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The Two Noble Kinsmen
Act 4, 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
Enter Emilia alone, with two pictures.

EMILIA 
 Yet I may bind those wounds up that must open
 And bleed to death for my sake else. I’ll choose,
 And end their strife. Two such young handsome men
 Shall never fall for me; their weeping mothers,
5 Following the dead cold ashes of their sons,
 Shall never curse my cruelty.
Looks at one of the pictures.
 Good heaven,
 What a sweet face has Arcite! If wise Nature,
 With all her best endowments, all those beauties
10 She sows into the births of noble bodies,
 Were here a mortal woman, and had in her
 The coy denials of young maids, yet doubtless
 She would run mad for this man. What an eye,
 Of what a fiery sparkle and quick sweetness,
15 Has this young prince! Here Love himself sits
 smiling;
 Just such another wanton Ganymede
 Set Jove afire with, and enforced the god
 Snatch up the goodly boy and set him by him,
20 A shining constellation. What a brow,
 Of what a spacious majesty, he carries,
 Arched like the great-eyed Juno’s but far sweeter,
 Smoother than Pelops’ shoulder! Fame and Honor,
 Methinks, from hence as from a promontory
25 Pointed in heaven, should clap their wings and sing
 To all the under world the loves and fights
 Of gods and such men near ’em.
Looks at the other picture.
 Palamon
 Is but his foil, to him a mere dull shadow;
30 He’s swart and meager, of an eye as heavy

179
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ACT 4. SC. 2

 As if he had lost his mother; a still temper,
 No stirring in him, no alacrity;
 Of all this sprightly sharpness not a smile.
 Yet these that we count errors may become him;
35 Narcissus was a sad boy but a heavenly.
 O, who can find the bent of woman’s fancy?
 I am a fool; my reason is lost in me;
 I have no choice, and I have lied so lewdly
 That women ought to beat me. On my knees
40 I ask thy pardon: Palamon, thou art alone
 And only beautiful, and these the eyes,
 These the bright lamps of beauty, that command
 And threaten love, and what young maid dare cross
 ’em?
45 What a bold gravity, and yet inviting,
 Has this brown manly face! O Love, this only
 From this hour is complexion. Lie there, Arcite.
She puts aside his picture.
 Thou art a changeling to him, a mere gypsy,
 And this the noble body. I am sotted,
50 Utterly lost. My virgin’s faith has fled me.
 For if my brother but even now had asked me
 Whether I loved, I had run mad for Arcite.
 Now, if my sister, more for Palamon.
 Stand both together. Now, come ask me, brother.
55 Alas, I know not! Ask me now, sweet sister.
 I may go look! What a mere child is Fancy,
 That, having two fair gauds of equal sweetness,
 Cannot distinguish, but must cry for both.

Enter a Gentleman.

 How now, sir?
GENTLEMAN 60 From the noble duke, your brother,
 Madam, I bring you news: the knights are come.
EMILIA 
 To end the quarrel?

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The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 4. SC. 2

GENTLEMAN  Yes.
EMILIA  Would I might end first!
65 What sins have I committed, chaste Diana,
 That my unspotted youth must now be soiled
 With blood of princes, and my chastity
 Be made the altar where the lives of lovers—
 Two greater and two better never yet
70 Made mothers joy—must be the sacrifice
 To my unhappy beauty?

Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous and Attendants.

THESEUS, to Attendant  Bring ’em in
 Quickly, by any means; I long to see ’em.
 To Emilia. Your two contending lovers are
75 returned,
 And with them their fair knights. Now, my fair
 sister,
 You must love one of them.
EMILIA  I had rather both,
80 So neither for my sake should fall untimely.
THESEUS 
 Who saw ’em?
PIRITHOUS  I awhile.
GENTLEMAN  And I.

Enter a Messenger.

THESEUS 
 From whence come you, sir?
MESSENGER 85 From the knights.
THESEUS  Pray
 speak,
 You that have seen them, what they are.
MESSENGER  I will, sir,
90 And truly what I think. Six braver spirits
 Than these they have brought, if we judge by the
 outside,

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ACT 4. SC. 2

 I never saw nor read of. He that stands
 In the first place with Arcite, by his seeming,
95 Should be a stout man, by his face a prince—
 His very looks so say him; his complexion
 Nearer a brown than black—stern and yet noble—
 Which shows him hardy, fearless, proud of dangers;
 The circles of his eyes show fire within him,
100 And as a heated lion, so he looks.
 His hair hangs long behind him, black and shining
 Like ravens’ wings; his shoulders broad and strong,
 Armed long and round; and on his thigh a sword
 Hung by a curious baldric, when he frowns
105 To seal his will with. Better, o’ my conscience,
 Was never soldier’s friend.
THESEUS 
 Thou hast well described him.
PIRITHOUS  Yet a great
 deal short,
110 Methinks, of him that’s first with Palamon.
THESEUS 
 Pray speak him, friend.
PIRITHOUS  I guess he is a prince too,
 And, if it may be, greater; for his show
 Has all the ornament of honor in ’t:
115 He’s somewhat bigger than the knight he spoke of,
 But of a face far sweeter; his complexion
 Is, as a ripe grape, ruddy. He has felt
 Without doubt what he fights for, and so apter
 To make this cause his own. In ’s face appears
120 All the fair hopes of what he undertakes,
 And when he’s angry, then a settled valor,
 Not tainted with extremes, runs through his body
 And guides his arm to brave things. Fear he cannot;
 He shows no such soft temper. His head’s yellow,
125 Hard-haired and curled, thick-twined like ivy tods,
 Not to undo with thunder. In his face
 The livery of the warlike maid appears,

185
The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 4. SC. 2

 Pure red and white, for yet no beard has blessed him.
 And in his rolling eyes sits Victory,
130 As if she ever meant to crown his valor.
 His nose stands high, a character of honor;
 His red lips, after fights, are fit for ladies.
EMILIA 
 Must these men die too?
PIRITHOUS  When he speaks, his tongue
135 Sounds like a trumpet. All his lineaments
 Are as a man would wish ’em, strong and clean.
 He wears a well-steeled axe, the staff of gold;
 His age some five-and-twenty.
MESSENGER  There’s another—
140 A little man, but of a tough soul, seeming
 As great as any; fairer promises
 In such a body yet I never looked on.
PIRITHOUS 
 O, he that’s freckle-faced?
MESSENGER  The same, my lord.
145 Are they not sweet ones?
PIRITHOUS  Yes, they are well.
MESSENGER  Methinks,
 Being so few, and well disposed, they show
 Great and fine art in nature. He’s white-haired—
150 Not wanton white, but such a manly color
 Next to an auburn; tough and nimble-set,
 Which shows an active soul. His arms are brawny,
 Lined with strong sinews—to the shoulder-piece
 Gently they swell, like women new-conceived,
155 Which speaks him prone to labor, never fainting
 Under the weight of arms; stout-hearted still,
 But when he stirs, a tiger. He’s grey-eyed,
 Which yields compassion where he conquers; sharp
 To spy advantages, and where he finds ’em,
160 He’s swift to make ’em his. He does no wrongs,

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ACT 4. SC. 2

 Nor takes none. He’s round-faced, and when he
 smiles
 He shows a lover; when he frowns, a soldier.
 About his head he wears the winner’s oak,
165 And in it stuck the favor of his lady.
 His age some six-and-thirty. In his hand
 He bears a charging-staff embossed with silver.
THESEUS 
 Are they all thus?
PIRITHOUS  They are all the sons of honor.
THESEUS 
170 Now, as I have a soul, I long to see ’em.—
 Lady, you shall see men fight now.
HIPPOLYTA  I wish it,
 But not the cause, my lord. They would show
 Bravely about the titles of two kingdoms;
175 ’Tis pity love should be so tyrannous.—
 O, my soft-hearted sister, what think you?
 Weep not till they weep blood. Wench, it must be.
THESEUS, to Emilia 
 You have steeled ’em with your beauty. (To
 Pirithous.) 
Honored friend,
180 To you I give the field; pray order it
 Fitting the persons that must use it.
PIRITHOUS  Yes, sir.
THESEUS 
 Come, I’ll go visit ’em. I cannot stay—
 Their fame has fired me so—till they appear.
185 Good friend, be royal.
PIRITHOUS  There shall want no bravery.
All but Emilia exit.
EMILIA 
 Poor wench, go weep, for whosoever wins
 Loses a noble cousin for thy sins.
She exits.