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The Two Noble Kinsmen Scenes

Scene 1

A forest near Athens.

(Arcite; Palamon)

The court of Athens goes a-maying. Arcite congratulates himself on how well things are going, and pities Palamon, locked up in jail and unable to sneak his way into Emilia’s favors. Enraged, Palamon emerges from the bush where he has been hiding, still in chains, and rages against Arcite as a traitor. Arcite tries unsuccessfully to calm him down, and finally promises to duel with Palamon to clear his name. Palamon doubts that a traitor can still be any good with a sword. He swears to stand up to Arcite, so long as he has some weapons and some food to get his strength back. Arcite tells him to hide again, promising to bring him these things. Palamon is touched at this nobility. They hear the horns of the court, and Palamon hides again. They promise to meet again. (139 lines)

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 banquet. 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.


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