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The Two Noble Kinsmen
Act 5, 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
Flourish. Enter Theseus, Hippolyta,
Emilia, Pirithous, and some Attendants.

 I’ll no step further.
PIRITHOUS  Will you lose this sight?
 I had rather see a wren hawk at a fly
 Than this decision; ev’ry blow that falls
5 Threats a brave life; each stroke laments
 The place whereon it falls, and sounds more like
 A bell than blade. I will stay here.
 It is enough my hearing shall be punished
 With what shall happen, ’gainst the which there is
10 No deafing but to hear; not taint mine eye
 With dread sights it may shun.
PIRITHOUS, to Theseus  Sir, my good lord,
 Your sister will no further.
THESEUS  O, she must.
15 She shall see deeds of honor in their kind,
 Which sometime show well, penciled. Nature now
 Shall make and act the story, the belief
 Both sealed with eye and ear.—You must be present;
 You are the victor’s meed, the price and garland
20 To crown the question’s title.
EMILIA  Pardon me.
 If I were there, I’d wink.
THESEUS  You must be there;
 This trial is as ’twere i’ th’ night, and you
25 The only star to shine.
EMILIA  I am extinct;
 There is but envy in that light which shows
 The one the other. Darkness, which ever was
 The dam of horror, who does stand accursed
30 Of many mortal millions, may even now,

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 5. SC. 3

 By casting her black mantle over both,
 That neither could find other, get herself
 Some part of a good name, and many a murder
 Set off whereto she’s guilty.
HIPPOLYTA 35 You must go.
 In faith, I will not.
THESEUS  Why, the knights must kindle
 Their valor at your eye. Know, of this war
 You are the treasure, and must needs be by
40 To give the service pay.
EMILIA  Sir, pardon me.
 The title of a kingdom may be tried
 Out of itself.
THESEUS  Well, well, then; at your pleasure.
45 Those that remain with you could wish their office
 To any of their enemies.
HIPPOLYTA  Farewell, sister.
 I am like to know your husband ’fore yourself
 By some small start of time. He whom the gods
50 Do of the two know best, I pray them he
 Be made your lot.
Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous, and others,
 Emilia remains, comparing again
the pictures of Arcite and Palamon.

 Arcite is gently visaged, yet his eye
 Is like an engine bent, or a sharp weapon
 In a soft sheath; mercy and manly courage
55 Are bedfellows in his visage. Palamon
 Has a most menacing aspect; his brow
 Is graved, and seems to bury what it frowns on;
 Yet sometimes ’tis not so, but alters to
 The quality of his thoughts. Long time his eye
60 Will dwell upon his object. Melancholy
 Becomes him nobly; so does Arcite’s mirth;

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 5. SC. 3

 But Palamon’s sadness is a kind of mirth,
 So mingled, as if mirth did make him sad
 And sadness merry. Those darker humors that
65 Stick misbecomingly on others, on them
 Live in fair dwelling.
Cornets. Trumpets sound as to a charge.
 Hark how yon spurs to spirit do incite
 The princes to their proof! Arcite may win me,
 And yet may Palamon wound Arcite to
70 The spoiling of his figure. O, what pity
 Enough for such a chance? If I were by,
 I might do hurt, for they would glance their eyes
 Towards my seat, and in that motion might
 Omit a ward or forfeit an offense
75 Which craved that very time.
Cornets. A great cry and noise
within crying “À Palamon!”

 It is much better
 I am not there. O, better never born
 Than minister to such harm!

Enter Servant.

 What is the chance?
SERVANT 80The cry’s “À Palamon.”
EMILIA Then he has won. ’Twas ever likely.
 He looked all grace and success, and he is
 Doubtless the prim’st of men. I prithee run
 And tell me how it goes.
Shout and cornets, crying “À Palamon!”
SERVANT 85 Still “Palamon.”
 Run and inquire.Servant exits.
Addressing Arcite’s picture.  Poor servant, thou hast
 Upon my right side still I wore thy picture,
90 Palamon’s on the left—why so, I know not.

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 5. SC. 3

 I had no end in ’t else; chance would have it so.
 On the sinister side the heart lies; Palamon
 Had the best-boding chance.
Another cry, and shout within, and cornets.
 This burst of clamor
95 Is sure th’ end o’ th’ combat.

Enter Servant.

 They said that Palamon had Arcite’s body
 Within an inch o’ th’ pyramid, that the cry
 Was general “À Palamon.” But anon,
 Th’ assistants made a brave redemption, and
100 The two bold titlers at this instant are
 Hand to hand at it.
EMILIA  Were they metamorphosed
 Both into one—O, why, there were no woman
 Worth so composed a man! Their single share,
105 Their nobleness peculiar to them, gives
 The prejudice of disparity, value’s shortness,
 To any lady breathing.
Cornets. Cry within, “Arcite, Arcite.”
 More exulting?
 “Palamon” still?
SERVANT 110 Nay, now the sound is “Arcite.”
 I prithee lay attention to the cry;
 Set both thine ears to th’ business.
Cornets. A great shout, and cry “Arcite, victory!”
SERVANT  The cry is “Arcite”
 And “Victory! Hark, Arcite, victory!”
115 The combat’s consummation is proclaimed
 By the wind instruments.
EMILIA  Half-sights saw
 That Arcite was no babe. God’s lid, his richness
 And costliness of spirit looked through him; it could

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 5. SC. 3

120 No more be hid in him than fire in flax,
 Than humble banks can go to law with waters
 That drift-winds force to raging. I did think
 Good Palamon would miscarry, yet I knew not
 Why I did think so. Our reasons are not prophets
125 When oft our fancies are. They are coming off.
 Alas, poor Palamon!

Cornets. Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous,
Arcite as victor, and Attendants and others.

 Lo, where our sister is in expectation,
 Yet quaking and unsettled.—Fairest Emily,
 The gods by their divine arbitrament
130 Have given you this knight; he is a good one
 As ever struck at head.—Give me your hands.
 Receive you her, you him. Be plighted with
 A love that grows as you decay.
ARCITE  Emily,
135 To buy you I have lost what’s dearest to me
 Save what is bought, and yet I purchase cheaply,
 As I do rate your value.
THESEUS  O loved sister,
 He speaks now of as brave a knight as e’er
140 Did spur a noble steed. Surely the gods
 Would have him die a bachelor, lest his race
 Should show i’ th’ world too godlike. His behavior
 So charmed me that methought Alcides was
 To him a sow of lead. If I could praise
145 Each part of him to th’ all I have spoke, your Arcite
 Did not lose by ’t, for he that was thus good
 Encountered yet his better. I have heard
 Two emulous Philomels beat the ear o’ th’ night
 With their contentious throats, now one the higher,
150 Anon the other, then again the first,
 And by-and-by out-breasted, that the sense

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 5. SC. 4

 Could not be judge between ’em. So it fared
 Good space between these kinsmen, till heavens did
 Make hardly one the winner.—Wear the garland
155 With joy that you have won.—For the subdued,
 Give them our present justice, since I know
 Their lives but pinch ’em. Let it here be done.
 The scene’s not for our seeing. Go we hence
 Right joyful, with some sorrow.—Arm your prize;
160 I know you will not lose her.—Hippolyta,
 I see one eye of yours conceives a tear,
 The which it will deliver.
EMILIA  Is this winning?
 O all you heavenly powers, where is your mercy?
165 But that your wills have said it must be so,
 And charge me live to comfort this unfriended,
 This miserable prince, that cuts away
 A life more worthy from him than all women,
 I should and would die too.
HIPPOLYTA 170 Infinite pity
 That four such eyes should be so fixed on one
 That two must needs be blind for ’t.
THESEUS  So it is.
Flourish. They exit.