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The Two Noble Kinsmen
Act 2, scene 3



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…


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…


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

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Scene 3
Enter Arcite.

 Banished the kingdom? ’Tis a benefit,
 A mercy I must thank ’em for; but banished
 The free enjoying of that face I die for,
 O, ’twas a studied punishment, a death
5 Beyond imagination—such a vengeance
 That, were I old and wicked, all my sins
 Could never pluck upon me. Palamon,
 Thou hast the start now; thou shalt stay and see
 Her bright eyes break each morning ’gainst thy
10 window
 And let in life into thee; thou shalt feed
 Upon the sweetness of a noble beauty
 That nature ne’er exceeded nor ne’er shall.
 Good gods, what happiness has Palamon!
15 Twenty to one he’ll come to speak to her,
 And if she be as gentle as she’s fair,
 I know she’s his. He has a tongue will tame
 Tempests and make the wild rocks wanton.
 Come what can come,
20 The worst is death. I will not leave the kingdom.
 I know mine own is but a heap of ruins,
 And no redress there. If I go, he has her.
 I am resolved another shape shall make me
 Or end my fortunes. Either way I am happy.
25 I’ll see her and be near her, or no more.

Enter four Country people, and one with
a garland before them.

Arcite steps aside.
FIRST COUNTRYMAN My masters, I’ll be there, that’s
SECOND COUNTRYMAN And I’ll be there.

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 3

FOURTH COUNTRYMAN 30Why, then, have with you, boys.
 ’Tis but a chiding. Let the plough play today; I’ll
 tickle ’t out of the jades’ tails tomorrow.
FIRST COUNTRYMAN I am sure to have my wife as jealous
 as a turkey, but that’s all one. I’ll go through;
35 let her mumble.
SECOND COUNTRYMAN Clap her aboard tomorrow night
 and stow her, and all’s made up again.
THIRD COUNTRYMAN Ay, do but put a fescue in her fist
 and you shall see her take a new lesson out and be
40 a good wench. Do we all hold against the Maying?
FOURTH COUNTRYMAN Hold? What should ail us?
THIRD COUNTRYMAN Arcas will be there.
SECOND COUNTRYMAN And Sennois and Rycas; and
 three better lads ne’er danced under green tree.
45 And you know what wenches, ha! But will the
 dainty domine, the Schoolmaster, keep touch, do
 you think? For he does all, you know.
THIRD COUNTRYMAN He’ll eat a hornbook ere he fail.
 Go to, the matter’s too far driven between him and
50 the tanner’s daughter to let slip now; and she must
 see the Duke, and she must dance too.
FOURTH COUNTRYMAN Shall we be lusty?
SECOND COUNTRYMAN All the boys in Athens blow wind
 i’ th’ breech on ’s. And here I’ll be and there I’ll be,
55 for our town, and here again, and there again. Ha,
 boys, hey for the weavers!
FIRST COUNTRYMAN This must be done i’ th’ woods.
SECOND COUNTRYMAN By any means; our thing of learning
60 says so—where he himself will edify the Duke
 most parlously in our behalfs. He’s excellent i’ th’
 woods; bring him to th’ plains, his learning makes
 no cry.

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 3

THIRD COUNTRYMAN We’ll see the sports, then every
65 man to ’s tackle. And, sweet companions, let’s rehearse,
 by any means, before the ladies see us, and
 do sweetly, and God knows what may come on ’t.
FOURTH COUNTRYMAN Content. The sports once ended,
 we’ll perform. Away, boys, and hold.
Arcite comes forward.
ARCITE 70By your leaves, honest friends: pray you,
 whither go you?
 Why, what a question’s that?
ARCITE  Yes, ’tis a question
75 To me that know not.
THIRD COUNTRYMAN  To the games, my friend.
 Where were you bred, you know it not?
ARCITE  Not far, sir.
 Are there such games today?
FIRST COUNTRYMAN 80 Yes, marry, are there,
 And such as you never saw. The Duke himself
 Will be in person there.
ARCITE  What pastimes are they?
 Wrestling and running.—’Tis a pretty fellow.
85 Thou wilt not go along?
ARCITE  Not yet, sir.
 Take your own time.—Come, boys.
FIRST COUNTRYMAN, aside to the others My mind misgives
90 me. This fellow has a vengeance trick o’ th’
 hip. Mark how his body’s made for ’t.
SECOND COUNTRYMAN, aside to the others I’ll be
 hanged, though, if he dare venture. Hang him,
 plum porridge! He wrestle? He roast eggs! Come,
95 let’s be gone, lads.The four exit.

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 2. SC. 4

 This is an offered opportunity
 I durst not wish for. Well I could have wrestled—
 The best men called it excellent—and run
 Swifter than wind upon a field of corn,
100 Curling the wealthy ears, never flew. I’ll venture,
 And in some poor disguise be there. Who knows
 Whether my brows may not be girt with garlands,
 And happiness prefer me to a place
 Where I may ever dwell in sight of her?
Arcite exits.