List iconThe Two Noble Kinsmen:
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The Two Noble Kinsmen



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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Quill icon
Flourish. Enter Prologue.

 New plays and maidenheads are near akin:
 Much followed both, for both much money giv’n,
 If they stand sound and well. And a good play,
 Whose modest scenes blush on his marriage day
5 And shake to lose his honor, is like her
 That after holy tie and first night’s stir
 Yet still is modesty, and still retains
 More of the maid, to sight, than husband’s pains.
 We pray our play may be so, for I am sure
10 It has a noble breeder and a pure,
 A learnèd, and a poet never went
 More famous yet ’twixt Po and silver Trent.
 Chaucer, of all admired, the story gives;
 There, constant to eternity, it lives.
15 If we let fall the nobleness of this,
 And the first sound this child hear be a hiss,
 How will it shake the bones of that good man
 And make him cry from underground “O, fan
 From me the witless chaff of such a writer
20 That blasts my bays and my famed works makes
 Than Robin Hood!” This is the fear we bring;
 For, to say truth, it were an endless thing
 And too ambitious, to aspire to him,
25 Weak as we are, and, almost breathless, swim
 In this deep water. Do but you hold out
 Your helping hands, and we shall tack about
 And something do to save us. You shall hear
 Scenes, though below his art, may yet appear
30 Worth two hours’ travel. To his bones sweet sleep;

The Two Noble Kinsmen

 Content to you. If this play do not keep
 A little dull time from us, we perceive
 Our losses fall so thick we must needs leave.
Flourish. He exits.