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Title page of the 1634 quarto

The Two Noble Kinsmen is a Jacobean comedy, first published in 1634 and attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare, based on "The Knight's Tale" from Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Formerly a point of controversy, the dual attribution is now generally accepted by the scholarly consensus.[1] Researchers have applied a range of tests and techniques to determine the relative shares of Shakespeare and Fletcher in the play—Hallet Smith, in The Riverside Shakespeare, cites "metrical characteristics, vocabulary and word-compounding, incidence of certain contractions, kinds and uses of imagery, and characteristic lines of certain types"—in their attempts to distinguish the shares of Shakespeare and Fletcher in the play. Smith offers a breakdown that agrees, in general if not in all details, with those of other scholars:

Shakespeare—Act I, scenes 1-3; Act II, scene 1; Act III, scene 1; Act V, scene 1,
lines 34-173, and scenes 3 and 4.
Fletcher—Prologue; Act II, scenes 2-6; Act III, scenes 2-6; Act IV, scenes 1 and 3;
Act V, scene 1, lines 1-33, and scene 2; Epilogue.
"uncertain"—Act I, scenes 4 and 5; Act IV, scene 2.[2]


Date and text

Links between The Two Noble Kinsmen and contemporaneous works point to 1613-14 as its date of authorship and performance. A reference to Palamon, one of the protagonists of Kinsmen, in Ben Jonson's 1614 play Bartholomew Fair, Act IV, scene ii, appears to indicate that Kinsmen was known and familiar to audiences at that time. In Francis Beaumont's The Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn (1613), the second anti-masque features this cast of rural characters: pedant, May Lord and Lady, servingman and chambermaid, tavern host and hostess, shepherd and his wench, and two "bavians" (male and female baboon). The same cast slightly simplified (minus wench and one "bavian") enacts the Morris dance in Kinsmen, II,v,120-38. A successful "special effect" in Beaumont's masque, designed for a single performance, appears to have been adopted and adapted into Kinsmen, indicating that the play followed the masque at no great interval.[3]

The play was entered into the Stationers' Register on April 8, 1634; the quarto was published later that year by the bookseller John Waterson, printed by Thomas Cotes. The play was not included in the First Folio (1623) or any of the subsequent Folios of Shakespeare's works, though it was included in the second Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1679.[4]


  • Theseus, Duke of Athens
  • Palamon, nephew of the King of Thebes
  • Arcite, nephew of the King of Thebes
  • Pirithous, an Athenian general
  • Artesius, an Athenian captain
  • Valerius, a noble of Thebes
  • Six Knights
  • A Herald
  • A Jailer
  • Wooer of the jailer's daughter
  • A Doctor
  • Brother of the jailer
  • Friends of the jailer
  • A Gentleman
  • Gerrold, a schoolmaster
  • Hippolyta, wife of Theseus
  • Emilia, her sister
  • Three Queens
  • Jailer's Daughter
  • Emilia's Servant
  • Country Wenches and Women personating Hymen, Boy
  • A Laborer
  • Countrymen, Messengers
  • A Man personating Hymen, Boy
  • Executioners, Guards, Soldiers, Attendants


The Two Noble Kinsmen is a romantic tragicomedy based on Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale", with the addition of a subplot paralleling the main action.

Palamon and Arcite, cousins and close friends, are imprisoned by the Athenians after the defeat of their city, Thebes. From their prison window they see Princess Emilia, and since both fall in love with her, their friendship turns to bitter rivalry. Upon Arcite's release he is banished from Athens, but he returns in disguise to find Emilia and is appointed her attendant.

Meanwhile, the jailer's daughter has fallen in love with Palamon and helps him escape, after which he once again meets Arcite. To settle their rivalry over Emilia, they decide to fight in a public tournament. Now the jailer's daughter, forsaken, goes mad, but her former lover regains her by convincing her that he is Palamon.

Before the tournament, Arcite prays to the gods that he win the battle; Palamon prays that he marry Emilia; Emilia prays that she be wed to the one who loves her best. Each prayer is granted: Arcite wins the combat, but is then thrown from his horse and dies, leaving Palamon to wed Emilia.


In addition to whatever public performances occurred ca. 1613-14, evidence suggests a performance at Court in 1619. In 1664, after the theatres had re-opened with the Restoration, Sir William Davenant produced an adaptation of The Two Noble Kinsmen for the Duke's Company titled The Rivals. Thomas Betterton played "Philander," Davenant's version of Palamon. Samuel Pepys saw Davenant's production, and judged it "no excellent play, but good acting in it" (Sept. 10, 1664).[5]

In popular culture

The Two Noble Kinsmen is the only one of Shakespeare's plays that has never been adapted for film or television.[6]

In The Simpsons' Season 15 episode "Co-Dependent's Day," after Moe unthinkingly gives away a rare 1886 bottle of Chateau Latour, he proceeds to dry his tears with another priceless collector's item, an original manuscript of The Two Noble Kinsmen.


  1. ^ Erdman and Fogel, Evidence for Authorship, pp. 486-94; see also pp. 433-35, 467-69.
  2. ^ Hallet Smith, in The Riverside Shakespeare, p. 1640.
  3. ^ Halliday, Shakespeare Companion, pp. 53-4, 306.
  4. ^ Halliday, Shakespeare Companion, p. 507.
  5. ^ Halliday, Shakespeare Companion, pp. 416, 507.
  6. ^ IMDb Title Search


  • Erdman, David V., and Ephim G. Fogel, eds. Evidence for Authorship: Essays on Problems of Attribution. Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University Press, 1966.
  • Evans, G. Blakemore, textual editor, The Riverside Shakespeare. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1974.
  • Halliday, F. E. A Shakespeare Companion 1564-1964. Baltimore, Penguin, 1964.

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The Two Noble Kinsmen is a Jacobean tragicomedy, now generally believed to have been written in 1613 or 1614 by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher.


Act I

  • Maiden pinks, of odour faint,
    Daisies smell-less, yet most quaint,
    And sweet thyme true.

    Primrose, first-born child of Ver,
    Merry springtime's harbinger,
    With harebells dim.
    • Boy, scene i
  • Come all sad, and solemn shows,
    That are quick-eyed Pleasure's foes;
    We convent nought else but woes.
    We convent nought else but woes.
    • Three Queens, scene v

Act II

  • Emilia: Of all flowers,
    Methinks a rose is best.
    Woman: Why, gentle madam?
    Emilia: It is the very emblem of a maid.
    For when the west wind courts her gently
    How modestly she blows, and paints the sun
    With her chaste blushes! When the north comes near her,
    Rude and impatient, then, like chastity,
    She locks her beauties in her bud again,
    And leaves him to base briars.
    • scene ii
  • To marry him is hopeless;
    To be his whore is witless. Out upon't!
    What pushes are we wenches driven to
    When fifteen once has found us?
    • Daughter, scene iv
  • Once, he kissed me.
    I loved my lips the better ten days after:
    Would he would do so every day!
    • Daughter, scene iv
  • By him, like a shadow
    I'l ever dwell.
    • Daughter, scene vi

Act IV

  • Tis pitty Love should be so tyrannous.
    • Hipolita, scene ii

Act V

  • O Great Corrector of enormous times,
    Of dustie, and old tytles, that healst with blood
    The earth when it is sicke, and curst the world
    O'th pluresie of people;
    • Arcite, scene i

External links

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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

The Two Noble Kinsmen
William Shakespeare and John Fletcher
Information about this edition
The Two Noble Kinsmen is a Jacobean comedy, first published in 1634 and attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. Formerly a point of controversy, the dual attribution is now generally accepted by the scholarly consensus. It is a romantic tragicomedy based on Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale", with the addition of a subplot paralleling the main action.
Excerpted from The Two Noble Kinsmen on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Presented at the Blackfriers
by the Kings Maiesties servants,
with great applause:

Written by the memorable Worthies of their time;

Mr. John Fletcher, Gent., and
Mr. William Shakspeare, Gent.

Printed at London by Tho. Cotes, for John Waterson:
and are to be sold at the signe of the Crowne
in Pauls Church-yard. 1634.

(The Persons represented in the Play.

Hippolita, Bride to Theseus
Emelia, Sister to Theseus
[Emelia's Woman],
Three Queens,
Three valiant Knights,
Palamon, and
Arcite, The two Noble Kinsmen, in love with fair Emelia
[A Herald],
[A Gentleman],
[A Messenger],
[A Servant],
His Daughter, in love with Palamon
[His brother],
[A Doctor],
[4] Countreymen,
[2 Friends of the Jaylor],
[3 Knights],
[Nel, and other]
A Taborer,
Gerrold, A Schoolmaster.)

Act 1 Act 2 Act 3 Act 4 Act 5
PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


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