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The Two Noble Kinsmen Scenes

Scene 2

A room in the palace.

(Emilia; Gentleman; Theseus; Hippolyta; Pirithous; Attendants; First Messenger)

Emilia considers both Arcite and Palamon, but cannot decide between either of them. She is brought the news that both knights have returned to Athens for their tournament. Emilia is distraught that this is going to happen because of her. Theseus and his court come in, and someone who has seen the knights arriving describes them. They prepare to go and greet them. (177 lines)

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 gypsy,

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 First Messenger.


From whence come you, sir?

1. MESS.

From the knights.


Pray speak,

You that have seen them, what they are.

1. MESS.

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.

1. MESS.

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?

1. MESS.

The same, my lord.

Are they not sweet ones?


Yes, they are well.

1. MESS.


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 auburn; 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.



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