List iconThe Two Noble Kinsmen:
Act 3, scene 6
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The Two Noble Kinsmen
Act 3, scene 6



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 6
Enter Palamon from the bush.

 About this hour my cousin gave his faith
 To visit me again, and with him bring
 Two swords and two good armors. If he fail,
 He’s neither man nor soldier. When he left me,
5 I did not think a week could have restored
 My lost strength to me, I was grown so low
 And crestfall’n with my wants. I thank thee, Arcite,
 Thou art yet a fair foe, and I feel myself,
 With this refreshing, able once again
10 To outdure danger. To delay it longer
 Would make the world think, when it comes to
 That I lay fatting like a swine to fight
 And not a soldier. Therefore, this blest morning
15 Shall be the last; and that sword he refuses,

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

 If it but hold, I kill him with. ’Tis justice.
 So, love and fortune for me!

Enter Arcite with armors and swords.

 O, good morrow.
 Good morrow, noble kinsman.
PALAMON 20 I have put you
 To too much pains, sir.
ARCITE  That too much, fair cousin,
 Is but a debt to honor and my duty.
 Would you were so in all, sir; I could wish you
25 As kind a kinsman as you force me find
 A beneficial foe, that my embraces
 Might thank you, not my blows.
ARCITE  I shall think either,
 Well done, a noble recompense.
PALAMON 30 Then I shall quit you.
 Defy me in these fair terms, and you show
 More than a mistress to me. No more anger,
 As you love anything that’s honorable!
 We were not bred to talk, man; when we are armed
35 And both upon our guards, then let our fury,
 Like meeting of two tides, fly strongly from us,
 And then to whom the birthright of this beauty
 Truly pertains—without upbraidings, scorns,
 Despisings of our persons, and such poutings,
40 Fitter for girls and schoolboys—will be seen,
 And quickly, yours or mine. Will ’t please you arm,
 Or if you feel yourself not fitting yet
 And furnished with your old strength, I’ll stay,
45 cousin,
 And ev’ry day discourse you into health,

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

 As I am spared. Your person I am friends with,
 And I could wish I had not said I loved her,
 Though I had died. But loving such a lady,
50 And justifying my love, I must not fly from ’t.
 Arcite, thou art so brave an enemy
 That no man but thy cousin’s fit to kill thee.
 I am well and lusty. Choose your arms.
ARCITE  Choose you, sir.
55 Wilt thou exceed in all, or dost thou do it
 To make me spare thee?
ARCITE  If you think so, cousin,
 You are deceived, for as I am a soldier,
 I will not spare you.
PALAMON 60 That’s well said.
ARCITE  You’ll find it.
 Then, as I am an honest man and love
 With all the justice of affection,
 I’ll pay thee soundly.He chooses armor.
65 This I’ll take.
ARCITE taking the other  That’s mine, then.
 I’ll arm you first.
PALAMON  Do.Arcite begins arming him.
 Pray thee tell me, cousin,
70 Where got’st thou this good armor?
ARCITE  ’Tis the Duke’s,
 And to say true, I stole it. Do I pinch you?
 Is ’t not too heavy?
PALAMON 75 I have worn a lighter,
 But I shall make it serve.
ARCITE  I’ll buckle ’t close.

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

 By any means.
ARCITE  You care not for a grand guard?
80 No, no, we’ll use no horses. I perceive
 You would fain be at that fight.
ARCITE  I am indifferent.
 Faith, so am I. Good cousin, thrust the buckle
 Through far enough.
ARCITE 85 I warrant you.
PALAMON  My casque now.
 Will you fight bare-armed?
PALAMON  We shall be the nimbler.
 But use your gauntlets though. Those are o’ th’ least.
90 Prithee take mine, good cousin.
PALAMON  Thank you, Arcite.
 How do I look? Am I fall’n much away?
 Faith, very little; love has used you kindly.
 I’ll warrant thee, I’ll strike home.
ARCITE 95 Do, and spare not.
 I’ll give you cause, sweet cousin.
PALAMON  Now to you, sir.
He begins to arm Arcite.
 Methinks this armor’s very like that, Arcite,
 Thou wor’st that day the three kings fell, but lighter.
100 That was a very good one, and that day,
 I well remember, you outdid me, cousin.
 I never saw such valor. When you charged
 Upon the left wing of the enemy,

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

 I spurred hard to come up, and under me
105 I had a right good horse.
PALAMON  You had, indeed;
 A bright bay, I remember.
ARCITE  Yes, but all
 Was vainly labored in me; you outwent me,
110 Nor could my wishes reach you; yet a little
 I did by imitation.
PALAMON  More by virtue;
 You are modest, cousin.
ARCITE  When I saw you charge first,
115 Methought I heard a dreadful clap of thunder
 Break from the troop.
PALAMON  But still before that flew
 The lightning of your valor. Stay a little;
 Is not this piece too strait?
ARCITE 120 No, no, ’tis well.
 I would have nothing hurt thee but my sword.
 A bruise would be dishonor.
ARCITE  Now I am perfect.
 Stand off, then.
ARCITE 125 Take my sword; I hold it better.
 I thank you, no; keep it; your life lies on it.
 Here’s one; if it but hold, I ask no more
 For all my hopes. My cause and honor guard me!
 And me my love!
They bow several ways, then advance and stand.
130 Is there aught else to say?
 This only, and no more: thou art mine aunt’s son.
 And that blood we desire to shed is mutual—
 In me thine, and in thee mine. My sword

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

 Is in my hand, and if thou kill’st me,
135 The gods and I forgive thee. If there be
 A place prepared for those that sleep in honor,
 I wish his weary soul that falls may win it.
 Fight bravely, cousin. Give me thy noble hand.
ARCITE, as they shake hands 
 Here, Palamon. This hand shall never more
140 Come near thee with such friendship.
PALAMON  I commend thee.
 If I fall, curse me, and say I was a coward,
 For none but such dare die in these just trials.
 Once more farewell, my cousin.
PALAMON 145 Farewell, Arcite.
Horns within. They stand.
 Lo, cousin, lo, our folly has undone us!
 This is the Duke, a-hunting, as I told you.
 If we be found, we are wretched. O, retire,
150 For honor’s sake, and safely, presently
 Into your bush again. Sir, we shall find
 Too many hours to die in. Gentle cousin,
 If you be seen, you perish instantly
 For breaking prison, and I, if you reveal me,
155 For my contempt. Then all the world will scorn us,
 And say we had a noble difference,
 But base disposers of it.
PALAMON  No, no, cousin,
 I will no more be hidden, nor put off
160 This great adventure to a second trial.
 I know your cunning, and I know your cause.
 He that faints now, shame take him! Put thyself
 Upon thy present guard—

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

ARCITE  You are not mad?
165 Or I will make th’ advantage of this hour
 Mine own, and what to come shall threaten me
 I fear less than my fortune. Know, weak cousin,
 I love Emilia, and in that I’ll bury
 Thee and all crosses else.
ARCITE 170 Then come what can come,
 Thou shalt know, Palamon, I dare as well
 Die as discourse or sleep. Only this fears me:
 The law will have the honor of our ends.
 Have at thy life!
PALAMON 175 Look to thine own well, Arcite.
Fight again.

Horns. Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Emilia,
Pirithous and train.

 What ignorant and mad malicious traitors
 Are you, that ’gainst the tenor of my laws
 Are making battle, thus like knights appointed,
 Without my leave and officers of arms?
180 By Castor, both shall die.
PALAMON  Hold thy word, Theseus.
 We are certainly both traitors, both despisers
 Of thee and of thy goodness. I am Palamon,
 That cannot love thee, he that broke thy prison.
185 Think well what that deserves. And this is Arcite.
 A bolder traitor never trod thy ground,
 A falser ne’er seemed friend. This is the man
 Was begged and banished; this is he contemns thee
 And what thou dar’st do; and in this disguise,
190 Against thine own edict, follows thy sister,
 That fortunate bright star, the fair Emilia,
 Whose servant—if there be a right in seeing
 And first bequeathing of the soul to—justly

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

 I am; and, which is more, dares think her his.
195 This treachery, like a most trusty lover,
 I called him now to answer. If thou be’st
 As thou art spoken, great and virtuous,
 The true decider of all injuries,
 Say “Fight again,” and thou shalt see me, Theseus,
200 Do such a justice thou thyself wilt envy.
 Then take my life; I’ll woo thee to ’t.
PIRITHOUS  O heaven,
 What more than man is this!
THESEUS  I have sworn.
ARCITE 205 We seek not
 Thy breath of mercy, Theseus. ’Tis to me
 A thing as soon to die as thee to say it,
 And no more moved. Where this man calls me
210 Let me say thus much: if in love be treason,
 In service of so excellent a beauty,
 As I love most, and in that faith will perish,
 As I have brought my life here to confirm it,
 As I have served her truest, worthiest,
215 As I dare kill this cousin that denies it,
 So let me be most traitor, and you please me.
 For scorning thy edict, duke, ask that lady
 Why she is fair, and why her eyes command me
 Stay here to love her; and if she say “traitor,”
220 I am a villain fit to lie unburied.
 Thou shalt have pity of us both, O Theseus,
 If unto neither thou show mercy. Stop,
 As thou art just, thy noble ear against us;
 As thou art valiant, for thy cousin’s soul,
225 Whose twelve strong labors crown his memory,
 Let’s die together at one instant, duke;
 Only a little let him fall before me,
 That I may tell my soul he shall not have her.

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

 I grant your wish, for to say true, your cousin
230 Has ten times more offended, for I gave him
 More mercy than you found, sir, your offenses
 Being no more than his.—None here speak for ’em,
 For ere the sun set both shall sleep forever.
 Alas, the pity! Now or never, sister,
235 Speak not to be denied. That face of yours
 Will bear the curses else of after ages
 For these lost cousins.
EMILIA  In my face, dear sister,
 I find no anger to ’em, nor no ruin.
240 The misadventure of their own eyes kill ’em.
 Yet that I will be woman and have pity,
 My knees shall grow to th’ ground but I’ll get mercy.
She kneels.
 Help me, dear sister; in a deed so virtuous,
 The powers of all women will be with us.
Hippolyta kneels.
245 Most royal brother—
HIPPOLYTA  Sir, by our tie of marriage—
 By your own spotless honor—
HIPPOLYTA  By that faith,
 That fair hand, and that honest heart you gave me—
250 By that you would have pity in another;
 By your own virtues infinite—
HIPPOLYTA  By valor;
 By all the chaste nights I have ever pleased you—
 These are strange conjurings.
PIRITHOUS 255 Nay, then, I’ll in too.
He kneels.

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

 By all our friendship, sir, by all our dangers;
 By all you love most, wars and this sweet lady—
 By that you would have trembled to deny
 A blushing maid—
HIPPOLYTA 260 By your own eyes; by strength,
 In which you swore I went beyond all women,
 Almost all men, and yet I yielded, Theseus—
 To crown all this: by your most noble soul,
 Which cannot want due mercy, I beg first—
265 Next hear my prayers—
EMILIA  Last let me entreat, sir—
 For mercy.
EMILIA  Mercy on these princes.
270 You make my faith reel. (To Emilia.) Say I felt
 Compassion to ’em both, how would you place it?
They rise from their knees.
 Upon their lives, but with their banishments.
 You are a right woman, sister: you have pity,
 But want the understanding where to use it.
275 If you desire their lives, invent a way
 Safer than banishment. Can these two live,
 And have the agony of love about ’em,
 And not kill one another? Every day
 They’d fight about you, hourly bring your honor
280 In public question with their swords. Be wise, then,
 And here forget ’em; it concerns your credit
 And my oath equally. I have said they die.

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

 Better they fall by th’ law than one another.
 Bow not my honor.
EMILIA 285 O, my noble brother,
 That oath was rashly made, and in your anger;
 Your reason will not hold it. If such vows
 Stand for express will, all the world must perish.
 Besides, I have another oath ’gainst yours,
290 Of more authority, I am sure more love,
 Not made in passion neither, but good heed.
 What is it, sister?
PIRITHOUS  Urge it home, brave lady.
 That you would ne’er deny me anything
295 Fit for my modest suit and your free granting.
 I tie you to your word now; if you fail in ’t,
 Think how you maim your honor—
 For now I am set a-begging, sir, I am deaf
 To all but your compassion—how their lives
300 Might breed the ruin of my name. Opinion!
 Shall anything that loves me perish for me?
 That were a cruel wisdom. Do men prune
 The straight young boughs that blush with thousand
305 Because they may be rotten? O, Duke Theseus,
 The goodly mothers that have groaned for these,
 And all the longing maids that ever loved,
 If your vow stand, shall curse me and my beauty,
 And in their funeral songs for these two cousins
310 Despise my cruelty, and cry woe worth me,
 Till I am nothing but the scorn of women.
 For heaven’s sake, save their lives, and banish ’em.
 On what conditions?
EMILIA  Swear ’em never more
315 To make me their contention, or to know me,

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

 To tread upon thy dukedom, and to be,
 Wherever they shall travel, ever strangers
 To one another.
PALAMON  I’ll be cut a-pieces
320 Before I take this oath! Forget I love her?
 O, all you gods, despise me then! Thy banishment
 I not mislike, so we may fairly carry
 Our swords and cause along; else never trifle,
 But take our lives, duke. I must love, and will,
325 And for that love must and dare kill this cousin
 On any piece the Earth has.
THESEUS  Will you, Arcite,
 Take these conditions?
PALAMON  He’s a villain, then.
PIRITHOUS 330These are men!
 No, never, duke. ’Tis worse to me than begging
 To take my life so basely; though I think
 I never shall enjoy her, yet I’ll preserve
 The honor of affection, and die for her,
335 Make death a devil!
 What may be done? For now I feel compassion.
 Let it not fall again, sir.
THESEUS  Say, Emilia,
 If one of them were dead, as one must, are you
340 Content to take th’ other to your husband?
 They cannot both enjoy you. They are princes
 As goodly as your own eyes, and as noble
 As ever fame yet spoke of. Look upon ’em,
 And, if you can love, end this difference.
345 I give consent.—Are you content too, princes?
 With all our souls.
THESEUS  He that she refuses
 Must die then.

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

BOTH  Any death thou canst invent, duke.
350 If I fall from that mouth, I fall with favor,
 And lovers yet unborn shall bless my ashes.
 If she refuse me, yet my grave will wed me,
 And soldiers sing my epitaph.
THESEUS, to Emilia  Make choice, then.
355 I cannot, sir; they are both too excellent.
 For me, a hair shall never fall of these men.
 What will become of ’em?
THESEUS  Thus I ordain it—
 And, by mine honor, once again, it stands,
360 Or both shall die: you shall both to your country,
 And each within this month, accompanied
 With three fair knights, appear again in this place,
 In which I’ll plant a pyramid; and whether,
 Before us that are here, can force his cousin
365 By fair and knightly strength to touch the pillar,
 He shall enjoy her; the other lose his head,
 And all his friends; nor shall he grudge to fall,
 Nor think he dies with interest in this lady.
 Will this content you?
PALAMON 370 Yes.—Here, Cousin Arcite,
 I am friends again till that hour.He offers his hand.
ARCITE  I embrace you.
They shake hands.
 Are you content, sister?
EMILIA  Yes, I must, sir,
375 Else both miscarry.
THESEUS, to Palamon and Arcite 
 Come, shake hands again, then,

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 3. SC. 6

 And take heed, as you are gentlemen, this quarrel
 Sleep till the hour prefixed, and hold your course.
 We dare not fail thee, Theseus.
They shake hands again.
THESEUS 380 Come, I’ll give you
 Now usage like to princes and to friends.
 When you return, who wins I’ll settle here;
 Who loses, yet I’ll weep upon his bier.
They exit.