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Two Noble Kinsmen: Prologue





New plays and maidenheads are near akin—

Much follow’d both, for both much money gi’n,

If they stand sound and well; and a good play

(Whose modest scenes blush on his marriage-day,

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

It has a noble breeder and a pure,

A learned, and a poet never went

More famous yet ’twixt Po and silver Trent.

Chaucer (of all admir’d) the story gives;

There constant to eternity it lives.

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 under ground, “O, fan

From me the witless chaff of such a writer

That blasts my bays and my fam’d works makes lighter

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,

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

Worth two hours’ travail. To his bones sweet sleep!

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.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act I, Scene 1

Scene 1

Athens. Before a temple.

(Hymen, Boy, Nymphs, Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous, Emilia, Artesius, Attendants, Three Queens)

Enter Hymen with a torch burning; a Boy, in a white robe, before, singing and strewing flow’rs; after Hymen, a Nymph, encompass’d in her tresses, bearing a wheaten garland; then Theseus, between two other Nymphs with wheaten chaplets an their heads; then Hippolyta, the bride, led by Pirithous, and another holding a garland over her head (her tresses likewise hanging; after her, Emilia, holding up her train; Artesius and Attendants.

Music. The Song by the Boy.

Roses, their sharp spines being gone,

Not royal in their smells alone,

But in their hue;

Maiden pinks, of odor faint,

Daisies smell-less, yet most quaint,

And sweet thyme true;

Primrose, first-born child of Ver,

Merry spring-time’s harbinger,

With her bells dim;

Oxlips in their cradles growing,

Marigolds on death-beds blowing,

Larks’-heels trim;

All dear Nature’s children sweet,

Lie ’fore bride and bridegroom’s feet.

Strew flowers.

Blessing their sense;

Not an angel of the air,

Bird melodious, or bird fair,

Is absent hence.

The crow, the sland’rous cuckoo, nor

The boding raven, nor chough hoar,

Nor chatt’ring pie,

May on our bridehouse perch or sing,

Or with them any discord bring,

But from it fly.

Enter three Queens, in black, with veils stain’d, with imperial crowns. The first Queen falls down at the foot of Theseus; the second falls down at the foot of Hippolyta; the third before Emilia.


For pity’s sake and true gentility’s,

Hear and respect me.


For your mother’s sake,

And as you wish your womb may thrive with fair ones,

Hear and respect me.


Now for the love of him whom Jove hath mark’d

The honor of your bed, and for the sake

Of clear virginity, be advocate

For us and our distresses! This good deed

Shall raze you out o’ th’ book of trespasses

All you are set down there.


Sad lady, rise.


Stand up.


No knees to me.

What woman I may stead that is distress’d

Does bind me to her.


What’s your request? Deliver you for all.


We are three queens, whose sovereigns fell before

The wrath of cruel Creon; who endured

The beaks of ravens, talents of the kites,

And pecks of crows in the foul fields of Thebes.

He will not suffer us to bum their bones,

To urn their ashes, nor to take th’ offense

Of mortal loathsomeness from the blest eye

Of holy Phoebus, but infects the winds

With stench of our slain lords. O, pity, Duke,

Thou purger of the earth, draw thy fear’d sword

That does good turns to th’ world; give us the bones

Of our dead kings, that we may chapel them;

And of thy boundless goodness take some note

That for our crowned heads we have no roof,

Save this which is the lion’s, and the bear’s,

And vault to every thing!


Pray you kneel not;

I was transported with your speech, and suffer’d

Your knees to wrong themselves. I have heard the fortunes

Of your dead lords, which gives me such lamenting

As wakes my vengeance and revenge for ’em.

King Capaneus was your lord. The day

That he should marry you, at such a season

As now it is with me, I met your groom

By Mars’s altar. You were that time fair;

Not Juno’s mantle fairer than your tresses,

Nor in more bounty spread her. Your wheaten wreath

Was then nor thresh’d nor blasted; Fortune at you

Dimpled her cheek with smiles. Hercules our kinsman

(Then weaker than your eyes) laid by his club;

He tumbled down upon his Nemean hide,

And swore his sinews thaw’d. O grief and time,

Fearful consumers, you will all devour!


O, I hope some god,

Some god hath put his mercy in your manhood,

Whereto he’ll infuse pow’r, and press you forth

Our undertaker.


O, no knees, none, widow!

Unto the helmeted Bellona use them,

And pray for me your soldier.

Troubled I am.

Turns away.


Honored Hippolyta,

Most dreaded Amazonian, that hast slain

The scythe-tusk’d boar; that with thy arm, as strong

As it is white, wast near to make the male

To thy sex captive, but that this thy lord,

Born to uphold creation in that honor

First Nature styl’d it in, shrunk thee into

The bound thou wast o’erflowing, at once subduing

Thy force and thy affection; soldieress

That equally canst poise sternness with pity,

Whom now I know hast much more power on him

Than ever he had on thee, who ow’st his strength,

And his love too, who is a servant for

The tenor of thy speech; dear glass of ladies,

Bid him that we, whom flaming war doth scorch,

Under the shadow of his sword may cool us;

Require him he advance it o’er our heads;

Speak’t in a woman’s key—like such a woman

As any of us three; weep ere you fail;

Lend us a knee;

But touch the ground for us no longer time

Than a dove’s motion when the head’s pluck’d off;

Tell him, if he i’ th’ blood-siz’d field lay swoll’n,

Showing the sun his teeth, grinning at the moon,

What you would do.


Poor lady, say no more:

I had as lief trace this good action with you

As that whereto I am going, and never yet

Went I so willing way. My lord is taken

Heart-deep with your distress. Let him consider.

I’ll speak anon.


O, my petition was

Kneel to Emilia.

Set down in ice, which by hot grief uncandied

Melts into drops; so sorrow wanting form

Is press’d with deeper matter.


Pray stand up,

Your grief is written in your cheek.


O, woe,

You cannot read it there. There, through my tears,

Like wrinkled pebbles in a glassy stream,

You may behold ’em. Lady, lady, alack!

He that will all the treasure know o’ th’ earth

Must know the centre too; he that will fish

For my least minnow, let him lead his line

To catch one at my heart. O, pardon me,

Extremity, that sharpens sundry wits,

Makes me a fool.


Pray you say nothing, pray you.

Who cannot feel nor see the rain, being in’t,

Knows neither wet nor dry. If that you were

The ground-piece of some painter, I would buy you

T’ instruct me ’gainst a capital grief indeed—

Such heart-pierc’d demonstration! but alas,

Being a natural sister of our sex,

Your sorrow beats so ardently upon me

That it shall make a counter-reflect ’gainst

My brother’s heart, and warm it to some pity,

Though it were made of stone. Pray have good comfort.


Forward to th’ temple. Leave not out a jot

O’ th’ sacred ceremony.


O, this celebration

Will long last and be more costly than

Your suppliants’ war! Remember that your fame

Knolls in the ear o’ th’ world; what you do quickly

Is not done rashly; your first thought is more

Than others’ labored meditance; your premeditating

More than their actions. But, O Jove, your actions,

Soon as they move, as asprays do the fish,

Subdue before they touch. Think, dear Duke, think

What beds our slain kings have!


What griefs our beds

That our dear lords have none!


None fit for th’ dead:

Those that with cords, knives, drams, precipitance,

Weary of this world’s light, have to themselves

Been death’s most horrid agents, humane grace

Affords them dust and shadow.


But our lords

Lie blist’ring ’fore the visitating sun,

And were good kings when living.


It is true; and I will give you comfort

To give your dead lords graves; the which to do

Must make some work with Creon.


And that work presents itself to th’ doing:

Now ’twill take form, the heats are gone tomorrow.

Then, bootless toil must recompense itself

With its own sweat; now he’s secure,

Not dreams we stand before your puissance

Wrinching our holy begging in our eyes

To make petition clear.


Now you may take him

Drunk with his victory.


And his army full

Of bread and sloth.


Artesius, that best knowest

How to draw out, fit to this enterprise,

The prim’st for this proceeding, and the number

To carry such a business, forth and levy

Our worthiest instruments, whilst we dispatch

This grand act of our life, this daring deed

Of fate in wedlock.


Dowagers, take hands,

Let us be widows to our woes; delay

Commends us to a famishing hope.




We come unseasonably; but when could grief

Cull forth, as unpang’d judgment can, fitt’st time

For best solicitation?


Why, good ladies,

This is a service, whereto I am going,

Greater than any war; it more imports me

Than all the actions that I have foregone,

Or futurely can cope.


The more proclaiming

Our suit shall be neglected. When her arms,

Able to lock Jove from a synod, shall

By warranting moonlight corslet thee—O, when

Her twinning cherries shall their sweetness fall

Upon thy tasteful lips, what wilt thou think

Of rotten kings or blubber’d queens? what care

For what thou feel’st not? what thou feel’st being able

To make Mars spurn his drum. O, if thou couch

But one night with her, every hour in’t will

Take hostage of thee for a hundred, and

Thou shalt remember nothing more than what

That banket bids thee to!


Though much unlike

You should be so transported, as much sorry

I should be such a suitor; yet I think

Did I not by th’ abstaining of my joy,

Which breeds a deeper longing, cure their surfeit

That craves a present med’cine, I should pluck

All ladies’ scandal on me. Therefore, sir,


As I shall here make trial of my pray’rs,

Either presuming them to have some force,

Or sentencing for aye their vigor dumb,

Prorogue this business we are going about, and hang

Your shield afore your heart, about that neck

Which is my fee, and which I freely lend

To do these poor queens service.


To Emilia.

O, help now!

Our cause cries for your knee.



If you grant not

My sister her petition, in that force,

With that celerity and nature, which

She makes it in, from henceforth I’ll not dare

To ask you any thing, nor be so hardy

Ever to take a husband.


Pray stand up.

They rise.

I am entreating of myself to do

That which you kneel to have me. Pirithous,

Lead on the bride; get you and pray the gods

For success and return; omit not any thing

In the pretended celebration. Queens,

Follow your soldier.

To Artesius.

As before, hence you,

And at the banks of Aulis meet us with

The forces you can raise, where we shall find

The moi’ty of a number for a business

More bigger-look’d.

Exit Artesius.
To Hippolyta.

Since that our theme is haste,

I stamp this kiss upon thy currant lip.

Sweet, keep it as my token. Set you forward,

For I will see you gone.

Exeunt slowly towards the temple.

Farewell, my beauteous sister. Pirithous,

Keep the feast full, bate not an hour on’t.



I’ll follow you at heels; the feast’s solemnity

Shall want till your return.


Cousin, I charge you

Boudge not from Athens. We shall be returning

Ere you can end this feast, of which I pray you

Make no abatement. Once more, farewell all.


Thus dost thou still make good

The tongue o’ th’ world.


And earn’st a deity

Equal with Mars.


If not above him, for

Thou being but mortal makest affections bend

To godlike honors; they themselves, some say,

Groan under such a mast’ry.


As we are men

Thus should we do, being sensually subdu’d

We lose our human title. Good cheer, ladies.

Now turn we towards your comforts.

Flourish. Exeunt.

Two Noble Kinsmen: Act I, Scene 2

Scene 2

Thebes. The palace.

(Palamon, Arcite, Valerius)

Enter Palamon and Arcite.


Dear Palamon, dearer in love than blood,

And our prime cousin, yet unhard’ned in

The crimes of nature—let us leave the city

Thebes, and the temptings in’t, before we further

Sully our gloss of youth:

And here to keep in abstinence we shame

As in incontinence; for not to swim

I’ th’ aid o’ th’ current were almost to sink,

At least to frustrate striving, and to follow

The common stream, ’twould bring us to an eddy

Where we should turn or drown; if labor through,

Our gain but life and weakness.


Your advice

Is cried up with example. What strange ruins,

Since first we went to school, may we perceive

Walking in Thebes! scars and bare weeds

The gain o’ th’ martialist, who did propound

To his bold ends honor and golden ingots,

Which though he won, he had not; and now flurted

By peace, for whom he fought, who then shall offer

To Mars’s so scorn’d altar? I do bleed

When such I meet, and wish great Juno would

Resume her ancient fit of jealousy

To get the soldier work, that peace might purge

For her repletion, and retain anew

Her charitable heart, now hard, and harsher

Than strife or war could be.


Are you not out?

Meet you no ruin but the soldier in

The cranks and turns of Thebes? You did begin

As if you met decays of many kinds.

Perceive you none that do arouse your pity

But th’ unconsider’d soldier?


Yes, I pity

Decays where e’er I find them, but such most

That sweating in an honorable toil

Are paid with ice to cool ’em.


’Tis not this

I did begin to speak of. This is virtue

Of no respect in Thebes. I spake of Thebes,

How dangerous, if we will keep our honors,

It is for our residing; where every evil

Hath a good color; where ev’ry seeming good’s

A certain evil; where not to be ev’n jump

As they are, here were to be strangers, and

Such things to be, mere monsters.


’Tis in our power

(Unless we fear that apes can tutor’s) to

Be masters of our manners. What need I

Affect another’s gait, which is not catching

Where there is faith? or to be fond upon

Another’s way of speech, when by mine own

I may be reasonably conceiv’d; sav’d too,

Speaking it truly? Why am I bound

By any generous bond to follow him

Follows his tailor, haply so long until

The follow’d make pursuit? Or let me know

Why mine own barber is unblest, with him

My poor chin too, for ’tis not scissor’d just

To such a favorite’s glass? What canon is there

That does command my rapier from my hip,

To dangle’t in my hand, or to go tiptoe

Before the street be foul? Either I am

The forehorse in the team, or I am none

That draw i’ th’ sequent trace. These poor slight sores

Need not a plantin; that which rips my bosom

Almost to th’ heart’s—


Our uncle Creon.



A most unbounded tyrant, whose successes

Makes heaven unfear’d, and villainy assured

Beyond its power there’s nothing; almost puts

Faith in a fever, and deifies alone

Voluble chance; who only attributes

The faculties of other instruments

To his own nerves and act; commands men service,

And what they win in’t, boot and glory; one

That fears not to do harm; good, dares not. Let

The blood of mine that’s sib to him be suck’d

From me with leeches! let them break and fall

Off me with that corruption!


Clear-spirited cousin,

Let’s leave his court, that we may nothing share

Of his loud infamy; for our milk

Will relish of the pasture, and we must

Be vile, or disobedient—not his kinsmen

In blood unless in quality.


Nothing truer.

I think the echoes of his shames have deaf’d

The ears of heav’nly justice. Widows’ cries

Descend again into their throats, and have not

Due audience of the gods.

Enter Valerius.



The King calls for you; yet be leaden-footed

Till his great rage be off him. Phoebus, when

He broke his whipstock and exclaim’d against

The horses of the sun, but whisper’d, to

The loudness of his fury.


Small winds shake him.

But what’s the matter?


Theseus (who where he threats appalls) hath sent

Deadly defiance to him, and pronounces

Ruin to Thebes; who is at hand to seal

The promise of his wrath.


Let him approach.

But that we fear the gods in him, he brings not

A jot of terror to us. Yet what man

Thirds his own worth (the case is each of ours),

When that his action’s dregg’d with mind assur’d

’Tis bad he goes about.


Leave that unreason’d.

Our services stand now for Thebes, not Creon.

Yet to be neutral to him were dishonor;

Rebellious to oppose; therefore we must

With him stand to the mercy of our fate,

Who hath bounded our last minute.


So we must.

Is’t said this war’s afoot? or it shall be,

On fail of some condition?


’Tis in motion,

The intelligence of state came in the instant

With the defier.


Let’s to the King, who were he

A quarter carrier of that honor which

His enemy come in, the blood we venture

Should be as for our health, which were not spent,

Rather laid out for purchase. But alas,

Our hands advanc’d before our hearts, what will

The fall o’ th’ stroke do damage?


Let th’ event,

That never-erring arbitrator, tell us

When we know all ourselves, and let us follow

The becking of our chance.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act I, Scene 3

Scene 3

Before the gates of Athens.

(Pirithous, Hippolyta, Emilia)

Enter Pirithous, Hippolyta, Emilia.


No further.


Sir, farewell. Repeat my wishes

To our great lord, of whose success I dare not

Make any timorous question; yet I wish him

Excess and overflow of power, and’t might be,

To dure ill-dealing fortune. Speed to him,

Store never hurts good governors.


Though I know

His ocean needs not my poor drops, yet they

Must yield their tribute there. My precious maid,

Those best affections that the heavens infuse

In their best-temper’d pieces, keep enthron’d

In your dear heart!


Thanks, sir. Remember me

To our all-royal brother, for whose speed

The great Bellona I’ll solicit; and

Since in our terrene state petitions are not

Without gifts understood, I’ll offer to her

What I shall be advis’d she likes. Our hearts

Are in his army, in his tent.


In ’s bosom.

We have been soldiers, and we cannot weep

When our friends don their helms, or put to sea,

Or tell of babes broach’d on the lance, or women

That have sod their infants in (and after eat them)

The brine they wept at killing ’em. Then if

You stay to see of us such spinsters, we

Should hold you here for ever.


Peace be to you

As I pursue this war, which shall be then

Beyond further requiring.

Exit Pirithous.


How his longing

Follows his friend: since his depart, his sports,

Though craving seriousness and skill, pass’d slightly

His careless execution, where nor gain

Made him regard, or loss consider, but

Playing o’er business in his hand, another

Directing in his head, his mind nurse equal

To these so diff’ring twins. Have you observ’d him

Since our great lord departed?


With much labor;

And I did love him for’t. They two have cabin’d

In many as dangerous as poor a corner,

Peril and want contending, they have skiff’d

Torrents whose roaring tyranny and power

I’ th’ least of these was dreadful, and they have

Fought out together where death’s self was lodg’d;

Yet fate hath brought them off. Their knot of love

Tied, weav’d, entangled, with so true, so long,

And with a finger of so deep a cunning,

May be outworn, never undone. I think

Theseus cannot be umpire to himself,

Cleaving his conscience into twain and doing

Each side like justice, which he loves best.



There is a best, and reason has no manners

To say it is not you. I was acquainted

Once with a time when I enjoy’d a playfellow;

You were at wars when she the grave enrich’d,

Who made too proud the bed, took leave o’ th’ moon

(Which then look’d pale at parting) when our count

Was each aleven.


’Twas Flavina.



You talk of Pirithous’ and Theseus’ love:

Theirs has more ground, is more maturely season’d,

More buckled with strong judgment, and their needs

The one of th’ other may be said to water

Their intertangled roots of love, but I

And she (I sigh and spoke of) were things innocent,

Lov’d for we did, and like the elements

That know not what nor why, yet do effect

Rare issues by their operance, our souls

Did so to one another. What she lik’d

Was then of me approv’d, what not, condemn’d,

No more arraignment. The flow’r that I would pluck

And put between my breasts (O then but beginning

To swell about the blossom), she would long

Till she had such another, and commit it

To the like innocent cradle, where phoenix-like

They died in perfume. On my head no toy

But was her pattern, her affections (pretty,

Though happily her careless wear) I followed

For my most serious decking. Had mine ear

Stol’n some new air, or at adventure humm’d one

From musical coinage, why, it was a note

Whereon her spirits would sojourn (rather dwell on)

And sing it in her slumbers. This rehearsal

(Which, ev’ry innocent wots well, comes in

Like old importment’s bastard) has this end,

That the true love ’tween maid and maid may be

More than in sex dividual.


Y’ are out of breath,

And this high-speeded pace is but to say

That you shall never (like the maid Flavina)

Love any that’s call’d man.


I am sure I shall not.


Now alack, weak sister,

I must no more believe thee in this point

(Though in’t I know thou dost believe thyself)

Than I will trust a sickly appetite,

That loathes even as it longs. But sure, my sister,

If I were ripe for your persuasion, you

Have said enough to shake me from the arm

Of the all-noble Theseus, for whose fortunes

I will now in and kneel, with great assurance

That we, more than his Pirithous, possess

The high throne in his heart.


I am not

Against your faith, yet I continue mine.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act I, Scene 4

Scene 4

A field before Thebes. Dead bodies lying on the ground.

(Theseus, Lords, Three Queens, Herald, Attendants, Palamon, Arcite)

Cornets. A battle strook within; then a retrait; flourish. Then enter Theseus, victor, with his Lords. The three Queens meet him and fall on their faces before him.


To thee no star be dark.


Both heaven and earth

Friend thee for ever.


All the good that may

Be wish’d upon thy head, I cry amen to’t.


Th’ impartial gods, who from the mounted heavens

View us their mortal herd, behold who err,

And in their time chastise. Go and find out

The bones of your dead lords, and honor them

With treble ceremony; rather than a gap

Should be in their dear rites, we would supply’t.

But those we will depute which shall invest

You in your dignities, and even each thing

Our haste does leave imperfect. So adieu,

And heaven’s good eyes look on you!

Exeunt Queens.
Enter Herald with Attendants bearing Palamon and Arcite on two hearses.

What are those?


Men of great quality, as may be judg’d

By their appointment. Some of Thebes have told’s

They are sisters’ children, nephews to the King.


By th’ helm of Mars, I saw them in the war,

Like to a pair of lions smear’d with prey,

Make lanes in troops aghast. I fix’d my note

Constantly on them; for they were a mark

Worth a god’s view. What was’t that prisoner told me

When I inquired their names?


Wi’ leave, they’re called

Arcite and Palamon.


’Tis right—those, those.

They are not dead?


Nor in a state of life; had they been taken

When their last hurts were given, ’twas possible

They might have been recovered. Yet they breathe

And have the name of men.


Then like men use ’em.

The very lees of such (millions of rates)

Exceed the wine of others. All our surgeons

Convent in their behoof, our richest balms,

Rather than niggard, waste; their lives concern us

Much more than Thebes is worth. Rather than have ’em

Freed of this plight, and in their morning state

(Sound and at liberty), I would ’em dead;

But forty thousand fold we had rather have ’em

Prisoners to us than death. Bear ’em speedily

From our kind air, to them unkind, and minister

What man to man may do; for our sake more,

Since I have known frights, fury, friends’ behests,

Love’s provocations, zeal, a mistress’ task,

Desire of liberty, a fever, madness,

Hath set a mark which nature could not reach to

Without some imposition, sickness in will

O’er-wrastling strength in reason. For our love,

And great Apollo’s mercy, all our best

Their best skill tender.—Lead into the city,

Where having bound things scatter’d, we will post

To Athens ’fore our army.

Flourish. Exeunt, Attendants bearing Palamon and Arcite.

Two Noble Kinsmen: Act I, Scene 5

Scene 5

Another part of the same.

(Three Queens, Knights)

Music. Enter the Queens with the hearses of their Knights in a funeral solemnity, etc.


Urns and odors bring away,

Vapors, sighs, darken the day;

Our dole more deadly looks than dying;

Balms, and gums, and heavy cheers,

Sacred vials fill’d with tears,

And clamors through the wild air flying!

Come all sad and solemn shows,

That are quick-ey’d pleasure’s foes!

We convent nought else but woes:

We convent, etc.


This funeral path brings to your household’s grave:

Joy seize on you again! Peace sleep with him!


And this to yours.


Yours this way. Heavens lend

A thousand differing ways to one sure end.


This world’s a city full of straying streets,

And death’s the market-place, where each one meets.

Exeunt severally.

Two Noble Kinsmen: Act II, Scene 1

Scene 1

Athens. A garden, with a prison in the background.

(Jailer, Wooer, Daughter, Palamon, Arcite)

Enter Jailer and Wooer.


I may depart with little, while I live; something I may cast to you, not much. Alas, the prison I keep, though it be for great ones, yet they seldom come: before one salmon, you shall take a number of minnows. I am given out to be better lin’d than it can appear to me report is a true speaker. I would I were really that I am deliver’d to be. Marry, what I have (be it what it will) I will assure upon my daughter at the day of my death.


Sir, I demand no more than your own offer, and I will estate your daughter in what I have promis’d.


Well, we will talk more of this when the solemnity is past. But have you a full promise of her? When that shall be seen, I tender my consent.

Enter Daughter with strewings.


I have, sir. Here she comes.


Your friend and I have chanc’d to name you here, upon the old business. But no more of that now; so soon as the court hurry is over, we will have an end of it. I’ th’ mean time, look tenderly to the two prisoners. I can tell you they are princes.


These strewings are for their chamber. ’Tis pity they are in prison, and ’twere pity they should be out. I do think they have patience to make any adversity asham’d. The prison itself is proud of ’em; and they have all the world in their chamber.


They are fam’d to be a pair of absolute men.


By my troth, I think fame but stammers ’em, they stand a grise above the reach of report.


I heard them reported in the battle to be the only doers.


Nay, most likely, for they are noble suff’rers. I marvel how they would have look’d had they been victors, that with such a constant nobility enforce a freedom out of bondage, making misery their mirth, and affliction a toy to jest at.


Do they so?


It seems to me they have no more sense of their captivity than I of ruling Athens. They eat well, look merrily, discourse of many things, but nothing of their own restraint and disasters. Yet sometime a divided sigh, martyr’d as ’twere i’ th’ deliverance, will break from one of them; when the other presently gives it so sweet a rebuke that I could wish myself a sigh to be so chid, or at least a sigher to be comforted.


I never saw ’em.


The Duke himself came privately in the night, and so did they. What the reason of it is, I know not.

Enter Palamon and Arcite above.

Look yonder they are! That’s Arcite looks out.


No, sir, no, that’s Palamon. Arcite is the lower of the twain; you may perceive a part of him.


Go to, leave your pointing. They would not make us their object. Out of their sight.


It is a holiday to look on them. Lord, the diff’rence of men!

Exeunt Jailer, Wooer, and Daughter.

Two Noble Kinsmen: Act II, Scene 2

Scene 2

The prison.

(Palamon, Arcite, Emilia, Woman, Keeper)

Enter Palamon, and Arcite in prison.


How do you, noble cousin?


How do you, sir?


Why, strong enough to laugh at misery

And bear the chance of war yet. We are prisoners

I fear for ever, cousin.


I believe it,

And to that destiny have patiently

Laid up my hour to come.


O cousin Arcite,

Where is Thebes now? where is our noble country?

Where are our friends and kindreds? Never more

Must we behold those comforts, never see

The hardy youths strive for the games of honor,

Hung with the painted favors of their ladies,

Like tall ships under sail; then start amongst ’em

And as an east wind leave ’em all behind us,

Like lazy clouds, whilst Palamon and Arcite,

Even in the wagging of a wanton leg,

Outstripp’d the people’s praises, won the garlands,

Ere they have time to wish ’em ours. O, never

Shall we two exercise, like twins of honor,

Our arms again, and feel our fiery horses

Like proud seas under us. Our good swords now

(Better the red-ey’d god of war nev’r ware),

Ravish’d our sides, like age must run to rust,

And deck the temples of those gods that hate us;

These hands shall never draw ’em out like lightning

To blast whole armies more.


No, Palamon,

Those hopes are prisoners with us. Here we are,

And here the graces of our youths must wither

Like a too-timely spring. Here age must find us,

And which is heaviest, Palamon, unmarried.

The sweet embraces of a loving wife,

Loaden with kisses, arm’d with thousand Cupids,

Shall never clasp our necks; no issue know us;

No figures of ourselves shall we ev’r see

To glad our age, and like young eagles teach ’em

Boldly to gaze against bright arms, and say,

“Remember what your fathers were, and conquer!”

The fair-ey’d maids shall weep our banishments,

And in their songs curse ever-blinded Fortune

Till she for shame see what a wrong she has done

To youth and nature. This is all our world:

We shall know nothing here but one another,

Hear nothing but the clock that tells our woes;

The vine shall grow, but we shall never see it;

Summer shall come, and with her all delights,

But dead-cold winter must inhabit here still.


’Tis too true, Arcite. To our Theban hounds,

That shook the aged forest with their echoes,

No more now must we hallow; no more shake

Our pointed javelins, whilst the angry swine

Flies like a Parthian quiver from our rages,

Struck with our well-steel’d darts. All valiant uses

(The food and nourishment of noble minds)

In us two here shall perish; we shall die

(Which is the curse of honor) lastly

Children of grief and ignorance.


Yet, cousin,

Even from the bottom of these miseries,

From all that fortune can inflict upon us,

I see two comforts rising, two mere blessings,

If the gods please—to hold here a brave patience,

And the enjoying of our griefs together.

Whilst Palamon is with me, let me perish

If I think this our prison.



’Tis a main goodness, cousin, that our fortunes

Were twin’d together. ’Tis most true, two souls

Put in two noble bodies, let ’em suffer

The gall of hazard, so they grow together,

Will never sink; they must not, say they could;

A willing man dies sleeping, and all’s done.


Shall we make worthy uses of this place

That all men hate so much?


How, gentle cousin?


Let’s think this prison holy sanctuary

To keep us from corruption of worse men.

We are young and yet desire the ways of honor,

That liberty and common conversation,

The poison of pure spirits, might, like women,

Woo us to wander from. What worthy blessing

Can be, but our imaginations

May make it ours? And here being thus together,

We are an endless mine to one another;

We are one another’s wife, ever begetting

New births of love; we are father, friends, acquaintance;

We are, in one another, families:

I am your heir, and you are mine; this place

Is our inheritance. No hard oppressor

Dare take this from us; here with a little patience

We shall live long, and loving. No surfeits seek us;

The hand of war hurts none here, nor the seas

Swallow their youth. Were we at liberty,

A wife might part us lawfully, or business,

Quarrels consume us, envy of ill men

Crave our acquaintance; I might sicken, cousin,

Where you should never know it, and so perish

Without your noble hand to close mine eyes,

Or prayers to the gods. A thousand chances,

Were we from hence, would sever us.


You have made me

(I thank you, cousin Arcite) almost wanton

With my captivity. What a misery

It is to live abroad, and every where!

’Tis like a beast, methinks. I find the court here,

I am sure, a more content, and all those pleasures

That woo the wills of men to vanity

I see through now, and am sufficient

To tell the world ’tis but a gaudy shadow

That old Time, as he passes by, takes with him.

What had we been, old in the court of Creon,

Where sin is justice, lust and ignorance

The virtues of the great ones? Cousin Arcite,

Had not the loving gods found this place for us,

We had died as they do, ill old men, unwept,

And had their epitaphs, the people’s curses.

Shall I say more?


I would hear you still.


Ye shall.

Is there record of any two that lov’d

Better than we do, Arcite?


Sure there cannot.


I do not think it possible our friendship

Should ever leave us.


Till our deaths it cannot,

Enter Emilia and her Woman below.

And after death our spirits shall be led

To those that love eternally. Speak on, sir.


This garden has a world of pleasures in’t.

What flow’r is this?


’Tis call’d narcissus, madam.


That was a fair boy certain, but a fool

To love himself. Were there not maids enough?


Pray forward.




Or were they all hard-hearted?


They could not be to one so fair.


Thou wouldst not.


I think I should not, madam.


That’s a good wench!

But take heed to your kindness though.


Why, madam?


Men are mad things.


Will ye go forward, cousin?


Canst not thou work such flowers in silk, wench?




I’ll have a gown full of ’em, and of these:

This is a pretty color, will’t not do

Rarely upon a skirt, wench?


Dainty, madam.


Cousin, cousin, how do you, sir? why, Palamon!


Never till now I was in prison, Arcite.


Why, what’s the matter, man?


Behold, and wonder!

By heaven, she is a goddess.




Do reverence;

She is a goddess, Arcite.


Of all flow’rs

Methinks a rose is best.


Why, gentle madam?


It is the very emblem of a maid;

For when the west wind courts her gently,

How modestly she blows, and paints the sun

With her chaste blushes! When the north comes near her,

Rude and impatient, then, like chastity,

She locks her beauties in her bud again,

And leaves him to base briers.


Yet, good madam,

Sometimes her modesty will blow so far she falls for’t.

A maid, if she have any honor, would be loath

To take example by her.


Thou art wanton.


She is wondrous fair.


She is all the beauty extant.


The sun grows high, let’s walk in. Keep these flowers,

We’ll see how near art can come near their colors.

I am wondrous merry-hearted, I could laugh now.


I could lie down, I am sure.


And take one with you?


That’s as we bargain, madam.


Well, agree then.

Exeunt Emilia and Woman.


What think you of this beauty?


’Tis a rare one.


Is’t but a rare one?


Yes, a matchless beauty.


Might not a man well lose himself and love her?


I cannot tell what you have done; I have,

Beshrew mine eyes for’t! Now I feel my shackles.


You love her then?


Who would not?


And desire her?


Before my liberty.


I saw her first.


That’s nothing.


But it shall be.


I saw her too.


Yes, but you must not love her.


I will not, as you do—to worship her

As she is heavenly and a blessed goddess;

I love her as a woman, to enjoy her.

So both may love.


You shall not love at all.


Not love at all! who shall deny me?


I, that first saw her; I, that took possession

First with mine eye of all those beauties in her

Reveal’d to mankind. If thou lov’st her,

Or entertain’st a hope to blast my wishes,

Thou art a traitor, Arcite, and a fellow

False as thy title to her. Friendship, blood,

And all the ties between us, I disclaim

If thou once think upon her.


Yes, I love her,

And if the lives of all my name lay on it,

I must do so; I love her with my soul;

If that will lose ye, farewell, Palamon.

I say again, I love, and in loving her maintain

I am as worthy and as free a lover,

And have as just a title to her beauty,

As any Palamon or any living

That is a man’s son.


Have I call’d thee friend?


Yes, and have found me so. Why are you mov’d thus?

Let me deal coldly with you: am not I

Part of your blood, part of your soul? You have told me

That I was Palamon, and you were Arcite.




Am not I liable to those affections,

Those joys, griefs, angers, fears, my friend shall suffer?


Ye may be.


Why then would you deal so cunningly,

So strangely, so unlike a noble kinsman,

To love alone? Speak truly: do you think me

Unworthy of her sight?


No; but unjust

If thou pursue that sight.


Because another

First sees the enemy, shall I stand still,

And let mine honor down, and never charge?


Yes, if he be but one.


But say that one

Had rather combat me?


Let that one say so,

And use thy freedom; else, if thou pursuest her,

Be as that cursed man that hates his country,

A branded villain.


You are mad.


I must be—

Till thou art worthy, Arcite, it concerns me,

And in this madness if I hazard thee

And take thy life, I deal but truly.


Fie, sir!

You play the child extremely. I will love her,

I must, I ought to do so, and I dare—

And all this justly.


O that now, that now

Thy false-self and thy friend had but this fortune

To be one hour at liberty, and grasp

Our good swords in our hands, I would quickly teach thee

What ’twere to filch affection from another!

Thou art baser in it than a cutpurse.

Put but thy head out of this window more,

And as I have a soul, I’ll nail thy life to’t!


Thou dar’st not, fool, thou canst not, thou art feeble.

Put my head out? I’ll throw my body out,

And leap the garden, when I see her next,

And pitch between her arms to anger thee.

Enter Keeper above.


No more; the keeper’s coming. I shall live

To knock thy brains out with my shackles.




By your leave, gentlemen.


Now, honest keeper?


Lord Arcite, you must presently to th’ Duke;

The cause I know not yet.


I am ready, keeper.


Prince Palamon, I must awhile bereave you

Of your fair cousin’s company.

Exeunt Arcite and Keeper.


And me too,

Even when you please, of life. Why is he sent for?

It may be he shall marry her; he’s goodly,

And like enough the Duke hath taken notice

Both of his blood and body. But his falsehood!

Why should a friend be treacherous? If that

Get him a wife so noble and so fair,

Let honest men ne’er love again. Once more

I would but see this fair one. Blessed garden,

And fruit and flowers more blessed, that still blossom

As her bright eyes shine on ye, would I were,

For all the fortune of my life hereafter,

Yon little tree, yon blooming apricock!

How I would spread, and fling my wanton arms

In at her window! I would bring her fruit

Fit for the gods to feed on; youth and pleasure,

Still as she tasted, should be doubled on her,

And if she be not heavenly, I would make her

So near the gods in nature, they should fear her;

And then I am sure she would love me.

Enter Keeper above.

How now, keeper,

Where’s Arcite?


Banish’d. Prince Pirithous

Obtained his liberty; but never more,

Upon his oath and life, must he set foot

Upon this kingdom.



He’s a blessed man!

He shall see Thebes again, and call to arms

The bold young men that when he bids ’em charge,

Fall on like fire. Arcite shall have a fortune,

If he dare make himself a worthy lover,

Yet in the field to strike a battle for her;

And if he lose her then, he’s a cold coward.

How bravely may he bear himself to win her,

If he be noble Arcite—thousand ways!

Were I at liberty, I would do things

Of such a virtuous greatness that this lady,

This blushing virgin, should take manhood to her

And seek to ravish me.


My lord, for you

I have this charge too—


To discharge my life?


No, but from this place to remove your lordship;

The windows are too open.


Devils take ’em

That are so envious to me! Prithee kill me.


And hang for’t afterward!


By this good light,

Had I a sword, I would kill thee.


Why, my lord?


Thou bring’st such pelting scurvy news continually,

Thou art not worthy life. I will not go.


Indeed you must, my lord.


May I see the garden?




Then I am resolv’d, I will not go.


I must

Constrain you then; and for you are dangerous

I’ll clap more irons on you.


Do, good keeper.

I’ll shake ’em so, ye shall not sleep,

I’ll make ye a new morris. Must I go?


There is no remedy.



Farewell, kind window.

May rude wind never hurt thee! O my lady,

If ever thou hast felt what sorrow was,

Dream how I suffer!—Come; now bury me.

Exeunt Palamon and Keeper.

Two Noble Kinsmen: Act II, Scene 3

Scene 3

The country near Athens.

(Arcite, Four Country People)

Enter Arcite.


Banish’d the kingdom? ’Tis a benefit,

A mercy I must thank ’em for; but banish’d

The free enjoying of that face I die for—

O, ’twas a studied punishment, a death

Beyond imagination! such a vengeance

That were I old and wicked, all my sins

Could never pluck upon me. Palamon!

Thou hast the start now; thou shalt stay and see

Her bright eyes break each morning ’gainst thy window,

And let in life into thee; thou shalt feed

Upon the sweetness of a noble beauty,

That nature nev’r exceeded, nor nev’r shall.

Good gods! what happiness has Palamon!

Twenty to one, he’ll come to speak to her,

And if she be as gentle as she’s fair,

I know she’s his; he has a tongue will tame tempests,

And make the wild rocks wanton. Come what can come,

The worst is death: I will not leave the kingdom.

I know mine own is but a heap of ruins,

And no redress there. If I go, he has her.

I am resolv’d another shape shall make me,

Or end my fortunes. Either way, I am happy:

I’ll see her, and be near her, or no more.


Enter four Country People, and one with a garland before them.

1. COUN.

My masters, I’ll be there, that’s certain.

2. COUN.

And I’ll be there.

3. COUN.

And I.

4. COUN.

Why then have with ye, boys! ’Tis but a chiding.

Let the plough play today, I’ll tickle’t out

Of the jades’ tails tomorrow.

1. COUN.

I am sure

To have my wife as jealous as a turkey.

But that’s all one, I’ll go through, let her mumble.

2. COUN.

Clap her aboard tomorrow night, and stow her,

And all’s made up again.

3. COUN.

Ay, do but put

A fescue in her fist, and you shall see her

Take a new lesson out, and be a good wench.

Do we all hold against the Maying?

4. COUN.


What should ail us?

3. COUN.

Arcas will be there.

2. COUN.

And Sennois,

And Rycas, and three better lads nev’r danc’d

Under green tree; and ye know what wenches, ha?

But will the dainty domine, the schoolmaster,

Keep touch, do you think? for he does all, ye know.

3. COUN.

He’ll eat a horn-book ere he fail. Go to!

The matter’s too far driven between him

And the tanner’s daughter to let slip now;

And she must see the Duke, and she must dance too.

4. COUN.

Shall we be lusty?

2. COUN.

All the boys in Athens

Blow wind i’ th’ breech on ’s, and here I’ll be,

And there I’ll be, for our town, and here again,

And there again. Ha, boys, heigh for the weavers!

1. COUN.

This must be done i’ th’ woods.

4. COUN.

O, pardon me!

2. COUN.

By any means; our thing of learning says so—

Where he himself will edify the Duke

Most parlously in our behalfs. He’s excellent i’ th’ woods,

Bring him to th’ plains, his learning makes no cry.

3. COUN.

We’ll see the sports, then every man to ’s tackle!

And, sweet companions, let’s rehearse by any means

Before the ladies see us, and do sweetly,

And God knows what may come on’t.

4. COUN.

Content. The sports

Once ended, we’ll perform. Away, boys, and hold!


Comes forward.

By your leaves, honest friends: pray you, whither go you?

4. COUN.

Whither? why, what a question’s that?


Yes, ’tis a question

To me that know not.

3. COUN.

To the games, my friend.

2. COUN.

Where were you bred you know it not?


Not far, sir.

Are there such games today?

1. COUN.

Yes, marry, are there;

And such as you never saw. The Duke himself

Will be in person there.


What pastimes are they?

2. COUN.

Wrastling and running.—’Tis a pretty fellow.

3. COUN.

Thou wilt not go along?


Not yet, sir.

4. COUN.

Well, sir,

Take your own time. Come, boys.

1. COUN.

My mind misgives me

This fellow has a veng’ance trick o’ th’ hip,

Mark how his body’s made for’t.

2. COUN.

I’ll be hang’d though

If he dare venture. Hang him, plum porridge!

He wrastle? he roast eggs! Come let’s be gone, lads.

Exeunt four Countrymen.


This is an offer’d opportunity

I durst not wish for. Well I could have wrestled,

The best men call’d it excellent; and run

Swifter than wind upon a field of corn,

Curling the wealthy ears, never flew. I’ll venture,

And in some poor disguise be there. Who knows

Whether my brows may not be girt with garlands,

And happiness prefer me to a place

Where I may ever dwell in sight of her?

Exit Arcite.

Two Noble Kinsmen: Act II, Scene 4

Scene 4

Athens. A room in the prison.

(Jailer’s Daughter)

Enter Jailer’s Daughter alone.


Why should I love this gentleman? ’Tis odds

He never will affect me. I am base,

My father the mean keeper of his prison,

And he a prince. To marry him is hopeless;

To be his whore is witless. Out upon’t!

What pushes are we wenches driven to

When fifteen once has found us! First, I saw him:

I, seeing, thought he was a goodly man;

He has as much to please a woman in him

(If he please to bestow it so) as ever

These eyes yet look’d on. Next, I pitied him;

And so would any young wench o’ my conscience

That ever dream’d, or vow’d her maidenhead

To a young handsome man. Then, I lov’d him,

Extremely lov’d him, infinitely lov’d him;

And yet he had a cousin, fair as he too;

But in my heart was Palamon, and there,

Lord, what a coil he keeps! To hear him

Sing in an evening, what a heaven it is!

And yet his songs are sad ones. Fairer spoken

Was never gentleman. When I come in

To bring him water in a morning, first

He bows his noble body, then salutes me thus:

“Fair gentle maid, good morrow. May thy goodness

Get thee a happy husband!” Once he kiss’d me—

I lov’d my lips the better ten days after.

Would he would do so ev’ry day! He grieves much,

And me as much to see his misery.

What should I do to make him know I love him,

For I would fain enjoy him? Say I ventur’d

To set him free? what says the law then?

Thus much for law or kindred! I will do it,

And this night, or tomorrow, he shall love me.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act II, Scene 5

Scene 5

An open place in Athens.

(Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous, Emilia, Arcite)

This short flourish of cornets, and shouts within. Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous, Emilia, Arcite disguised, with a garland, etc.


You have done worthily. I have not seen,

Since Hercules, a man of tougher sinews.

What e’er you are, you run the best, and wrastle,

That these times can allow.


I am proud to please you.


What country bred you?


This; but far off, prince.


Are you a gentleman?


My father said so;

And to those gentle uses gave me life.


Are you his heir?


His youngest, sir.


Your father

Sure is a happy sire then. What proves you?


A little of all noble qualities:

I could have kept a hawk, and well have hollow’d

To a deep cry of dogs; I dare not praise

My feat in horsemanship, yet they that knew me

Would say it was my best piece; last, and greatest,

I would be thought a soldier.


You are perfect.


Upon my soul, a proper man!


He is so.


How do you like him, lady?


I admire him;

I have not seen so young a man so noble

(If he say true) of his sort.



His mother was a wondrous handsome woman,

His face, methinks, goes that way.


But his body

And fiery mind illustrate a brave father.


Mark how his virtue, like a hidden sun,

Breaks through his baser garments.


He’s well got sure.


What made you seek this place, sir?


Noble Theseus,

To purchase name, and do my ablest service

To such a well-found wonder as thy worth,

For only in thy court, of all the world,

Dwells fair-ey’d honor.


All his words are worthy.


Sir, we are much indebted to your travel,

Nor shall you lose your wish. Pirithous,

Dispose of this fair gentleman.


Thanks, Theseus.—

What e’er you are, y’ are mine, and I shall give you

To a most noble service—to this lady,

This bright young virgin. Pray observe her goodness.

You have honor’d her fair birthday with your virtues,

And as your due y’ are hers. Kiss her fair hand, sir.


Sir, y’ are a noble giver. Dearest beauty,

Thus let me seal my vow’d faith.

Kisses Emilia’s hand.

When your servant

(Your most unworthy creature) but offends you,

Command him die, he shall.


That were too cruel.

If you deserve well, sir, I shall soon see’t.

Y’ are mine, and somewhat better than your rank I’ll use you.


I’ll see you furnish’d, and because you say

You are a horseman, I must needs entreat you

This afternoon to ride, but ’tis a rough one.


I like him better, prince, I shall not then

Freeze in my saddle.


Sweet, you must be ready,

And you, Emilia, and you, friend, and all,

Tomorrow, by the sun, to do observance

To flow’ry May, in Dian’s wood. Wait well, sir,

Upon your mistress. Emily, I hope

He shall not go afoot.


That were a shame, sir,

While I have horses.—Take your choice, and what

You want at any time, let me but know it.

If you serve faithfully, I dare assure you

You’ll find a loving mistress.


If I do not,

Let me find that my father ever hated,

Disgrace and blows.


Go lead the way; you have won it.

It shall be so; you shall receive all dues

Fit for the honor you have won; ’twere wrong else.

Sister, beshrew my heart, you have a servant

That if I were a woman, would be master,

But you are wise.


I hope too wise for that, sir.

Flourish. Exeunt omnes.

Two Noble Kinsmen: Act II, Scene 6

Scene 6

Before the prison.

(Jailer’s Daughter)

Enter Jailer’s Daughter alone.


Let all the dukes and all the devils roar,

He is at liberty! I have ventur’d for him,

And out I have brought him to a little wood

A mile hence. I have sent him where a cedar,

Higher than all the rest, spreads like a plane

Fast by a brook, and there he shall keep close

Till I provide him files and food, for yet

His iron bracelets are not off. O Love,

What a stout-hearted child thou art! My father

Durst better have endur’d cold iron than done it.

I love him beyond love and beyond reason,

Or wit, or safety. I have made him know it.

I care not, I am desperate. If the law

Find me, and then condemn me for’t, some wenches,

Some honest-hearted maids, will sing my dirge,

And tell to memory my death was noble,

Dying almost a martyr. That way he takes

I purpose is my way too. Sure he cannot

Be so unmanly as to leave me here.

If he do, maids will not so easily

Trust men again. And yet he has not thank’d me

For what I have done; no, not so much as kiss’d me;

And that, methinks, is not so well; nor scarcely

Could I persuade him to become a freeman,

He made such scruples of the wrong he did

To me and to my father. Yet I hope,

When he considers more, this love of mine

Will take more root within him. Let him do

What he will with me, so he use me kindly,

For use me so he shall, or I’ll proclaim him,

And to his face, no man. I’ll presently

Provide him necessaries, and pack my clothes up,

And where there is a path of ground I’ll venture,

So he be with me. By him, like a shadow,

I’ll ever dwell. Within this hour the whoobub

Will be all o’er the prison. I am then

Kissing the man they look for. Farewell, father;

Get many more such prisoners and such daughters,

And shortly you may keep yourself. Now to him!


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act III, Scene 1

Scene 1

A forest near Athens.

(Arcite, Palamon)

Cornets in sundry places. Noise and hallowing, as people a-Maying. Enter Arcite alone.


The Duke has lost Hippolyta; each took

A several land. This is a solemn rite

They owe bloom’d May, and the Athenians pay it

To th’ heart of ceremony. O queen Emilia,

Fresher than May, sweeter

Than her gold buttons on the boughs, or all

Th’ enamell’d knacks o’ th’ mead or garden! yea

(We challenge too) the bank of any nymph,

That makes the stream seem flowers! thou, O jewel

O’ th’ wood, o’ th’ world, hast likewise blest a place

With thy sole presence. In thy rumination

That I, poor man, might eftsoons come between

And chop on some cold thought! Thrice-blessed chance,

To drop on such a mistress, expectation

Most guiltless on’t. Tell me, O Lady Fortune

(Next after Emily my sovereign), how far

I may be proud. She takes strong note of me,

Hath made me near her; and this beauteous morn

(The prim’st of all the year) presents me with

A brace of horses; two such steeds might well

Be by a pair of kings back’d, in a field

That their crowns’ titles tried. Alas, alas,

Poor cousin Palamon, poor prisoner, thou

So little dream’st upon my fortune that

Thou think’st thyself the happier thing to be

So near Emilia. Me thou deem’st at Thebes,

And therein wretched, although free. But if

Thou knew’st my mistress breath’d on me, and that

I ear’d her language, liv’d in her eye, O coz,

What passion would enclose thee!

Enter Palamon, as out of a bush, with his shackles; bends his fist at Arcite.


Traitor kinsman,

Thou shouldst perceive my passion, if these signs

Of prisonment were off me, and this hand

But owner of a sword! By all oaths in one,

I, and the justice of my love, would make thee

A confess’d traitor! O thou most perfidious

That ever gently look’d! the void’st of honor

That ev’r bore gentle token! falsest cousin

That ever blood made kin, call’st thou her thine?

I’ll prove it in my shackles, with these hands

Void of appointment, that thou li’st, and art

A very thief in love, a chaffy lord,

Nor worth the name of villain! Had I a sword,

And these house-clogs away—


Dear cousin Palamon—


Cozener Arcite, give me language such

As thou hast show’d me feat.


Not finding in

The circuit of my breast any gross stuff

To form me like your blazon, holds me to

This gentleness of answer: ’tis your passion

That thus mistakes, the which to you being enemy,

Cannot to me be kind. Honor and honesty

I cherish and depend on, howsoev’r

You skip them in me, and with them, fair coz,

I’ll maintain my proceedings. Pray be pleas’d

To show in generous terms your griefs, since that

Your question’s with your equal, who professes

To clear his own way with the mind and sword

Of a true gentleman.


That thou durst, Arcite!


My coz, my coz, you have been well advertis’d

How much I dare; y’ave seen me use my sword

Against th’ advice of fear. Sure, of another

You would not hear me doubted, but your silence

Should break out, though i’ th’ sanctuary.



I have seen you move in such a place which well

Might justify your manhood; you were call’d

A good knight and a bold. But the whole week’s not fair

If any day it rain. Their valiant temper

Men lose when they incline to treachery,

And then they fight like compell’d bears, would fly

Were they not tied.


Kinsman, you might as well

Speak this and act it in your glass, as to

His ear which now disdains you.


Come up to me,

Quit me of these cold gyves, give me a sword

Though it be rusty, and the charity

Of one meal lend me; come before me then,

A good sword in thy hand, and do but say

That Emily is thine, I will forgive

The trespass thou hast done me, yea, my life

If then thou carry’t, and brave souls in shades

That have died manly, which will seek of me

Some news from earth, they shall get none but this—

That thou art brave and noble.


Be content,

Again betake you to your hawthorn house.

With counsel of the night, I will be here

With wholesome viands; these impediments

Will I file off; you shall have garments, and

Perfumes to kill the smell o’ th’ prison; after,

When you shall stretch yourself, and say but, “Arcite,

I am in plight,” there shall be at your choice

Both sword and armor.


O you heavens, dares any

So noble bear a guilty business? None

But only Arcite; therefore none but Arcite

In this kind is so bold.


Sweet Palamon—


I do embrace you and your offer. For

Your offer do’t I only, sir; your person

Without hypocrisy I may not wish

More than my sword’s edge on’t.

Wind horns off. Cornets.


You hear the horns:

Enter your musit, lest this match between ’s

Be cross’d ere met. Give me your hand, farewell.

I’ll bring you every needful thing. I pray you

Take comfort and be strong.


Pray hold your promise;

And do the deed with a bent brow. Most certain

You love me not; be rough with me, and pour

This oil out of your language. By this air,

I could for each word give a cuff, my stomach

Not reconcil’d by reason.


Plainly spoken,

Yet pardon me hard language. When I spur

My horse, I chide him not; content and anger

In me have but one face.

Wind horns within.

Hark, sir, they call

The scatter’d to the banket. You must guess

I have an office there.


Sir, your attendance

Cannot please heaven, and I know your office

Unjustly is achiev’d.


If a good title,

I am persuaded this question, sick between ’s,

By bleeding must be cur’d. I am a suitor

That to your sword you will bequeath this plea,

And talk of it no more.


But this one word:

You are going now to gaze upon my mistress,

For note you, mine she is—


Nay then—


Nay, pray you—

You talk of feeding me to breed me strength;

You are going now to look upon a sun

That strengthens what it looks on; there you have

A vantage o’er me, but enjoy’t till

I may enforce my remedy. Farewell.

Exeunt severally.

Two Noble Kinsmen: Act III, Scene 2

Scene 2

Another Part of the forest.

(Jailer’s Daughter)

Enter Jailer’s Daughter alone.


He has mistook the brake I meant, is gone

After his fancy. ’Tis now well-nigh morning;

No matter, would it were perpetual night,

And darkness lord o’ th’ world! Hark, ’tis a wolf!

In me hath grief slain fear, and but for one thing,

I care for nothing, and that’s Palamon.

I reak not if the wolves would jaw me, so

He had this file. What if I hallow’d for him?

I cannot hallow. If I whoop’d, what then?

If he not answer’d, I should call a wolf,

And do him but that service. I have heard

Strange howls this livelong night; why may’t not be

They have made prey of him? He has no weapons,

He cannot run, the jingling of his gyves

Might call fell things to listen, who have in them

A sense to know a man unarm’d, and can

Smell where resistance is. I’ll set it down

He’s torn to pieces. They howl’d many together,

And then they fed on him. So much for that,

Be bold to ring the bell. How stand I then?

All’s char’d when he is gone. No, no, I lie:

My father’s to be hang’d for his escape,

Myself to beg, if I priz’d life so much

As to deny my act, but that I would not,

Should I try death by dozens. I am mop’d:

Food took I none these two days—

Sipp’d some water. I have not clos’d mine eyes

Save when my lids scour’d off their brine. Alas,

Dissolve, my life, let not my sense unsettle

Lest I should drown, or stab, or hang myself.

O state of nature, fail together in me,

Since thy best props are warp’d! So which way now?

The best way is, the next way to a grave;

Each errant step beside is torment. Lo

The moon is down, the crickets chirp, the screech-owl

Calls in the dawn! All offices are done

Save what I fail in. But the point is this—

An end, and that is all.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act III, Scene 3

Scene 3

Same as Scene 1.

(Arcite, Palamon)

Enter Arcite with meat, wine, and files.


I should be near the place. Ho, cousin Palamon!

Enter Palamon.




The same. I have brought you food and files.

Come forth and fear not, here’s no Theseus.


Nor none so honest, Arcite.


That’s no matter,

We’ll argue that hereafter. Come, take courage,

You shall not die thus beastly. Here, sir, drink—

I know you are faint—then I’ll talk further with you.


Arcite, thou mightst now poison me.


I might;

But I must fear you first. Sit down, and good now

No more of these vain parleys; let us not,

Having our ancient reputation with us,

Make talk for fools and cowards. To your health, etc.





Pray sit down then, and let me entreat you

By all the honesty and honor in you,

No mention of this woman. ’Twill disturb us,

We shall have time enough.


Well, sir, I’ll pledge you.



Drink a good hearty draught, it breeds good blood, man.

Do not you feel it thaw you?


Stay, I’ll tell you

After a draught or two more.


Spare it not,

The Duke has more, coz. Eat now.





I am glad

You have so good a stomach.


I am gladder

I have so good meat to’t.


Is’t not mad lodging

Here in the wild woods, cousin?


Yes, for them

That have wild consciences.


How tastes your victuals?

Your hunger needs no sauce, I see.


Not much.

But if it did, yours is too tart, sweet cousin.

What is this?




’Tis a lusty meat.

Give me more wine. Here, Arcite, to the wenches

We have known in our days! The Lord Steward’s daughter—

Do you remember her?


After you, coz.


She lov’d a black-hair’d man.


She did so; well, sir?


And I have heard some call him Arcite, and—


Out with’t, faith!


She met him in an arbor:

What did she there, coz? play o’ th’ virginals?


Something she did, sir.


Made her groan a month for’t;

Or two, or three, or ten.


The Marshal’s sister

Had her share too, as I remember, cousin,

Else there be tales abroad. You’ll pledge her?




A pretty brown wench ’tis. There was a time

When young men went a-hunting, and a wood,

And a broad beech; and thereby hangs a tale.



For Emily, upon my life! Fool,

Away with this strain’d mirth! I say again,

That sigh was breath’d for Emily. Base cousin,

Dar’st thou break first?


You are wide.


By heaven and earth,

There’s nothing in thee honest.


Then I’ll leave you;

You are a beast now.


As thou mak’st me, traitor!


There’s all things needful, files and shirts and perfumes.

I’ll come again some two hours hence and bring

That that shall quiet all.


A sword and armor.


Fear me not. You are now too foul; farewell.

Get off your trinkets, you shall want nought.




I’ll hear no more.



If he keep touch, he dies for’t.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act III, Scene 4

Scene 4

Another part of the forest.

(Jailer’s Daughter)

Enter Jailer’s Daughter.


I am very cold, and all the stars are out too,

The little stars and all, that look like aglets.

The sun has seen my folly. Palamon!

Alas, no; he’s in heaven. Where am I now?

Yonder’s the sea, and there’s a ship. How’t tumbles!

And there’s a rock lies watching under water;

Now, now, it beats upon it—now, now, now!

There’s a leak sprung, a sound one. How they cry!

Open her before the wind! You’ll lose all else.

Up with a course or two, and tack about, boys!

Good night, good night, y’ are gone. I am very hungry:

Would I could find a fine frog! he would tell me

News from all parts o’ th’ world. Then would I make

A carreck of a cockleshell, and sail

By east and north-east to the King of Pigmies,

For he tells fortunes rarely. Now my father,

Twenty to one, is truss’d up in a trice

Tomorrow morning; I’ll say never a word.


“For I’ll cut my green coat a foot above my knee,

And I’ll clip my yellow locks an inch below mine e’e.

Hey, nonny, nonny, nonny.

He s’ buy me a white cut, forth for to ride,

And I’ll go seek him through the world that is so wide.

Hey, nonny, nonny, nonny.”

O for a prick now, like a nightingale,

To put my breast against! I shall sleep like a top else.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act III, Scene 5

Scene 5

Another part of the forest.

(Schoolmaster Gerrold, Four Countrymen, Bavian, Five Wenches, Taborer, Jailer’s Daughter, Theseus, Pirithous, Hippolyta, Emilia, Arcite, Dancers)

Enter a Schoolmaster Gerrold, four Countrymen as morris-dancers and another as the Bavian, five Wenches, with a Taborer.


Fie, fie,

What tediosity and disensanity

Is here among ye! Have my rudiments

Been labor’d so long with ye, milk’d unto ye,

And by a figure, even the very plum-broth

And marrow of my understanding laid upon ye,

And do you still cry, “Where?” and “How?” and “Wherefore?”

You most coarse frieze capacities, ye jane judgments,

Have I said, “Thus let be,” and “There let be,”

And “Then let be,” and no man understand me?

Proh Deum, medius fidius, ye are all dunces!

For why, here stand I; here the Duke comes; there are you,

Close in the thicket. The Duke appears, I meet him

And unto him I utter learned things,

And many figures; he hears, and nods, and hums,

And then cries, “Rare!” and I go forward. At length

I fling my cap up; mark there! Then do you,

As once did Meleager and the boar,

Break comely out before him; like true lovers,

Cast yourselves in a body decently,

And sweetly, by a figure, trace and turn, boys.

1. COUN.

And sweetly we will do it, Master Gerrold.

2. COUN.

Draw up the company. Where’s the taborer?

3. COUN.

Why, Timothy!


Here, my mad boys, have at ye!


But I say, where’s their women?

4. COUN.

Here’s Friz and Maudline.

2. COUN.

And little Luce with the white legs, and bouncing Barbary.

1. COUN.

And freckled Nell—that never fail’d her master.


Where be your ribands, maids? Swim with your bodies,

And carry it sweetly and deliverly,

And now and then a favor and a frisk.


Let us alone, sir.


Where’s the rest o’ th’ music?

3. COUN.

Dispers’d as you commanded.


Couple then,

And see what’s wanting. Where’s the Bavian?

My friend, carry your tail without offense

Or scandal to the ladies; and be sure

You tumble with audacity and manhood,

And when you bark, do it with judgment.


Yes, sir.


Quo usque tandem? Here is a woman wanting.

4. COUN.

We may go whistle; all the fat’s i’ th’ fire.


We have, as learned authors utter, wash’d a tile,

We have been fatuus, and labored vainly.

2. COUN.

This is that scornful piece, that scurvy hilding,

That gave her promise faithfully she would

Be here, Cicely the sempster’s daughter.

The next gloves that I give her shall be dogskin;

Nay, and she fail me once—You can tell, Arcas,

She swore by wine and bread she would not break.


An eel and woman,

A learned poet says, unless by th’ tail

And with thy teeth thou hold, will either fail.

In manners this was false position.

1. COUN.

A fire ill take her! does she flinch now?

3. COUN.


Shall we determine, sir?



Our business is become a nullity,

Yea, and a woeful and a piteous nullity.

4. COUN.

Now when the credit of our town lay on it,

Now to be frampal, now to piss o’ th’ nettle!

Go thy ways, I’ll remember thee, I’ll fit thee!

Enter Jailer’s Daughter.



“The George Alow came from the south,

From the coast of Barbary-a;

And there he met with brave gallants of war,

By one, by two, by three-a.

Well hail’d, well hail’d, you jolly gallants!

And whither now are you bound-a?

O, let me have your company

Till I come to the sound-a.”

“There was three fools fell out about an howlet:

The one said it was an owl,

The other he said nay,

The third he said it was a hawk,

And her bells were cut away.”

3. COUN.

There’s a dainty mad woman, master,

Comes i’ th’ nick, as mad as a March hare.

If we can get her dance, we are made again.

I warrant her, she’ll do the rarest gambols.

1. COUN.

A mad woman? We are made, boys!


And are you mad, good woman?


I would be sorry else.

Give me your hand.




I can tell your fortune.

You are a fool. Tell ten—I have pos’d him. Buzz!

Friend, you must eat no white bread; if you do,

Your teeth will bleed extremely. Shall we dance ho?

I know you, y’ are a tinker. Sirrah tinker,

Stop no more holes but what you should.


Dii boni!

A tinker, damsel?


Or a conjurer.

Raise me a devil now, and let him play

Qui passa o’ th’ bells and bones.


Go take her,

And fluently persuade her to a peace.

“Et opus exegi, quod nec Jovis ira, nec ignis”—

Strike up, and lead her in.

2. COUN.

Come, lass, let’s trip it.


I’ll lead.

3. COUN.

Do, do.


Persuasively and cunningly.

Wind horns.

Away, boys!

I hear the horns. Give me some meditation,

And mark your cue.

Exeunt all but Schoolmaster.

Pallas inspire me!

Enter Theseus, Pirithous, Hippolyta, Emilia, Arcite, and Train.


This way the stag took.


Stay, and edify.


What have we here?


Some country sport, upon my life, sir.


Well, sir, go forward, we will edify.

Ladies, sit down, we’ll stay it.


Thou doughty Duke, all hail! All hail, sweet ladies!


This is a cold beginning.


If you but favor, our country pastime made is.

We are a few of those collected here

That ruder tongues distinguish villager,

And to say verity, and not to fable,

We are a merry rout, or else a rable,

Or company, or by a figure, choris,

That ’fore thy dignity will dance a morris.

And I, that am the rectifier of all,

By title paedagogus, that let fall

The birch upon the breeches of the small ones,

And humble with a ferula the tall ones,

Do here present this machine, or this frame,

And, dainty Duke, whose doughty dismal fame

From Dis to Daedalus, from post to pillar,

Is blown abroad, help me, thy poor well-willer,

And with thy twinkling eyes look right and straight

Upon this mighty Morr—of mickle weight—

Is—now comes in, which being glu’d together

Makes Morris, and the cause that we came hither.

The body of our sport, of no small study,

I first appear, though rude, and raw, and muddy,

To speak, before thy noble Grace, this tenner;

At whose great feet I offer up my penner.

The next, the Lord of May and Lady bright,

The Chambermaid and Servingman, by night

That seek out silent hanging. Then mine Host

And his fat spouse, that welcomes to their cost

The galled traveller, and with a beck’ning

Informs the tapster to inflame the reck’ning.

Then the beast-eating Clown, and next the Fool,

The Bavian, with long tail and eke long tool,

Cum multis aliis that make a dance.

Say “Ay,” and all shall presently advance.


Ay, ay, by any means, dear domine.




Knock for school.

Intrate, filii; come forth, and foot it.

Enter the Dance. Music. Dance.

Ladies, if we have been merry,

And have pleas’d ye with a derry,

And a derry, and a down,

Say the schoolmaster’s no clown.

Duke, if we have pleas’d thee too

And have done as good boys should do,

Give us but a tree or twain

For a Maypole, and again,

Ere another year run out,

We’ll make thee laugh and all this rout.


Take twenty, domine.—How does my sweet heart?


Never so pleas’d, sir.


’Twas an excellent dance, and for a preface,

I never heard a better.


Schoolmaster, I thank you.

One see ’em all rewarded.


And here’s something

Gives money.

To paint your pole withal.


Now to our sports again.


May the stag thou hunt’st stand long,

And thy dogs be swift and strong!

May they kill him without lets,

And the ladies eat his dowsets!

Exeunt Theseus and his company. Wind horns.

Come, we are all made. Dii deaeque omnes!

Ye have danc’d rarely, wenches.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act III, Scene 6

Scene 6

Same as Scene 3.

(Palamon, Arcite, Theseus, Hippolyta, Emilia, Pirithous)

Enter Palamon from the bush.


About this hour my cousin gave his faith

To visit me again, and with him bring

Two swords and two good armors. If he fail,

He’s neither man nor soldier. When he left me,

I did not think a week could have restor’d

My lost strength to me, I was grown so low

And crestfall’n with my wants. I thank thee, Arcite,

Thou art yet a fair foe; and I feel myself,

With this refreshing, able once again

To out-dure danger. To delay it longer

Would make the world think, when it comes to hearing,

That I lay fatting like a swine, to fight,

And not a soldier: therefore this blest morning

Shall be the last; and that sword he refuses,

If it but hold, I kill him with. ’Tis justice.

So, love and fortune for me!

Enter Arcite with armors and swords.

O, good morrow.


Good morrow, noble kinsman.


I have put you

To too much pains, sir.


That too much, fair cousin,

Is but a debt to honor, and my duty.


Would you were so in all, sir! I could wish ye

As kind a kinsman as you force me find

A beneficial foe, that my embraces

Might thank ye, not my blows.


I shall think either,

Well done, a noble recompense.


Then I shall quit you.


Defy me in these fair terms, and you show

More than a mistress to me; no more anger,

As you love any thing that’s honorable.

We were not bred to talk, man. When we are arm’d

And both upon our guards, then let our fury,

Like meeting of two tides, fly strongly from us,

And then to whom the birthright of this beauty

Truly pertains (without obbraidings, scorns,

Despisings of our persons, and such poutings,

Fitter for girls and schoolboys) will be seen,

And quickly, yours or mine. Will’t please you arm, sir?

Or if you feel yourself not fitting yet

And furnish’d with your old strength, I’ll stay, cousin,

And ev’ry day discourse you into health,

As I am spar’d. Your person I am friends with,

And I could wish I had not said I lov’d her,

Though I had died; but loving such a lady

And justifying my love, I must not fly from’t.


Arcite, thou art so brave an enemy

That no man but thy cousin’s fit to kill thee.

I am well and lusty, choose your arms.


Choose you, sir.


Wilt thou exceed in all, or dost thou do it

To make me spare thee?


If you think so, cousin,

You are deceived, for as I am a soldier,

I will not spare you.


That’s well said.


You’ll find it.


Then as I am an honest man, and love

With all the justice of affection,

I’ll pay thee soundly. This I’ll take.


That’s mine then.

I’ll arm you first.


Do. Pray thee tell me, cousin,

Where got’st thou this good armor?


’Tis the Duke’s,

And to say true, I stole it. Do I pinch you?




Is’t not too heavy?


I have worn a lighter,

But I shall make it serve.


I’ll buckle’t close.


By any means.


You care not for a grand-guard?


No, no, we’ll use no horses. I perceive

You would fain be at that fight.


I am indifferent.


Faith, so am I. Good cousin, thrust the buckle

Through far enough.


I warrant you.


My casque now.


Will you fight bare-arm’d?


We shall be the nimbler.


But use your gauntlets though. Those are o’ th’ least;

Prithee take mine, good cousin.


Thank you, Arcite.

How do I look? am I fall’n much away?


Faith, very little. Love has us’d you kindly.


I’ll warrant thee, I’ll strike home.


Do, and spare not.

I’ll give you cause, sweet cousin.


Now to you, sir.

Methinks this armor’s very like that, Arcite,

Thou wor’st that day the three kings fell, but lighter.


That was a very good one, and that day,

I well remember, you outdid me, cousin;

I never saw such valor. When you charg’d

Upon the left wing of the enemy,

I spurr’d hard to come up, and under me

I had a right good horse.


You had indeed,

A bright bay, I remember.


Yes, but all

Was vainly labor’d in me; you outwent me,

Nor could my wishes reach you. Yet a little

I did by imitation.


More by virtue.

You are modest, cousin.


When I saw you charge first,

Methought I heard a dreadful clap of thunder

Break from the troop.


But still before that flew

The lightning of your valor. Stay a little;

Is not this piece too strait?


No, no, ’tis well.


I would have nothing hurt thee but my sword,

A bruise would be dishonor.


Now I am perfect.


Stand off then.


Take my sword, I hold it better.


I thank ye. No, keep it, your life lies on it.

Here’s one, if it but hold, I ask no more

For all my hopes. My cause and honor guard me!


And me my love!

They bow several ways; then advance and stand.

Is there aught else to say?


This only, and no more: thou art mine aunt’s son,

And that blood we desire to shed is mutual,

In me, thine, and in thee, mine. My sword

Is in my hand, and if thou kill’st me,

The gods and I forgive thee. If there be

A place prepar’d for those that sleep in honor,

I wish his weary soul that falls may win it.

Fight bravely, cousin. Give me thy noble hand.


Here, Palamon: this hand shall never more

Come near thee with such friendship.


I commend thee.


If I fall, curse me, and say I was a coward,

For none but such dare die in these just trials.

Once more farewell, my cousin.


Farewell, Arcite.

Fight. Horns within; they stand.


Lo, cousin, lo, our folly has undone us.




This is the Duke, a-hunting as I told you.

If we be found, we are wretched. O, retire

For honor’s sake, and safely presently

Into your bush again, sir. We shall find

Too many hours to die in, gentle cousin.

If you be seen, you perish instantly

For breaking prison, and I, if you reveal me,

For my contempt. Then all the world will scorn us,

And say we had a noble difference,

But base disposers of it.


No, no, cousin,

I will no more be hidden, nor put off

This great adventure to a second trial.

I know your cunning, and I know your cause.

He that faints now, shame take him! Put thyself

Upon thy present guard—


You are not mad?


Or I will make th’ advantage of this hour

Mine own; and what to come shall threaten me

I fear less than my fortune. Know, weak cousin,

I love Emilia, and in that I’ll bury

Thee and all crosses else.


Then come what can come,

Thou shalt know, Palamon, I dare as well

Die as discourse or sleep. Only this fears me,

The law will have the honor of our ends.

Have at thy life!


Look to thine own well, Arcite.

Fight again. Horns.

Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Emilia, Pirithous, and Train.


What ignorant and mad malicious traitors

Are you, that ’gainst the tenor of my laws

Are making battle, thus like knights appointed,

Without my leave and officers of arms?

By Castor, both shall die.


Hold thy word, Theseus.

We are certainly both traitors, both despisers

Of thee and of thy goodness. I am Palamon,

That cannot love thee, he that broke thy prison—

Think well what that deserves; and this is Arcite,

A bolder traitor never trod thy ground,

A falser nev’r seem’d friend. This is the man

Was begg’d and banish’d, this is he contemns thee

And what thou dar’st do; and in this disguise,

Against thy own edict, follows thy sister,

That fortunate bright star, the fair Emilia,

Whose servant (if there be a right in seeing,

And first bequeathing of the soul to) justly

I am, and which is more, dares think her his.

This treachery, like a most trusty lover,

I call’d him now to answer. If thou be’st,

As thou art spoken, great and virtuous,

The true decider of all injuries,

Say, “Fight again!” and thou shalt see me, Theseus,

Do such a justice thou thyself wilt envy.

Then take my life, I’ll woo thee to’t.


O heaven,

What more than man is this!


I have sworn.


We seek not

Thy breath of mercy, Theseus. ’Tis to me

A thing as soon to die as thee to say it,

And no more mov’d. Where this man calls me traitor,

Let me say thus much: if in love be treason

In service of so excellent a beauty,

As I love most, and in that faith will perish,

As I have brought my life here to confirm it,

As I have serv’d her truest, worthiest,

As I dare kill this cousin that denies it,

So let me be most traitor, and ye please me.

For scorning thy edict, Duke, ask that lady

Why she is fair, and why her eyes command me

Stay here to love her; and if she say “traitor,”

I am a villain fit to lie unburied.


Thou shalt have pity of us both, O Theseus,

If unto neither thou show mercy. Stop,

As thou art just, thy noble ear against us;

As thou art valiant, for thy cousin’s soul,

Whose twelve strong labors crown his memory,

Let ’s die together, at one instant, Duke.

Only a little let him fall before me,

That I may tell my soul he shall not have her.


I grant your wish, for to say true, your cousin

Has ten times more offended, for I gave him

More mercy than you found, sir, your offenses

Being no more than his. None here speak for ’em,

For ere the sun set, both shall sleep for ever.


Alas, the pity! Now or never, sister,

Speak, not to be denied. That face of yours

Will bear the curses else of after-ages

For these lost cousins.


In my face, dear sister,

I find no anger to ’em, nor no ruin:

The misadventure of their own eyes kill ’em;

Yet that I will be woman, and have pity,

My knees shall grow to th’ ground but I’ll get mercy.

Help me, dear sister, in a deed so virtuous

The powers of all women will be with us.

Most royal brother—

They kneel.


Sir, by our tie of marriage—


By your own spotless honor—


By that faith,

That fair hand, and that honest heart you gave me—


By that you would have pity in another,

By your own virtues infinite—


By valor,

By all the chaste nights I have ever pleas’d you—


These are strange conjurings.


Nay then I’ll in too.


By all our friendship, sir, by all our dangers,

By all you love most—wars, and this sweet lady—


By that you would have trembled to deny

A blushing maid—


By your own eyes, by strength,

In which you swore I went beyond all women,

Almost all men, and yet I yielded, Theseus—


To crown all this, by your most noble soul,

Which cannot want due mercy, I beg first.


Next hear my prayers.


Last let me entreat, sir.


For mercy.




Mercy on these princes.


Ye make my faith reel. Say I felt

Compassion to ’em both, how would you place it?


Upon their lives; but with their banishments.


You are a right woman, sister, you have pity,

But want the understanding where to use it.

If you desire their lives, invent a way

Safer than banishment. Can these two live,

And have the agony of love about ’em,

And not kill one another? Every day

They’ld fight about you; hourly bring your honor

In public question with their swords. Be wise then

And here forget ’em; it concerns your credit

And my oath equally. I have said they die;

Better they fall by th’ law than one another.

Bow not my honor.


O my noble brother,

That oath was rashly made, and in your anger,

Your reason will not hold it. If such vows

Stand for express will, all the world must perish.

Beside, I have another oath ’gainst yours,

Of more authority, I am sure more love,

Not made in passion neither, but good heed.


What is it, sister?


Urge it home, brave lady.


That you would nev’r deny me any thing

Fit for my modest suit and your free granting.

I tie you to your word now; if ye fall in’t,

Think how you maim your honor

(For now I am set a-begging, sir, I am deaf

To all but your compassion), how their lives

Might breed the ruin of my name; opinion,

Shall any thing that loves me perish for me?

That were a cruel wisdom. Do men proin

The straight young boughs that blush with thousand blossoms,

Because they may be rotten? O Duke Theseus,

The goodly mothers that have groan’d for these,

And all the longing maids that ever lov’d,

If your vow stand, shall curse me and my beauty,

And in their funeral songs for these two cousins

Despise my cruelty, and cry woe worth me,

Till I am nothing but the scorn of women.

For heaven’s sake save their lives, and banish ’em.


On what conditions?


Swear ’em never more

To make me their contention, or to know me,

To tread upon thy dukedom, and to be,

Where ever they shall travel, ever strangers

To one another.


I’ll be cut a-pieces

Before I take this oath. Forget I love her?

O all ye gods, despise me then. Thy banishment

I not mislike, so we may fairly carry

Our swords and cause along; else, never trifle,

But take our lives, Duke. I must love, and will,

And for that love must and dare kill this cousin,

On any piece the earth has.


Will you, Arcite,

Take these conditions?


He’s a villain then.


These are men!


No, never. Duke. ’Tis worse to me than begging

To take my life so basely. Though I think

I never shall enjoy her, yet I’ll preserve

The honor of affection, and die for her,

Make death a devil.


What may be done? for now I feel compassion.


Let it not fall again, sir.


Say, Emilia,

If one of them were dead, as one must, are you

Content to take th’ other to your husband?

They cannot both enjoy you. They are princes

As goodly as your own eyes, and as noble

As ever fame yet spoke of. Look upon ’em

And if you can love, end this difference.

I give consent.—Are you content too, princes?


With all our souls.


He that she refuses

Must die then.


Any death thou canst invent, Duke.


If I fall from that mouth, I fall with favor,

And lovers yet unborn shall bless my ashes.


If she refuse me, yet my grave will wed me,

And soldiers sing my epitaph.


Make choice then.


I cannot, sir, they are both too excellent:

For me, a hair shall never fall of these men.


What will become of ’em?


Thus I ordain it,

And by mine honor, once again it stands,

Or both shall die: you shall both to your country,

And each within this month, accompanied

With three fair knights, appear again in this place,

In which I’ll plant a pyramid; and whether,

Before us that are here, can force his cousin

By fair and knightly strength to touch the pillar,

He shall enjoy her; the other lose his head,

And all his friends; nor shall he grudge to fall,

Nor think he dies with interest in this lady.

Will this content ye?


Yes. Here, cousin Arcite,

I am friends again till that hour.


I embrace ye.


Are you content, sister?


Yes, I must, sir,

Else both miscarry.


Come shake hands again then,

And take heed, as you are gentlemen, this quarrel

Sleep till the hour prefix’d, and hold your course.


We dare not fail thee, Theseus.


Come, I’ll give ye

Now usage like to princes and to friends.

When ye return, who wins I’ll settle here;

Who loses, yet I’ll weep upon his bier.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act IV, Scene 1

Scene 1

Athens. A room in the prison.

(Jailer, Two Friends, Wooer, Brother, Daughter)

Enter Jailer and his Friend.


Hear you no more? Was nothing said of me

Concerning the escape of Palamon?

Good sir, remember.


Nothing that I heard,

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-ey’d Emily, upon their knees

Begg’d 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,

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.


Pray heaven it hold so!

Enter Second Friend.


Be of good comfort, man; I bring you news,

Good news.


They are welcome.


Palamon has clear’d you,

And got your pardon, and discover’d how

And by whose means he escap’d, which was your daughter’s,

Whose pardon is procur’d too; and the prisoner—

Not to be held ungrateful to her goodness—

Has given a sum of money to her marriage,

A large one, I’ll assure you.


Ye are a good man

And ever bring good news.


How was it ended?


Why, as it should be: they that nev’r begg’d

But they prevail’d, had their suits fairly granted:

The prisoners have their lives.


I knew ’twould be so.


But there be new conditions, which You’ll hear of

At better time.


I hope they are good.


They are honorable,

How good they’ll prove, I know not.


’Twill be known.

Enter Wooer.


Alas, sir, where’s your daughter?


Why do you ask?


O sir, when did you see her?


How he looks!


This morning.


Was she well? was she in health?

Sir, when did she sleep?


These are strange questions.


I do not think she was very well, for, now

You make me mind her, but this very day

I ask’d 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.

But what of her, sir?


Nothing but my pity.

But you must know it, and as good by me

As by another that less loves her.


Well, sir?


Not right?


Not well?


No, sir, not well:

’Tis too true, she is mad.


It cannot be.


Believe You’ll find it so.


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,

Or both.


’Tis likely.


But why all this haste, sir?


I’ll tell you quickly. As I late was angling

In the great lake that lies behind the palace,

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

’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 perceiv’d not

Who made the sound, the rushes and the reeds

Had so encompass’d it. I laid me down

And list’ned to the words she sung, for then

Through a small glade cut by the fishermen,

I saw it was your daughter.


Pray go on, sir.


She sung much, but no sense; only I heard her

Repeat this often, “Palamon is gone,

Is gone to th’ wood to gather mulberries.

I’ll find him out tomorrow.”


Pretty soul!


“His shackles will betray him, he’ll be taken,

And what shall I do then? I’ll bring a bevy,

A hundred black-ey’d 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,

And beg his pardon.” Then she talk’d 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

Ever was “Palamon, fair Palamon,”

And “Palamon was a tall young man.” The place

Was knee-deep where she sat; her careless tresses

A wreath of bulrush rounded; about her stuck

Thousand fresh water-flowers of several colors,

That methought she appear’d like the fair nymph

That feeds the lake with waters, or as Iris

Newly dropp’d down from heaven. Rings she made

Of rushes that grew by, and to ’em spoke

The prettiest posies—“Thus our true love’s tied,”

“This you may loose, not me,” and many a one;

And then she wept, and sung again, and sigh’d,

And with the same breath smil’d, and kiss’d her hand.


Alas, what pity it is!


I made in to her.

She saw me, and straight sought the flood. I sav’d her,

And set her safe to land; when presently

She slipp’d away, and to the city made

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 stay’d,

And fell, scarce to be got away. I left them with her,

And hither came to tell you.

Enter Brother, Daughter, and others.

Here they are.



“May you never more enjoy the light,” etc.

Is not this a fine song?


O, a very fine one!


I can sing twenty more.


I think you can.


Yes, truly, can I. I can sing “The Broom,”

And “Bonny Robin.” Are not you a tailor?




Where’s my wedding gown?


I’ll bring it tomorrow.


Do, very rearly, I must be abroad else,

To call the maids and pay the minstrels,

For I must lose my maidenhead by cocklight,

’Twill never thrive else.


“O fair, O sweet,” etc.


You must ev’n take it patiently.


’Tis true.


Good ev’n, good men. Pray did you ever hear

Of one young Palamon?


Yes, wench, we know him.


Is’t not a fine young gentleman?


’Tis, love.


By no mean cross her, she is then distemper’d

Far worse than now she shows.


Yes, he’s a fine man.


O, is he so? You have a sister?




But she shall never have him, tell her so,

For a trick that I know. Y’ had 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 let ’em all alone. Is’t not a wise course?




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 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.


This is strange.


As ever you heard, but say nothing.




They come from all parts of the dukedom to him.

I’ll warrant ye he had not so few last night

As twenty to dispatch. He’ll tickle’t up

In two hours, if his hand be in.


She’s lost

Past all cure.


Heaven forbid, man!


To the Jailer.

Come hither, you are a wise man.


Does she know him?


No, would she did!


You are master of a ship?




Where’s your compass?




Set 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!


Owgh, owgh, owgh! ’Tis up! The wind’s fair.

Top the bowling! Out with the mainsail!

Where’s your whistle, master?


Let’s get her in.


Up to the top, boy!


Where’s the pilot?




What ken’st thou?


A fair wood.


Bear for it, master.

Tack about!


“When Cynthia with her borrowed light,” etc.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act IV, Scene 2

Scene 2

A room in the Palace.

(Emilia, Gentleman, Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous, Attendants, Messenger)

Enter Emilia alone, with two pictures.


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,

Following the dead-cold ashes of their sons,

Shall never curse my cruelty. Good heaven,

What a sweet face has Arcite! If wise Nature,

With all her best endowments, all those beauties

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,

Has this young prince! Here Love himself sits smiling.

Just such another wanton Ganymede

Set Jove afire with, and enforc’d the god

Snatch up the goodly boy and set him by him,

A shining constellation. What a brow,

Of what a spacious majesty, he carries,

Arch’d like the great-ey’d Juno’s, but far sweeter,

Smoother than Pelops’ shoulder! Fame and Honor

Methinks from hence, as from a promontory

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. Palamon

Is but his foil, to him, a mere dull shadow;

He’s swarth and meagre, of an eye as heavy

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:

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

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?

What a bold gravity, and yet inviting,

Has this brown manly face! O Love, this only

From this hour is complexion. Lie there, Arcite,

Thou art a changeling to him, a mere gipsy,

And this the noble body. I am sotted,

Utterly lost. My virgin’s faith has fled me;

For if my brother but even now had ask’d me

Whether I lov’d, I had run mad for Arcite;

Now if my sister—more for Palamon.

Stand both together: now, come ask me, brother—

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 Gentleman.

How now, sir?


From the noble Duke your brother,

Madam, I bring you news. The knights are come.


To end the quarrel?




Would I might end first!

What sins have I committed, chaste Diana,

That my unspotted youth must now be soil’d

With blood of princes? and my chastity

Be made the altar where the lives of lovers—

Two greater and two better never yet

Made mothers joy—must be the sacrifice

To my unhappy beauty?

Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous, and Attendants.


Bring ’em in

Quickly, by any means, I long to see ’em.—

Your two contending lovers are return’d,

And with them their fair knights. Now, my fair sister,

You must love one of them.


I had rather both,

So neither for my sake should fall untimely.


Who saw ’em?


I a while.


And I.

Enter Messenger.


From whence come you, sir?


From the knights.


Pray speak,

You that have seen them, what they are.


I will, sir,

And truly what I think. Six braver spirits

Than these they have brought (if we judge by the outside)

I never saw nor read of. He that stands

In the first place with Arcite, by his seeming

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,

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,

Arm’d long and round, and on his thigh a sword

Hung by a curious baldrick, when he frowns

To seal his will with. Better, o’ my conscience,

Was never soldier’s friend.


Thou hast well describ’d him.


Yet a great deal short,

Methinks, of him that’s first with Palamon.


Pray speak him, friend.


I guess he is a prince too,

And if it may be, greater; for his show

Has all the ornament of honor in’t.

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

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,

Hard-hair’d, and curl’d, thick twin’d like ivy-tods,

Not to undo with thunder. In his face

The livery of the warlike maid appears,

Pure red and white, for yet no beard has blest him;

And in his rolling eyes sits victory,

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.


Must these men die too?


When he speaks, his tongue

Sounds like a trumpet. All his lineaments

Are as a man would wish ’em, strong and clean.

He wears a well-steel’d axe, the staff of gold.

His age some five and twenty.


There’s another,

A little man, but of a tough soul, seeming

As great as any. Fairer promises

In such a body yet I never look’d on.


O, he that’s freckle-fac’d?


The same, my lord.

Are they not sweet ones?


Yes, they are well.



Being so few and well dispos’d, they show

Great and fine art in nature. He’s white-hair’d,

Not wanton white, but such a manly color

Next to an aborn; tough and nimble set,

Which shows an active soul; his arms are brawny,

Lin’d with strong sinews; to the shoulder-piece

Gently they swell, like women new conceiv’d,

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-ey’d,

Which yields compassion where he conquers; sharp

To spy advantages, and where he finds ’em,

He’s swift to make ’em his. He does no wrongs,

Nor takes none. He’s round-fac’d, and when he smiles

He shows a lover, when he frowns, a soldier.

About his head he wears the winner’s oak,

And in it stuck the favor of his lady.

His age some six and thirty. In his hand

He bears a charging-staff emboss’d with silver.


Are they all thus?


They are all the sons of honor.


Now as I have a soul I long to see ’em.

Lady, you shall see men fight now.


I wish it,

But not the cause, my lord. They would show

Bravely about the titles of two kingdoms.

’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.


You have steel’d ’em with your beauty.—Honor’d friend,

To you I give the field; pray order it,

Fitting the persons that must use it.


Yes, sir.


Come, I’ll go visit ’em. I cannot stay—

Their fame has fir’d me so—till they appear.

Good friend, be royal.


There shall want no bravery.


Poor wench, go weep, for whosoever wins

Loses a noble cousin for thy sins.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act IV, Scene 3

Scene 3

A room in the prison.

(Jailer, Wooer, Doctor, Daughter)

Enter Jailer, Wooer, Doctor.


Her distraction is more at some time of the moon than at other some, is it not?


She is continually in a harmless distemper, sleeps little, altogether without appetite, save often drinking, dreaming of another world and a better; and what broken piece of matter soe’er she’s about, the name Palamon lards it, that she farces ev’ry business withal, fits it to every question.

Enter Daughter.

Look where she comes, you shall perceive her behavior.


I have forgot it quite; the burden on’t was “Down-a, down-a,” and penn’d by no worse man than Giraldo, Emilia’s schoolmaster. He’s as fantastical, too, as ever he may go upon ’s legs, for in the next world will Dido see Palamon, and then will she be out of love with Aeneas.


What stuff’s here? poor soul!


Ev’n thus all day long.


Now for this charm that I told you of, you must bring a piece of silver on the tip of your tongue, or no ferry. Then, if it be your chance to come where the blessed spirits—as there’s a sight now! We maids that have our livers perish’d, crack’d to pieces with love, we shall come there, and do nothing all day long but pick flowers with Proserpine. Then will I make Palamon a nosegay, then let him mark me—then—


How prettily she’s amiss! Note her a little further.


Faith, I’ll tell you; sometime we go to barley-break, we of the blessed. Alas, ’tis a sore life they have i’ th’ tother place, such burning, frying, boiling, hissing, howling, chatt’ring, cursing! O, they have shrowd measure! take heed: if one be mad, or hang or drown themselves, thither they go—Jupiter bless us!—and there shall we be put in a cauldron of lead and usurers’ grease, amongst a whole million of cutpurses, and there boil like a gammon of bacon that will never be enough.



How her brain coins!

Enter Daughter.


Lords and courtiers that have got maids with child, they are in this place. They shall stand in fire up to the nav’l, and in ice up to th’ heart, and there th’ offending part burns, and the deceiving part freezes: in troth a very grievous punishment, as one would think, for such a trifle. Believe me, one would marry a leprous witch to be rid on’t, I’ll assure you.


How she continues this fancy! ’Tis not an engraff’d madness, but a most thick and profound melancholy.


To hear there a proud lady and a proud city-wife howl together! I were a beast and I’ld call it good sport. One cries, “O, this smoke!” th’ other, “This fire!” One cries, “O, that ever I did it behind the arras!” and then howls; th’ other curses a suing fellow and her garden-house.


“I will be true, my stars, my fate,” etc.

Exit Daughter.


What think you of her, sir?


I think she has a perturb’d mind, which I cannot minister to.


Alas, what then?


Understand you she ever affected any man ere she beheld Palamon?


I was once, sir, in great hope she had fix’d her liking on this gentleman, my friend.


I did think so too, and would account I had a great penn’worth on’t to give half my state that both she and I at this present stood unfeignedly on the same terms.


That intemp’rate surfeit of her eye hath distemper’d the other senses. They may return and settle again to execute their preordain’d faculties, but they are now in a most extravagant vagary. This you must do: confine her to a place where the light may rather seem to steal in than be permitted. Take upon you, young sir her friend, the name of Palamon, say you come to eat with her, and to commune of love. This will catch her attention, for this her mind beats upon; other objects that are inserted ’tween her mind and eye become the pranks and friskins of her madness. Sing to her such green songs of love as she says Palamon hath sung in prison. Come to her, stuck in as sweet flowers as the season is mistress of, and thereto make an addition of some other compounded odors which are grateful to the sense. All this shall become Palamon, for Palamon can sing, and Palamon is sweet, and ev’ry good thing. Desire to eat with her, carve her, drink to her, and still among intermingle your petition of grace and acceptance into her favor. Learn what maids have been her companions and play-feres, and let them repair to her with Palamon in their mouths, and appear with tokens, as if they suggested for him. It is a falsehood she is in, which is with falsehoods to be combated. This may bring her to eat, to sleep, and reduce what’s now out of square in her into their former law and regiment. I have seen it approv’d, how many times I know not, but to make the number more I have great hope in this. I will, between the passages of this project, come in with my appliance. Let us put it in execution; and hasten the success, which doubt not will bring forth comfort.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act V, Scene 1

Scene 1

Before the Temples of Mars, Venus, and Diana.

(Theseus, Pirithous, Hippolyta, Attendants, Palamon, Arcite, Knights, Emilia)

Three altars erected—to Mars, Venus, and Diana. Flourish. Enter Theseus, Pirithous, Hippolyta, Attendants.


Now let ’em enter, and before the gods

Tender their holy prayers. Let the temples

Burn bright with sacred fires, and the altars

In hallowed clouds commend their swelling incense

To those above us. Let no due be wanting;

They have a noble work in hand will honor

The very powers that love ’em.

Flourish of cornets. Enter Palamon and Arcite and their Knights.


Sir, they enter.


You valiant and strong-hearted enemies,

You royal germane foes, that this day come

To blow that nearness out that flames between ye,

Lay by your anger for an hour, and dove-like,

Before the holy altars of your helpers,

The all-fear’d gods, bow down your stubborn bodies.

Your ire is more than mortal; so your help be;

And as the gods regard ye, fight with justice.

I’ll leave you to your prayers, and betwixt ye

I part my wishes.


Honor crown the worthiest!

Exeunt Theseus and his Train.


The glass is running now that cannot finish

Till one of us expire. Think you but thus,

That were there aught in me which strove to show

Mine enemy in this business, were’t one eye

Against another, arm oppress’d by arm,

I would destroy th’ offender, coz, I would,

Though parcel of myself. Then from this gather

How I should tender you.


I am in labor

To push your name, your ancient love, our kindred,

Out of my memory; and i’ th’ self-same place

To seat something I would confound. So hoist we

The sails that must these vessels port even where

The heavenly limiter pleases.


You speak well.

Before I turn, let me embrace thee, cousin.

They embrace.

This I shall never do again.


One farewell.


Why, let it be so; farewell, coz.


Farewell, sir.

Exeunt Palamon and his Knights.

Knights, kinsmen, lovers, yea, my sacrifices,

True worshippers of Mars, whose spirit in you

Expels the seeds of fear, and th’ apprehension

Which still is farther off it, go with me

Before the god of our profession. There

Require of him the hearts of lions and

The breath of tigers, yea, the fierceness too,

Yea, the speed also—to go on, I mean,

Else wish we to be snails. You know my prize

Must be dragg’d out of blood; force and great feat

Must put my garland on, where she sticks

The queen of flowers. Our intercession then

Must be to him that makes the camp a cestron

Brimm’d with the blood of men. Give me your aid

And bend your spirits towards him.

They advance to the altar of Mars and fall on their faces; then kneel.

Thou mighty one, that with thy power hast turn’d

Green Neptune into purple; whose approach

Comets prewarn, whose havoc in vast field

Unearthed skulls proclaim, whose breath blows down

The teeming Ceres’ foison, who dost pluck

With hand armipotent from forth blue clouds

The mason’d turrets, that both mak’st and break’st

The stony girths of cities: me thy pupil,

Youngest follower of thy drum, instruct this day

With military skill, that to thy laud

I may advance my streamer, and by thee

Be styl’d the lord o’ th’ day. Give me, great Mars,

Some token of thy pleasure.

Here they fall on their faces as formerly, and there is heard clanging of armor, with a short thunder, as the burst of a battle, whereupon they all rise and bow to the altar.

O great corrector of enormous times,

Shaker of o’er-rank states, thou grand decider

Of dusty and old titles, that heal’st with blood

The earth when it is sick, and cur’st the world

O’ th’ plurisy of people! I do take

Thy signs auspiciously, and in thy name

To my design march boldly.—Let us go.


Enter Palamon and his Knights, with the former observance.


Our stars must glister with new fire, or be

Today extinct. Our argument is love,

Which if the goddess of it grant, she gives

Victory too. Then blend your spirits with mine,

You whose free nobleness do make my cause

Your personal hazard. To the goddess Venus

Commend we our proceeding, and implore

Her power unto our party.

Here they advance to the altar of Venus, and fall on their faces; then kneel, as formerly.

Hail, sovereign queen of secrets, who hast power

To call the fiercest tyrant from his rage,

And weep unto a girl; that hast the might,

Even with an eye-glance, to choke Mars’s drum

And turn th’ alarm to whispers; that canst make

A cripple flourish with his crutch, and cure him

Before Apollo; that mayst force the king

To be his subject’s vassal, and induce

Stale gravity to dance; the poll’d bachelor,

Whose youth, like wanton boys through bonfires,

Have skipp’d thy flame, at seventy thou canst catch,

And make him, to the scorn of his hoarse throat,

Abuse young lays of love. What godlike power

Hast thou not power upon? To Phoebus thou

Add’st flames, hotter than his; the heavenly fires

Did scorch his mortal son, thine him. The huntress

All moist and cold, some say, began to throw

Her bow away, and sigh. Take to thy grace

Me thy vow’d soldier, who do bear thy yoke

As ’twere a wreath of roses, yet is heavier

Than lead itself, stings more than nettles. I

Have never been foul-mouth’d against thy law,

Nev’r reveal’d secret, for I knew none—would not,

Had I kenn’d all that were. I never practiced

Upon man’s wife, nor would the libels read

Of liberal wits. I never at great feasts

Sought to betray a beauty, but have blush’d

At simp’ring sirs that did. I have been harsh

To large confessors, and have hotly ask’d them

If they had mothers; I had one, a woman,

And women ’twere they wrong’d. I knew a man

Of eighty winters—this I told them—who

A lass of fourteen brided. ’twas thy power

To put life into dust: the aged cramp

Had screw’d his square foot round,

The gout had knit his fingers into knots,

Torturing convulsions from his globy eyes

Had almost drawn their spheres, that what was life

In him seem’d torture. This anatomy

Had by his young fair fere a boy, and I

Believ’d it was his, for she swore it was,

And who would not believe her? Brief, I am

To those that prate and have done, no companion;

To those that boast and have not, a defier;

To those that would and cannot, a rejoicer.

Yea, him I do not love that tells close offices

The foulest way, nor names concealments in

The boldest language. Such a one I am,

And vow that lover never yet made sigh

Truer than I. O then, most soft sweet goddess,

Give me the victory of this question, which

Is true love’s merit, and bless me with a sign

Of thy great pleasure.

Here music is heard; doves are seen to flutter. They fall again upon their faces, then on their knees.

O thou that from eleven to ninety reign’st

In mortal bosoms, whose chase is this world,

And we in herds thy game, I give thee thanks

For this fair token, which being laid unto

Mine innocent true heart, arms in assurance

My body to this business.—Let us rise

And bow before the goddess. Time comes on.

They bow. Exeunt.

Still music of records. Enter Emilia in white, her hair about her shoulders, and wearing a wheaten wreath; one in white holding up her train, her hair stuck with flowers; one before her carrying a silver hind, in which is convey’d incense and sweet odors, which being set upon the altar of Diana, her maids standing aloof, she sets fire to it; then they curtsy and kneel.


O sacred, shadowy, cold, and constant queen,

Abandoner of revels, mute, contemplative,

Sweet, solitary, white as chaste, and pure

As wind-fann’d snow, who to thy female knights

Allow’st no more blood than will make a blush,

Which is their order’s robe: I here, thy priest,

Am humbled ’fore thine altar. O, vouchsafe,

With that thy rare green eye—which never yet

Beheld thing maculate—look on thy virgin,

And, sacred silver mistress, lend thine ear

(Which nev’r heard scurril term, into whose port

Ne’er ent’red wanton sound) to my petition,

Season’d with holy fear. This is my last

Of vestal office; I am bride-habited,

But maiden-hearted. A husband I have ’pointed,

But do not know him. Out of two I should

Choose one, and pray for his success, but I

Am guiltless of election. Of mine eyes

Were I to lose one, they are equal precious,

I could doom neither; that which perish’d should

Go to’t unsentenc’d. Therefore, most modest queen,

He of the two pretenders that best loves me

And has the truest title in’t, let him

Take off my wheaten garland, or else grant

The file and quality I hold I may

Continue in thy band.

Here the hind vanishes under the altar, and in the place ascends a rose tree, having one rose upon it.

See what our general of ebbs and flows

Out from the bowels of her holy altar

With sacred act advances: but one rose!

If well inspir’d, this battle shall confound

Both these brave knights, and I, a virgin flow’r,

Must grow alone, unpluck’d.

Here is heard a sudden twang of instruments, and the rose falls from the tree, which vanishes under the altar.

The flow’r is fall’n, the tree descends. O mistress,

Thou here dischargest me. I shall be gather’d,

I think so, but I know not thine own will:

Unclasp thy mystery.—I hope she’s pleas’d,

Her signs were gracious.

They curtsy and exeunt.

Two Noble Kinsmen: Act V, Scene 2

Scene 2

A darkened Room in the Prison.

(Doctor, Jailer, Wooer, Daughter, Maid, Messenger)

Enter Doctor, Jailer, and Wooer in habit of Palamon.


Has this advice I told you done any good upon her?


O, very much; the maids that kept her company

Have half persuaded her that I am Palamon.

Within this half hour she came smiling to me,

And ask’d me what I would eat, and when I would kiss her.

I told her, presently, and kiss’d her twice.


’Twas well done. Twenty times had been far better,

For there the cure lies mainly.


Then she told me

She would watch with me tonight, for well she knew

What hour my fit would take me.


Let her do so,

And when your fit comes, fit her home, and presently.


She would have me sing.


You did so?




’twas very ill done then.

You should observe her ev’ry way.



I have no voice, sir, to confirm her that way.


That’s all one, if ye make a noise.

If she entreat again, do any thing,

Lie with her, if she ask you.


Ho there, doctor!


Yes, in the way of cure.


But first, by your leave,

I’ th’ way of honesty.


That’s but a niceness.

Nev’r cast your child away for honesty.

Cure her first this way; then if she will be honest,

She has the path before her.


Thank ye, doctor.


Pray bring her in

And let’s see how she is.


I will, and tell her

Her Palamon stays for her; but, doctor,

Methinks you are i’ th’ wrong still.

Exit Jailer.


Go, go!

You fathers are fine fools. Her honesty!

And we should give her physic till we find that—


Why, do you think she is not honest, sir?


How old is she?


She’s eighteen.


She may be,

But that’s all one, ’tis nothing to our purpose.

What e’er her father says, if you perceive

Her mood inclining that way that I spoke of,

Videlicet, the way of flesh—you have me?


Yet very well, sir.


Please her appetite,

And do it home; it cures her ipso facto

The melancholy humor that infects her.


I am of your mind, doctor.

Enter Jailer, Daughter, Maid.


You’ll find it so. She comes. Pray humor her.

Wooer retires.


Come, your love Palamon stays for you, child,

And has done this long hour, to visit you.


I thank him for his gentle patience,

He’s a kind gentleman, and I am much bound to him.

Did you nev’r see the horse he gave me?




How do you like him?


He’s a very fair one.


You never saw him dance?




I have often.

He dances very finely, very comely,

And for a jig, come cut and long tail to him,

He turns ye like a top.


That’s fine indeed.


He’ll dance the morris twenty mile an hour,

And that will founder the best hobby-horse

(If I have any skill) in all the parish,

And gallops to the tune of “Light a’ love.”

What think you of this horse?


Having these virtues,

I think he might be brought to play at tennis.


Alas, that’s nothing.


Can he write and read too?


A very fair hand, and casts himself th’ accounts

Of all his hay and provender. That hostler

Must rise betime that cozens him. You know

The chestnut mare the Duke has?


Very well.


She is horribly in love with him, poor beast,

But he is like his master, coy and scornful.


What dowry has she?


Some two hundred bottles,

And twenty strike of oats, but he’ll ne’er have her.

He lisps in ’s neighing able to entice

A miller’s mare, he’ll be the death of her.


What stuff she utters!


Make curtsy, here your love comes.

Wooer comes forward.


Pretty soul,

How do ye? That’s a fine maid! There’s a curtsy!


Yours to command i’ th’ way of honesty.

How far is’t now to th’ end o’ th’ world, my masters?


Why, a day’s journey, wench.


Will you go with me?


What shall we do there, wench?


Why, play at stoolball:

What is there else to do?


I am content,

If we shall keep our wedding there.


’Tis true,

For there, I will assure you, we shall find

Some blind priest for the purpose that will venture

To marry us, for here they are nice and foolish.

Besides, my father must be hang’d tomorrow,

And that would be a blot i’ th’ business.

Are not you Palamon?


Do not you know me?


Yes, but you care not for me. I have nothing

But this poor petticoat and two coarse smocks.


That’s all one, I will have you.


Will you surely?


Yes, by this fair hand, will I.


We’ll to bed then.


Ev’n when you will.

Kisses her.


O, sir, you would fain be nibbling.


Why do you rub my kiss off?


’Tis a sweet one,

And will perfume me finely against the wedding.

Is not this your cousin Arcite?


Yes, sweet heart,

And I am glad my cousin Palamon

Has made so fair a choice.


Do you think he’ll have me?


Yes, without doubt.


Do you think so too?




We shall have many children.—Lord, how y’ are grown!

My Palamon I hope will grow too, finely,

Now he’s at liberty. Alas, poor chicken,

He was kept down with hard meat and ill lodging,

But I’ll kiss him up again.

Enter a Messenger.


What do you here? You’ll lose the noblest sight

That ev’r was seen.


Are they i’ th’ field?


They are.

You bear a charge there too.


I’ll away straight.

I must ev’n leave you here.


Nay, we’ll go with you,

I will not lose the fight.


How did you like her?


I’ll warrant you within these three or four days

I’ll make her right again.

To the Wooer.

You must not from her,

But still preserve her in this way.


I will.


Let’s get her in.


Come, sweet, we’ll go to dinner,

And then we’ll play at cards.


And shall we kiss too?


A hundred times.


And twenty?


Ay, and twenty.


And then we’ll sleep together?


Take her offer.


Yes, marry, will we.


But you shall not hurt me.


I will not, sweet.


If you do, love, I’ll cry.


Two Noble Kinsmen: Act V, Scene 3

Scene 3

A place near the Lists.

(Theseus, Hippolyta, Emilia, Pirithous, Attendants, Servants, Arcite)

Flourish. Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Emilia, Pirithous, and some Attendants.


I’ll no step further.


Will you lose this sight?


I had rather see a wren hawk at a fly

Than this decision. Ev’ry blow that falls

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 punish’d

With what shall happen—’gainst the which there is

No deafing—but to hear, not taint mine eye

With dread sights it may shun.


Sir, my good lord,

Your sister will no further.


O, she must.

She shall see deeds of honor in their kind

Which sometime show well, pencill’d. Nature now

Shall make and act the story, the belief

Both seal’d with eye and ear. You must be present,

You are the victor’s meed, the price and garland

To crown the question’s title.


Pardon me,

If I were there, I’ld wink.


You must be there;

This trial is as ’twere i’ th’ night, and you

The only star to shine.


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 accurs’d

Of many mortal millions, may even now,

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.


You must go.


In faith, I will not.


Why, the knights must kindle

Their valor at your eye. Know, of this war

You are the treasure, and must needs be by

To give the service pay.


Sir, pardon me,

The title of a kingdom may be tried

Out of itself.


Well, well then, at your pleasure.

Those that remain with you could wish their office

To any of their enemies.


Farewell, sister,

I am like to know your husband ’fore yourself

By some small start of time. He whom the gods

Do of the two know best, I pray them he

Be made your lot.

Exeunt Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous, etc.


Arcite is gently visag’d; yet his eye

Is like an engine bent, or a sharp weapon

In a soft sheath; mercy and manly courage

Are bedfellows in his visage. Palamon

Has a most menacing aspect, his brow

Is grav’d, and seems to bury what it frowns on,

Yet sometime ’tis not so, but alters to

The quality of his thoughts; long time his eye

Will dwell upon his object; melancholy

Becomes him nobly. So does Arcite’s mirth,

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

Stick misbecomingly on others, on him

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

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

Toward my seat, and in that motion might

Omit a ward, or forfeit an offense,

Which crav’d that very time. It is much better

I am not there. O, better never born

Than minister to such harm!

Cornets. A great cry and noise within, crying “A Palamon!”
Enter Servant.

What is the chance?


The cry’s “A Palamon!”


Then he has won. ’twas ever likely:

He look’d 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 “A Palamon!” within.


Still “Palamon!”


Run and inquire.

Exit Servant.

Poor servant, thou hast lost.

Upon my right side still I wore thy picture,

Palamon’s on the left. Why so, I know not;

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

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 “A Palamon!”; but anon

Th’ assistants made a brave redemption, and

The two bold titlers at this instant are

Hand to hand at it.


Were they metamorphis’d

Both into one—O why? there were no woman

Worth so compos’d a man! Their single share,

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?


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!”


The cry is

“Arcite!” and “victory!” Hark, “Arcite! victory!”

The combat’s consummation is proclaim’d

By the wind instruments.


Half-sights saw

That Arcite was no babe. God’s lid, his richness

And costliness of spirit look’d through him, it could

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

When oft our fancies are. They are coming off.

Alas, poor Palamon!


Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous, Arcite as victor, and Attendants, etc.


Lo, where our sister is in expectation,

Yet quaking and unsettled. Fairest Emily,

The gods by their divine arbitrement

Have given you this knight: he is a good one

As ever strook at head. Give me your hands.

Receive you her, you him, be plighted with

A love that grows as you decay.



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.


O loved sister,

He speaks now of as brave a knight as e’er

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 charm’d me that methought Alcides was

To him a sow of lead. If I could praise

Each part of him to th’ all I have spoke, your Arcite

Did not lose by’t; for he that was thus good

Encount’red yet his better. I have heard

Two emulous Philomels beat the ear o’ th’ night

With their contentious throats, now one the higher,

Anon the other, then again the first,

And by and by out-breasted, that the sense

Could not be judge between ’em. So it far’d

Good space between these kinsmen; till heavens did

Make hardly one the winner.—Wear the girlond

With joy that you have won.—For the subdu’d,

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,

I know you will not loose her.—Hippolyta,

I see one eye of yours conceives a tear,

The which it will deliver.


Is this winning?

O all you heavenly powers, where is your mercy?

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.


Infinite pity

That four such eyes should be so fix’d on one

That two must needs be blind for’t!


So it is.

Flourish. Exeunt

Two Noble Kinsmen: Act V, Scene 4

Scene 4

The same; a Block prepared.

(Palamon, Three Knights, Jailer, Executioner, Guard, Messenger, Pirithous, Theseus, Hippolyta, Emilia, Arcite)

A block ready. Enter Palamon and his Knights pinion’d, Jailer, Executioner, etc., Guard.


There’s many a man alive that hath outliv’d

The love o’ th’ people, yea, i’ th’ self-same state

Stands many a father with his child. Some comfort

We have by so considering: we expire,

And not without men’s pity; to live still,

Have their good wishes; we prevent

The loathsome misery of age, beguile

The gout and rheum, that in lag hours attend

For grey approachers; we come towards the gods

Young and unwapper’d, 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,

You have sold ’em too too cheap.


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

They not o’erweigh us.


Let us bid farewell;

And with our patience anger tott’ring Fortune,

Who at her certain’st reels.


Come! Who begins?


Ev’n he that led you to this banket shall

Taste to you all.

To the Jailer.

Ah ha, my friend, my friend,

Your gentle daughter gave me freedom once;

You’ll see’t done now for ever. Pray how does she?

I heard she was not well; her kind of ill

Gave me some sorrow.


Sir, she’s well restor’d,

And to be married shortly.


By my short life,

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.

Gives purse.


Nay, let’s be offerers all.


Is it a maid?


Verily I think so,

A right good creature, more to me deserving

Than I can quite or speak of.


Commend us to her.

They give their purses.


The gods requite you all, and make her thankful!


Adieu; and let my life be now as short

As my leave-taking.

Lies on the block.


Lead, courageous cousin.

1., 2. KNIGHTS.

We’ll follow cheerfully.

A great noise within crying “Run! Save! Hold!”

Enter in haste a Messenger.


Hold, hold! O, hold, hold, hold!

Enter Pirithous in haste.


Hold ho! It is a cursed 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.


Can that be, when

Venus I have said is false? How do things fare?


Arise, great sir, and give the tidings ear

Palamon rises.

That are most dearly sweet and bitter.



Hath wak’d us from our dream?


List then: your cousin,

Mounted upon a steed that Emily

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

Trotting the stones of Athens, which the calkins

Did rather tell than trample; for the horse

Would make his length a mile, if’t pleas’d his rider

To put pride in him. As he thus went counting

The flinty pavement, dancing as ’twere to th’ music

His own hoofs made (for as they say from iron

Came music’s origin), what envious flint,

Cold as old Saturn, and like him possess’d

With fire malevolent, darted a spark,

Or what fierce sulphur else, to this end made,

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 train’d,

And of kind manage; pig-like he whines

At the sharp rowel, which he frets at rather

Than any jot obeys; seeks all foul means

Of boist’rous and rough jad’ry, to disseat

His lord that kept it bravely. When nought serv’d,

When neither curb would crack, girth break, nor 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,

Seem’d 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 surge that next approaches. He much desires

To have some speech with you. Lo he appears.

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


O miserable end of our alliance!

The gods are mighty, Arcite. If thy heart,

Thy worthy, manly heart, be yet unbroken,

Give me thy last words; I am Palamon,

One that yet loves thee dying.


Take Emilia,

And with her all the world’s joy. Reach thy hand;

Farewell. I have told my last hour; I was false,

Yet never treacherous. Forgive me, cousin.

One kiss from fair Emilia.—’Tis done.

Take her. I die.



Thy brave soul seek Elysium!


I’ll close thine eyes, prince; blessed souls be with thee!

Thou art a right good man, and while I live,

This day I give to tears.


And I to honor.


In this place first you fought; ev’n very here

I sund’red you. Acknowledge to the gods

Our thanks that you are living.

His part is play’d, and though it were too short,

He did it well; your day is length’ned, and

The blissful dew of heaven does arrouse you.

The powerful Venus well hath grac’d her altar,

And given you your love. Our master Mars

Hath vouch’d his oracle, and to Arcite gave

The grace of the contention So the deities

Have show’d due justice.—Bear this hence.

Arcite is carried out.


O cousin,

That we should things desire which do cost us

The loss of our desire! that nought could buy

Dear love but loss of dear love!


Never fortune

Did play a subtler game. The conquer’d triumphs,

The victor has the loss; yet in the passage

The gods have been most equal. Palamon,

Your kinsman hath confess’d the right o’ th’ lady

Did lie in you, for you first saw her, and

Even then proclaim’d your fancy. He restor’d her

As your stol’n jewel, and desir’d your spirit

To send him hence forgiven. The gods my justice

Take from my hand, and they themselves become

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

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,

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,

And bear us like the time.

Flourish. Exeunt.

Two Noble Kinsmen: Epilogue




I would now ask ye how ye like the play,

But as it is with schoolboys, cannot say;

I am cruel fearful. Pray yet stay a while,

And let me look upon ye. No man smile?

Then it goes hard, I see. He that has

Lov’d a young handsome wench then, show his face—

’Tis strange if none be here—and if he will

Against his conscience, let him hiss, and kill

Our market. ’Tis in vain, I see, to stay ye;

Have at the worst can come, then! Now what say ye?

And yet mistake me not: I am not bold,

We have no such cause. If the tale we have told

(For ’tis no other) any way content ye

(For to that honest purpose it was meant ye),

We have our end; and ye shall have ere long

I dare say many a better, to prolong

Your old loves to us. We, and all our might,

Rest at your service. Gentlemen, good night.