A field before Thebes.
(Theseus; Lords; Three Queens; Herald; Attendants; Palamon; Arcite)
Theseus enters victorious with his army, and the three Queens kneel to him in thanks. He sends them to find their husbands’ bodies so that they may be properly buried. The deeply injured Palamon and Arcite are brought in. Delighted at having captured such noble prisoners, Theseus has them sent to Athens, urging that nothing be spared to cure them. (55 lines)
Cornets. A battle struck within; then a retreat; 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 forever.
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!
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-wrestling 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.