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The Two Noble Kinsmen
Act 3, scene 1



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 1
Cornets in sundry places. Noise and hallowing
as people a-Maying.
 Enter Arcite alone.

 The Duke has lost Hippolyta; each took
 A several laund. This is a solemn rite
 They owe bloomed May, and the Athenians pay it
 To th’ heart of ceremony. O Queen Emilia,
5 Fresher than May, sweeter
 Than her gold buttons on the boughs, or all
 Th’ enameled knacks o’ th’ mead or garden—yea,
 We challenge too the bank of any nymph
 That makes the stream seem flowers; thou, O jewel
10 O’ th’ wood, o’ th’ world, hast likewise blessed a pace
 With thy sole presence. In thy rumination
 That I, poor man, might eftsoons come between
 And chop on some cold thought! Thrice blessèd
15 To drop on such a mistress, expectation
 Most guiltless on ’t. Tell me, O Lady Fortune,
 Next after Emily my sovereign, how far
 I may be proud. She takes strong note of me,
 Hath made me near her; and this beauteous morn,
20 The prim’st of all the year, presents me with
 A brace of horses; two such steeds might well

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 1

 Be by a pair of kings backed, in a field
 That their crowns’ titles tried. Alas, alas,
 Poor cousin Palamon, poor prisoner, thou
25 So little dream’st upon my fortune that
 Thou think’st thyself the happier thing, to be
 So near Emilia; me thou deem’st at Thebes,
 And therein wretched, although free. But if
 Thou knew’st my mistress breathed on me, and that
30 I eared her language, lived in her eye—O coz,
 What passion would enclose thee!

Enter Palamon as out of a bush, with his shackles;
he bends his fist at Arcite.

PALAMON  Traitor kinsman,
 Thou shouldst perceive my passion if these signs
 Of prisonment were off me, and this hand
35 But owner of a sword. By all oaths in one,
 I and the justice of my love would make thee
 A confessed traitor, O thou most perfidious
 That ever gently looked, the void’st of honor
 That e’er bore gentle token, falsest cousin
40 That ever blood made kin! Call’st thou her thine?
 I’ll prove it in my shackles, with these hands,
 Void of appointment, that thou liest, and art
 A very thief in love, a chaffy lord,
 Nor worth the name of villain. Had I a sword,
45 And these house clogs away—
ARCITE  Dear cousin Palamon—
 Cozener Arcite, give me language such
 As thou hast showed me feat.
ARCITE  Not finding in
50 The circuit of my breast any gross stuff
 To form me like your blazon holds me to
 This gentleness of answer: ’tis your passion
 That thus mistakes, the which, to you being enemy,

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 1

 Cannot to me be kind. Honor and honesty
55 I cherish and depend on, howsoe’er
 You skip them in me, and with them, fair coz,
 I’ll maintain my proceedings. Pray be pleased
 To show in generous terms your griefs, since that
 Your question’s with your equal, who professes
60 To clear his own way with the mind and sword
 Of a true gentleman.
PALAMON  That thou durst, Arcite!
 My coz, my coz, you have been well advertised
 How much I dare; you’ve seen me use my sword
65 Against th’ advice of fear. Sure, of another
 You would not hear me doubted, but your silence
 Should break out, though i’ th’ sanctuary.
 I have seen you move in such a place which well
70 Might justify your manhood; you were called
 A good knight and a bold. But the whole week’s not
 If any day it rain; their valiant temper
 Men lose when they incline to treachery,
75 And then they fight like compelled bears—would fly
 Were they not tied.
ARCITE  Kinsman, you might as well
 Speak this and act it in your glass as to
 His ear which now disdains you.
PALAMON 80 Come up to me;
 Quit me of these cold gyves, give me a sword
 Though it be rusty, and the charity
 Of one meal lend me. Come before me then,
 A good sword in thy hand, and do but say
85 That Emily is thine, I will forgive
 The trespass thou hast done me—yea, my life,
 If then thou carry ’t; and brave souls in shades
 That have died manly, which will seek of me

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 1

 Some news from Earth, they shall get none but this:
90 That thou art brave and noble.
ARCITE  Be content.
 Again betake you to your hawthorn house.
 With counsel of the night I will be here
 With wholesome viands. These impediments
95 Will I file off. You shall have garments and
 Perfumes to kill the smell o’ th’ prison. After,
 When you shall stretch yourself and say but “Arcite,
 I am in plight,” there shall be at your choice
 Both sword and armor.
PALAMON 100 O you heavens, dares any
 So noble bear a guilty business? None
 But only Arcite. Therefore none but Arcite
 In this kind is so bold.
ARCITE  Sweet Palamon.
105 I do embrace you and your offer; for
 Your offer do ’t I only. Sir, your person
 Without hypocrisy I may not wish
 More than my sword’s edge on ’t.
Wind horns off; sound cornets.
ARCITE  You hear the horns.
110 Enter your muset, lest this match between ’s
 Be crossed ere met. Give me your hand; farewell.
 I’ll bring you every needful thing. I pray you,
 Take comfort and be strong.
PALAMON  Pray hold your promise,
115 And do the deed with a bent brow. Most certain
 You love me not; be rough with me, and pour
 This oil out of your language. By this air,
 I could for each word give a cuff, my stomach
 Not reconciled by reason.
ARCITE 120 Plainly spoken,
 Yet pardon me hard language. When I spur
 My horse, I chide him not; content and anger

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 2

 In me have but one face.Wind horns.
 Hark, sir, they call
125 The scattered to the banquet; you must guess
 I have an office there.
PALAMON  Sir, your attendance
 Cannot please heaven, and I know your office
 Unjustly is achieved.
ARCITE 130 ’Tis a good title.
 I am persuaded this question, sick between ’s,
 By bleeding must be cured. I am a suitor
 That to your sword you will bequeath this plea,
 And talk of it no more.
PALAMON 135 But this one word:
 You are going now to gaze upon my mistress,
 For note you, mine she is—
ARCITE  Nay then,—
PALAMON  Nay, pray you,
140 You talk of feeding me to breed me strength.
 You are going now to look upon a sun
 That strengthens what it looks on; there
 You have a vantage o’er me, but enjoy ’t till
 I may enforce my remedy. Farewell.
They exit.