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The Two Noble Kinsmen
Act 5, scene 4



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 4
Enter Guard with Palamon and his Knights,
pinioned; Jailer, Executioner and Others,
carrying a block and an ax.

 There’s many a man alive that hath outlived
 The love o’ th’ people; yea, i’ th’ selfsame state
 Stands many a father with his child. Some comfort
 We have by so considering. We expire,
5 And not without men’s pity. To live still,

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 5. SC. 4

 Have their good wishes; we prevent
 The loathsome misery of age, beguile
 The gout and rheum that in lag hours attend
 For gray approachers; we come towards the gods
10 Young and unwappered, not halting under crimes
 Many and stale. That sure shall please the gods
 Sooner than such, to give us nectar with ’em,
 For we are more clear spirits. My dear kinsmen,
 Whose lives for this poor comfort are laid down,
15 You have sold ’em too too cheap.
FIRST KNIGHT  What ending could be
 Of more content? O’er us the victors have
 Fortune, whose title is as momentary
 As to us death is certain. A grain of honor
20 They not o’er-weigh us.
SECOND KNIGHT  Let us bid farewell;
 And with our patience anger tott’ring Fortune,
 Who at her certain’st reels.
THIRD KNIGHT  Come, who begins?
25 E’en he that led you to this banquet shall
 Taste to you all. To Jailer. Ah ha, my friend, my
 Your gentle daughter gave me freedom once;
 You’ll see ’t done now forever. Pray, how does she?
30 I heard she was not well; her kind of ill
 Gave me some sorrow.
JAILER  Sir, she’s well restored,
 And to be married shortly.
PALAMON  By my short life,
35 I am most glad on ’t. ’Tis the latest thing
 I shall be glad of; prithee, tell her so.
 Commend me to her, and to piece her portion,
 Tender her this.He gives his purse to Jailer.
FIRST KNIGHT  Nay, let’s be offerers all.

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 5. SC. 4

40 Is it a maid?
PALAMON  Verily, I think so.
 A right good creature, more to me deserving
 Than I can quit or speak of.
ALL KNIGHTS  Commend us to her.
They give their purses.
45 The gods requite you all and make her thankful!
 Adieu, and let my life be now as short
 As my leave-taking.Lays his head on the block.
FIRST KNIGHT Lead, courageous cousin.
SECOND AND THIRD KNIGHTS We’ll follow cheerfully.

A great noise within crying “Run!” “Save!” “Hold!”
Enter in haste a Messenger.

50 Hold, hold! O, hold, hold, hold!

Enter Pirithous in haste.

 Hold, ho! It is a cursèd haste you made
 If you have done so quickly!—Noble Palamon,
 The gods will show their glory in a life
 That thou art yet to lead.
PALAMON 55 Can that be,
 When Venus, I have said, is false? How do things
 Arise, great sir, and give the tidings ear
 That are most dearly sweet and bitter.
PALAMON, rising 60 What
 Hath waked us from our dream?
PIRITHOUS  List then: your

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 5. SC. 4

 Mounted upon a steed that Emily
65 Did first bestow on him—a black one, owing
 Not a hair worth of white, which some will say
 Weakens his price, and many will not buy
 His goodness with this note, which superstition
 Here finds allowance—on this horse is Arcite
70 Trotting the stones of Athens—which the calkins
 Did rather tell than trample, for the horse
 Would make his length a mile, if ’t pleased his rider
 To put pride in him. As he thus went counting
 The flinty pavement, dancing, as ’twere, to th’ music
75 His own hooves made—for, as they say, from iron
 Came music’s origin—what envious flint,
 Cold as old Saturn, and like him possessed
 With fire malevolent, darted a spark,
 Or what fierce sulphur else, to this end made,
80 I comment not; the hot horse, hot as fire,
 Took toy at this and fell to what disorder
 His power could give his will; bounds, comes on end,
 Forgets school-doing, being therein trained
 And of kind manage. Pig-like he whines
85 At the sharp rowel, which he frets at rather
 Than any jot obeys; seeks all foul means
 Of boist’rous and rough jadery to disseat
 His lord that kept it bravely. When naught served,
 When neither curb would crack, girth break, nor
90 diff’ring plunges
 Disroot his rider whence he grew, but that
 He kept him ’tween his legs, on his hind hoofs
 On end he stands
 That Arcite’s legs, being higher than his head,
95 Seemed with strange art to hang. His victor’s wreath
 Even then fell off his head, and presently
 Backward the jade comes o’er, and his full poise
 Becomes the rider’s load. Yet is he living,
 But such a vessel ’tis that floats but for

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 5. SC. 4

100 The surge that next approaches. He much desires
 To have some speech with you. Lo, he appears.

Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Emilia,
and Arcite carried in a chair.

 O, miserable end of our alliance!
 The gods are mighty, Arcite. If thy heart,
 Thy worthy, manly heart, be yet unbroken,
105 Give me thy last words. I am Palamon,
 One that yet loves thee dying.
ARCITE  Take Emilia
 And with her all the world’s joy. Reach thy hand;
 Farewell. I have told my last hour. I was false,
110 Yet never treacherous. Forgive me, cousin.
 One kiss from fair Emilia.She kisses him.
 ’Tis done.
 Take her. I die.He dies.
PALAMON  Thy brave soul seek Elysium!
115 I’ll close thine eyes, prince. Blessed souls be with
 Thou art a right good man, and while I live,
 This day I give to tears.
PALAMON  And I to honor.
120 In this place first you fought; e’en very here
 I sundered you. Acknowledge to the gods
 Our thanks that you are living.
 His part is played, and though it were too short,
 He did it well. Your day is lengthened, and
125 The blissful dew of heaven does arrouse you.
 The powerful Venus well hath graced her altar,
 And given you your love. Our master, Mars,
 Hath vouched his oracle, and to Arcite gave

The Two Noble Kinsmen
ACT 5. SC. 4

 The grace of the contention. So the deities
130 Have showed due justice.—Bear this hence.
PALAMON  O cousin,
 That we should things desire which do cost us
 The loss of our desire, that naught could buy
 Dear love but loss of dear love.
Arcite’s body is carried out.
THESEUS 135 Never Fortune
 Did play a subtler game. The conquered triumphs;
 The victor has the loss; yet in the passage
 The gods have been most equal.—Palamon,
 Your kinsman hath confessed the right o’ th’ lady
140 Did lie in you, for you first saw her and
 Even then proclaimed your fancy. He restored her
 As your stol’n jewel and desired your spirit
 To send him hence forgiven. The gods my justice
 Take from my hand and they themselves become
145 The executioners. Lead your lady off,
 And call your lovers from the stage of death,
 Whom I adopt my friends. A day or two
 Let us look sadly, and give grace unto
 The funeral of Arcite, in whose end
150 The visages of bridegrooms we’ll put on
 And smile with Palamon—for whom an hour,
 But one hour since, I was as dearly sorry
 As glad of Arcite, and am now as glad
 As for him sorry. O you heavenly charmers,
155 What things you make of us! For what we lack
 We laugh, for what we have are sorry, still
 Are children in some kind. Let us be thankful
 For that which is, and with you leave dispute
 That are above our question. Let’s go off
160 And bear us like the time.
Flourish. They exit.