
 As any Palamon or any living
230 That is a man’s son.
PALAMON  Have I called thee friend?
ARCITE 
 Yes, and have found me so. Why are you moved
 thus?
 Let me deal coldly with you: am not I
235 Part of your blood, part of your soul? You have
 told me
 That I was Palamon and you were Arcite.
PALAMON 
 Yes.

73
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 2

ARCITE  Am not I liable to those affections,
240 Those joys, griefs, angers, fears, my friend shall
 suffer?
PALAMON 
 You may be.
ARCITE  Why then would you deal so cunningly,
 So strangely, so unlike a noble kinsman,
245 To love alone? Speak truly, do you think me
 Unworthy of her sight?
PALAMON  No, but unjust
 If thou pursue that sight.
ARCITE  Because another
250 First sees the enemy, shall I stand still
 And let mine honor down, and never charge?
PALAMON 
 Yes, if he be but one.
ARCITE  But say that one
 Had rather combat me?
PALAMON 255 Let that one say so,
 And use thy freedom. Else, if thou pursuest her,
 Be as that cursèd man that hates his country,
 A branded villain.
ARCITE  You are mad.
PALAMON 260 I must be.
 Till thou art worthy, Arcite, it concerns me.
 And in this madness if I hazard thee
 And take thy life, I deal but truly.
ARCITE  Fie, sir!
265 You play the child extremely. I will love her;
 I must, I ought to do so, and I dare,
 And all this justly.
PALAMON  O, that now, that now,
 Thy false self and thy friend had but this fortune
270 To be one hour at liberty, and grasp
 Our good swords in our hands, I would quickly
 teach thee

75
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 2

 What ’twere to filch affection from another.
 Thou art baser in it than a cutpurse.
275 Put but thy head out of this window more
 And, as I have a soul, I’ll nail thy life to ’t.
ARCITE 
 Thou dar’st not, fool; thou canst not; thou art feeble.
 Put my head out? I’ll throw my body out
 And leap the garden when I see her next,
280 And pitch between her arms to anger thee.

Enter Jailer, above.

PALAMON 
 No more; the keeper’s coming. I shall live
 To knock thy brains out with my shackles.
ARCITE  Do!
JAILER 
 By your leave, gentlemen.
PALAMON 285 Now, honest keeper?
JAILER 
 Lord Arcite, you must presently to th’ Duke;
 The cause I know not yet.
ARCITE  I am ready, keeper.
JAILER 
 Prince Palamon, I must awhile bereave you
290 Of your fair cousin’s company.
Arcite and Jailer exit.
PALAMON  And me too,
 Even when you please, of life.—Why is he sent for?
 It may be he shall marry her; he’s goodly,
 And like enough the Duke hath taken notice
295 Both of his blood and body. But his falsehood!
 Why should a friend be treacherous? If that
 Get him a wife so noble and so fair,
 Let honest men ne’er love again. Once more
 I would but see this fair one. Blessèd garden

77
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 2

300 And fruit and flowers more blessèd that still
 blossom
 As her bright eyes shine on you, would I were,
 For all the fortune of my life hereafter,
 Yon little tree, yon blooming apricock!
305 How I would spread and fling my wanton arms
 In at her window; I would bring her fruit
 Fit for the gods to feed on; youth and pleasure
 Still as she tasted should be doubled on her;
 And, if she be not heavenly, I would make her
310 So near the gods in nature, they should fear her.

Enter Jailer, above.

 And then I am sure she would love me.—How now,
 keeper,
 Where’s Arcite?
JAILER  Banished. Prince Pirithous
315 Obtained his liberty, but never more
 Upon his oath and life must he set foot
 Upon this kingdom.
PALAMON  He’s a blessèd man.
 He shall see Thebes again, and call to arms
320 The bold young men that, when he bids ’em charge,
 Fall on like fire. Arcite shall have a fortune,
 If he dare make himself a worthy lover,
 Yet in the field to strike a battle for her,
 And, if he lose her then, he’s a cold coward.
325 How bravely may he bear himself to win her
 If he be noble Arcite—thousand ways!
 Were I at liberty, I would do things
 Of such a virtuous greatness that this lady,
 This blushing virgin, should take manhood to her
330 And seek to ravish me.
JAILER  My lord, for you
 I have this charge to—
PALAMON  To discharge my life?

79
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 2

JAILER 
 No, but from this place to remove your Lordship;
335 The windows are too open.
PALAMON  Devils take ’em
 That are so envious to me! Prithee, kill me.
JAILER 
 And hang for ’t afterward!
PALAMON  By this good light,
340 Had I a sword I would kill thee.
JAILER  Why, my lord?
PALAMON 
 Thou bringst such pelting, scurvy news continually,
 Thou art not worthy life. I will not go.
JAILER 
 Indeed you must, my lord.
PALAMON 345 May I see the garden?
JAILER 
 No.
PALAMON  Then I am resolved, I will not go.
JAILER 
 I must constrain you then; and, for you are
 dangerous,
350 I’ll clap more irons on you.
PALAMON  Do, good keeper.
 I’ll shake ’em so, you shall not sleep;
 I’ll make you a new morris. Must I go?
JAILER 
 There is no remedy.
PALAMON 355 Farewell, kind window.
 May rude wind never hurt thee. O, my lady,
 If ever thou hast felt what sorrow was,
 Dream how I suffer.—Come; now bury me.
Palamon and Jailer exit.