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The Two Noble Kinsmen
Act 4, 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 his Friend.

JAILER 
 Heard you no more? Was nothing said of me
 Concerning the escape of Palamon?
 Good sir, remember!
FIRST FRIEND  Nothing that I heard,
5 For I came home before the business
 Was fully ended. Yet I might perceive,
 Ere I departed, a great likelihood
 Of both their pardons; for Hippolyta
 And fair-eyed Emily, upon their knees,
10 Begged with such handsome pity that the Duke,
 Methought, stood staggering whether he should
 follow
 His rash oath or the sweet compassion
 Of those two ladies. And, to second them,
15 That truly noble prince, Pirithous—
 Half his own heart—set in too, that I hope
 All shall be well. Neither heard I one question
 Of your name or his ’scape.
JAILER  Pray heaven it hold so.

Enter Second Friend.

163

165
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 4. SC. 1

SECOND FRIEND 
20 Be of good comfort, man; I bring you news,
 Good news.
JAILER  They are welcome.
SECOND FRIEND  Palamon has cleared
 you
25 And got your pardon, and discovered how
 And by whose means he escaped, which was your
 daughter’s,
 Whose pardon is procured too; and the prisoner,
 Not to be held ungrateful to her goodness,
30 Has given a sum of money to her marriage—
 A large one, I’ll assure you.
JAILER  You are a good man
 And ever bring good news.
FIRST FRIEND  How was it ended?
SECOND FRIEND 
35 Why, as it should be: they that ne’er begged
 But they prevailed had their suits fairly granted;
 The prisoners have their lives.
FIRST FRIEND  I knew ’twould be so.
SECOND FRIEND 
 But there be new conditions, which you’ll hear of
40 At better time.
JAILER  I hope they are good.
SECOND FRIEND  They are
 honorable;
 How good they’ll prove I know not.
FIRST FRIEND 45 ’Twill be known.

Enter Wooer.

WOOER 
 Alas, sir, where’s your daughter?
JAILER  Why do you ask?
WOOER 
 O, sir, when did you see her?

167
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 4. SC. 1

SECOND FRIEND, aside  How he looks!
JAILER 
50 This morning.
WOOER  Was she well? Was she in health?
 Sir, when did she sleep?
FIRST FRIEND, aside  These are strange questions.
JAILER 
 I do not think she was very well—for now
55 You make me mind her; but this very day
 I asked her questions, and she answered me
 So far from what she was, so childishly,
 So sillily, as if she were a fool,
 An innocent, and I was very angry.
60 But what of her, sir?
WOOER  Nothing but my pity;
 But you must know it, and as good by me
 As by another that less loves her.
JAILER  Well, sir?
WOOER 
65 No, sir, not well.
FIRST FRIEND  Not right?
SECOND FRIEND  Not well?
WOOER 
 ’Tis too true; she is mad.
FIRST FRIEND  It cannot be.
WOOER 
70 Believe you’ll find it so.
JAILER  I half suspected
 What you told me. The gods comfort her!
 Either this was her love to Palamon,
 Or fear of my miscarrying on his ’scape,
75 Or both.
WOOER  ’Tis likely.
JAILER  But why all this haste, sir?
WOOER 
 I’ll tell you quickly. As I late was angling

169
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 4. SC. 1

 In the great lake that lies behind the palace,
80 From the far shore—thick set with reeds and
 sedges—
 As patiently I was attending sport,
 I heard a voice, a shrill one; and, attentive,
 I gave my ear, when I might well perceive
85 ’Twas one that sung, and by the smallness of it
 A boy or woman. I then left my angle
 To his own skill, came near, but yet perceived not
 Who made the sound, the rushes and the reeds
 Had so encompassed it. I laid me down
90 And listened to the words she sung, for then,
 Through a small glade cut by the fishermen,
 I saw it was your daughter.
JAILER  Pray go on, sir.
WOOER 
 She sung much, but no sense; only I heard her
95 Repeat this often: “Palamon is gone,
 Is gone to th’ wood to gather mulberries;
 I’ll find him out tomorrow.”
FIRST FRIEND  Pretty soul!
WOOER 
 “His shackles will betray him; he’ll be taken,
100 And what shall I do then? I’ll bring a bevy,
 A hundred black-eyed maids that love as I do,
 With chaplets on their heads of daffadillies,
 With cherry lips and cheeks of damask roses,
 And all we’ll dance an antic ’fore the Duke,
105 And beg his pardon.” Then she talked of you, sir—
 That you must lose your head tomorrow morning,
 And she must gather flowers to bury you,
 And see the house made handsome. Then she sung
 Nothing but “Willow, willow, willow,” and between
110 Ever was “Palamon, fair Palamon,”
 And “Palamon was a tall young man.” The place
 Was knee-deep where she sat; her careless tresses,

171
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 4. SC. 1

 A wreath of bulrush rounded; about her stuck
 Thousand freshwater flowers of several colors,
115 That methought she appeared like the fair nymph
 That feeds the lake with waters, or as Iris
 Newly dropped down from heaven. Rings she made
 Of rushes that grew by, and to ’em spoke
 The prettiest posies: “Thus our true love’s tied,”
120 “This you may lose, not me,” and many a one;
 And then she wept, and sung again, and sighed,
 And with the same breath smiled and kissed her
 hand.
SECOND FRIEND 
 Alas, what pity it is!
WOOER 125 I made in to her.
 She saw me, and straight sought the flood. I saved
 her
 And set her safe to land, when presently
 She slipped away, and to the city made
130 With such a cry and swiftness that, believe me,
 She left me far behind her. Three or four
 I saw from far off cross her—one of ’em
 I knew to be your brother—where she stayed
 And fell, scarce to be got away. I left them with her
135 And hither came to tell you.

Enter Jailer’s Brother, Jailer’s Daughter, and others.

 Here they are.
DAUGHTER, sings 
 May you never more enjoy the light, etc.
 Is not this a fine song?
BROTHER O, a very fine one.
DAUGHTER 140I can sing twenty more.
BROTHER I think you can.
DAUGHTER Yes, truly can I. I can sing The Broom
 and Bonny Robin. Are not you a tailor?
BROTHER Yes.

173
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 4. SC. 1

DAUGHTER 145Where’s my wedding gown?
BROTHER I’ll bring it tomorrow.
DAUGHTER Do, very rarely, I must be abroad else to
 call the maids and pay the minstrels, for I must
 lose my maidenhead by cocklight. ’Twill never
150 thrive else.
Sings. O fair, O sweet, etc.
BROTHER, to Jailer You must e’en take it patiently.
JAILER ’Tis true.
DAUGHTER Good e’en, good men. Pray, did you ever
155 hear of one young Palamon?
JAILER Yes, wench, we know him.
DAUGHTER Is ’t not a fine young gentleman?
JAILER ’Tis, love.
BROTHER, aside to others By no mean cross her; she
160 is then distempered far worse than now she
 shows.
FIRST FRIEND, to Daughter Yes, he’s a fine man.
DAUGHTER O , is he so? You have a sister.
FIRST FRIEND Yes.
DAUGHTER 165But she shall never have him—tell her so—
 for a trick that I know; you’d best look to her, for
 if she see him once, she’s gone, she’s done and
 undone in an hour. All the young maids of our
 town are in love with him, but I laugh at ’em and
170 let ’em all alone. Is ’t not a wise course?
FIRST FRIEND Yes.
DAUGHTER There is at least two hundred now with
 child by him—there must be four; yet I keep close
 for all this, close as a cockle; and all these must be
175 boys—he has the trick on ’t—and at ten years old
 they must be all gelt for musicians and sing the
 wars of Theseus.
SECOND FRIEND This is strange.
DAUGHTER As ever you heard, but say nothing.
FIRST FRIEND 180No.

175
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 4. SC. 1

DAUGHTER They come from all parts of the dukedom
 to him; I’ll warrant you, he had not so few last
 night as twenty to dispatch. He’ll tickle ’t up in two
 hours, if his hand be in.
JAILER, aside 185She’s lost past all cure.
BROTHER Heaven forbid, man!
DAUGHTER, to Jailer Come hither; you are a wise
 man.
FIRST FRIEND, aside Does she know him?
SECOND FRIEND 190No; would she did.
DAUGHTER You are master of a ship?
JAILER Yes.
DAUGHTER Where’s your compass?
JAILER Here.
DAUGHTER 195Set it to th’ north. And now direct your
 course to th’ wood, where Palamon lies longing for
 me. For the tackling, let me alone.—Come, weigh,
 my hearts, cheerly.
ALL, as if sailing a ship Owgh, owgh, owgh!—’Tis up!
200 The wind’s fair!—Top the bowline!—Out with the
 main sail! Where’s your whistle, master?
BROTHER Let’s get her in!
JAILER Up to the top, boy!
BROTHER Where’s the pilot?
FIRST FRIEND 205Here.
DAUGHTER What kenn’st thou?
SECOND FRIEND A fair wood.
DAUGHTER Bear for it, master. Tack about!
Sings.
 When Cynthia with her borrowed light, etc.
They exit.