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The Two Noble Kinsmen Scenes

Scene 3

A place near the Lists.

(Theseus; Hippolyta; Emilia; Pirithous; Attendants; Servants; Arcite)

Emilia refuses to witness the fight. Both Theseus and Hippolyta insist that she must, as she is the object of the fight, but she will not budge. In the end they let her be. Left alone, Emilia still considers the differences between the two knights. The fighting is heard in the distance. Hearing cries that Palamon has won, she sends servants to confirm this, but they reports that though he had almost won, he was beaten back, and the fight is continuing. Soon more shouting is heard, and Arcite’s victory reported. Emilia grieves for Palamon. Theseus arrives with the court and Arcite, and gives him to her. Theseus praises Arcite to the skies, but Emilia finds no mercy in the situation. (171 lines)

Flourish. Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Emilia, Pirithous, and some Attendants.


I’ll no step further.


Will you lose this sight?


I had rather see a wren hawk at a fly

Than this decision. Ev’ry blow that falls

Threats a brave life, each stroke laments

The place whereon it falls, and sounds more like

A bell than blade. I will stay here,

It is enough my hearing shall be punish’d

With what shall happen—’gainst the which there is

No deafing—but to hear, not taint mine eye

With dread sights it may shun.


Sir, my good lord,

Your sister will no further.


O, she must.

She shall see deeds of honor in their kind

Which sometime show well, pencill’d. Nature now

Shall make and act the story, the belief

Both seal’d with eye and ear. You must be present,

You are the victor’s meed, the price and garland

To crown the question’s title.


Pardon me,

If I were there, I’ld wink.


You must be there;

This trial is as ’twere i’ th’ night, and you

The only star to shine.


I am extinct,

There is but envy in that light which shows

The one the other. Darkness, which ever was

The dam of Horror, who does stand accurs’d

Of many mortal millions, may even now,

By casting her black mantle over both,

That neither could find other, get herself

Some part of a good name, and many a murder

Set off whereto she’s guilty.


You must go.


In faith, I will not.


Why, the knights must kindle

Their valor at your eye. Know, of this war

You are the treasure, and must needs be by

To give the service pay.


Sir, pardon me,

The title of a kingdom may be tried

Out of itself.


Well, well then, at your pleasure.

Those that remain with you could wish their office

To any of their enemies.


Farewell, sister,

I am like to know your husband ’fore yourself

By some small start of time. He whom the gods

Do of the two know best, I pray them he

Be made your lot.

Exeunt Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous, etc.


Arcite is gently visag’d; yet his eye

Is like an engine bent, or a sharp weapon

In a soft sheath; mercy and manly courage

Are bedfellows in his visage. Palamon

Has a most menacing aspect, his brow

Is grav’d, and seems to bury what it frowns on,

Yet sometime ’tis not so, but alters to

The quality of his thoughts; long time his eye

Will dwell upon his object; melancholy

Becomes him nobly. So does Arcite’s mirth,

But Palamon’s sadness is a kind of mirth,

So mingled as if mirth did make him sad,

And sadness merry; those darker humors that

Stick misbecomingly on others, on him

Live in fair dwelling.

Cornets. Trumpets sound as to a charge.

Hark how yon spurs to spirit do incite

The princes to their proof! Arcite may win me,

And yet may Palamon wound Arcite to

The spoiling of his figure. O, what pity

Enough for such a chance? If I were by,

I might do hurt, for they would glance their eyes

Toward my seat, and in that motion might

Omit a ward, or forfeit an offense,

Which crav’d that very time. It is much better

I am not there. O, better never born

Than minister to such harm!

Cornets. A great cry and noise within, crying “A Palamon!”

Enter Servant.

What is the chance?


The cry’s “A Palamon!”


Then he has won. ’Twas ever likely:

He look’d all grace and success, and he is

Doubtless the prim’st of men. I prithee run

And tell me how it goes.

Shout and cornets. Crying “A Palamon!” within.


Still “Palamon!”


Run and inquire.

Exit Servant.

Poor servant, thou hast lost.

Upon my right side still I wore thy picture,

Palamon’s on the left. Why so, I know not;

I had no end in’t else; chance would have it so.

On the sinister side the heart lies; Palamon

Had the best-boding chance.

Another cry, and shout within, and cornets.

This burst of clamor

Is sure th’ end o’ th’ combat.

Enter Servant.


They said that Palamon had Arcite’s body

Within an inch o’ th’ pyramid, that the cry

Was general “A Palamon!”; but anon

Th’ assistants made a brave redemption, and

The two bold titlers at this instant are

Hand to hand at it.


Were they metamorphis’d

Both into one—O why? There were no woman

Worth so compos’d a man! Their single share,

Their nobleness peculiar to them, gives

The prejudice of disparity, value’s shortness,

To any lady breathing.

Cornets. Cry within, “Arcite, Arcite!”

More exulting?

“Palamon” still?


Nay, now the sound is “Arcite.”


I prithee lay attention to the cry;

Set both thine ears to th’ business.

Cornets. A great shout and cry, “Arcite! Victory!”


The cry is

“Arcite!” and “victory!” Hark, “Arcite! Victory!”

The combat’s consummation is proclaim’d

By the wind instruments.


Half-sights saw

That Arcite was no babe. God’s lid, his richness

And costliness of spirit look’d through him, it could

No more be hid in him than fire in flax,

Than humble banks can go to law with waters

That drift-winds force to raging. I did think

Good Palamon would miscarry, yet I knew not

Why I did think so. Our reasons are not prophets

When oft our fancies are. They are coming off.

Alas, poor Palamon!


Enter Theseus, Hippolyta, Pirithous, Arcite as victor, and Attendants, etc.


Lo, where our sister is in expectation,

Yet quaking and unsettled. Fairest Emily,

The gods by their divine arbitrement

Have given you this knight: he is a good one

As ever struck at head. Give me your hands.

Receive you her, you him, be plighted with

A love that grows as you decay.



To buy you I have lost what’s dearest to me

Save what is bought, and yet I purchase cheaply,

As I do rate your value.


O loved sister,

He speaks now of as brave a knight as e’er

Did spur a noble steed. Surely the gods

Would have him die a bachelor, lest his race

Should show i’ th’ world too godlike. His behavior

So charm’d me that methought Alcides was

To him a sow of lead. If I could praise

Each part of him to th’ all I have spoke, your Arcite

Did not lose by’t; for he that was thus good

Encount’red yet his better. I have heard

Two emulous Philomels beat the ear o’ th’ night

With their contentious throats, now one the higher,

Anon the other, then again the first,

And by and by out-breasted, that the sense

Could not be judge between ’em. So it far’d

Good space between these kinsmen; till heavens did

Make hardly one the winner.—Wear the girlond

With joy that you have won.—For the subdu’d,

Give them our present justice, since I know

Their lives but pinch ’em. Let it here be done.

The scene’s not for our seeing, go we hence,

Right joyful, with some sorrow.—Arm your prize,

I know you will not loose her.—Hippolyta,

I see one eye of yours conceives a tear,

The which it will deliver.


Is this winning?

O all you heavenly powers, where is your mercy?

But that your wills have said it must be so,

And charge me live to comfort this unfriended,

This miserable prince, that cuts away

A life more worthy from him than all women,

I should and would die too.


Infinite pity

That four such eyes should be so fix’d on one

That two must needs be blind for’t!


So it is.

Flourish. Exeunt


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