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Scene 4

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!

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-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.


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