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The Two Noble Kinsmen Scenes

Scene 4

A place near the Lists. A block prepared.

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

Palamon and his knights prepare for their execution. Palamon asks the Jailer, who is in charge of the event, how his Daughter is doing, and on hearing that she is better and soon to be married gives the Jailer his purse for her. The other knights add their purses to her dowry as well. Palamon, as the first to die, lays his head on the block, but a messenger runs in to stop the execution: Arcite has been thrown by his horse and lies dying. He is borne in and tells Palamon to take Emilia, admitting that though he was no traitor, he was false to his cousin, and thus deserves this end. He takes one kiss from Emilia and dies. Theseus comments that the gods would have it so — Mars gave the victory to the one who prayed to him, but Venus gave the woman to he who prayed to her. The Duke reports that Arcite admitted that Palamon had first rights to Emilia, as he saw her first. He calls for a day or two of mourning and Arcite’s funeral before the wedding takes place, and comments on how they are the playthings of the gods. (155 lines)

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 banquet 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 forever. 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.


We’ll follow cheerfully.

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

Enter in haste a Messenger.

2. MESS.

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.


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