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The Two Noble Kinsmen by William Shakespeare
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The Two Noble Kinsmen (1612)

by William Shakespeare, John Fletcher, John Fletcher, John Fletcher, John Fletcher1 more, William Shakespeare

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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As I work my way through the complete list of Shakespeare's plays, I'm stumbling upon many of his lesser-known works with little to no knowledge going into them. It's an interesting way to approach Shakespeare, because so many of the plays we read of his are ones we already familiar with before we ever reach the actual text. Shows like Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet are woven into the tapestry of pop culture in so many different ways that we learn the story even if we haven't read the book.

Unlike those shows, I had no previous knowledge of The Two Noble Kinsmen before I started it. In my head I kept confusing it with The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and there's good reason for that. Both plays take a pair of best friends and then pit them against each other for the love of a woman. I can't help but wonder if this ever happened to Shakespeare, because he seems to bring it up a lot. Did he have some friend who was kind of a jerk and kept going after whoever his buddy Bill had a crush on?

In The Two Noble Kinsmen we meet Palamon and Arcite. They are devoted friends… until they see Emilia. After that it’s every man for himself. Unfortunately another woman, the daughter of a jailer, falls for one of the two men, Palamon. So now she’s trapped in this horrible cycle too. In the end, one kinsman ends up with the girl and everyone is “happy”. It’s all tied up a bit too neatly to be believable.
It’s also one of Shakespeare’s more frustrating plays when it comes to the women. No one seems to care what Emilia or the jailer’s daughter actually wants. I felt like the women in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, particularly Silvia, are much stronger characters.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s Shakespeare’s final play, but not his strongest. A tidy ending and weak female characters don’t leave a great lasting impression, but it still holds some beautiful language from Shakespeare.

“This world's a city full of straying streets, and death's the market-place where each one meets.” ( )
  bookworm12 | Aug 7, 2015 |
For a William Shakespeare play I'd never heard of, "Two Noble Kinsmen" was pretty entertaining. It is, however, very evident that parts were not written by Shakespeare himself (this play is thought to be a collaboration between the bard and John Fletcher.)

The play tells the story of two cousins who are best friends but end up falling out after deciding on sight that they love the same girl. There is also a minor sub-plot about a jailer's daughter who is out of her mind.

While there isn't a ton of action in the play, at least until the end, I really enjoyed all of the dialog. I'm surprised this play isn't staged more often. ( )
  amerynth | Jan 17, 2014 |
Shakespeare's last dramatic work, Two Noble Kinsmen has often been marginalised by editors who believe that Shakespeare was just one of its many writers. This does a disservice to what is a fascinating and haunting play. The two noble kinsmen of the play's title are Palamon and his cousin Arcite, Thebans who have sworn a vow of friendship until death, claiming, "Is there record of any two that loved/Better than we do?" King Theseus of Athens leads an invasion against Thebes, and returns to Athens with the two cousins, who both fall in love with Princess Emilia, Theseus' sister-in-law. Both become rivals for Emilia's hand, incurring the wrath of Theseus. The action moves to the forest, where Palamon and Arcite prepare to duel over Emilia, only to be interrupted by Theseus, who delays the duel for one month, commanding that whoever wins the duel will marry Emilia, whilst the loser will be executed. On the day Arcite defeats Palamon, but is then crushed under his own horse. As he dies he bequeaths Emilia's hand to his cousin. The play ends with their wedding ceremony. Two Noble Kinsmen concludes with a note of resignation, as Theseus says "Let us be thankful/For that which is, and with you leave dispute/That are above our question", but as always, it is dangerous to see this as Shakespeare pronouncing on life itself, or simply another character in one of his plays voicing a particularly elegiac viewpoint on the sad events portrayed. --Jerry Brotton
  Roger_Scoppie | Apr 3, 2013 |
Shakespeare's last dramatic work, Two Noble Kinsmen has often been marginalised by editors who believe that Shakespeare was just one of its many writers. This does a disservice to what is a fascinating and haunting play. The two noble kinsmen of the play's title are Palamon and his cousin Arcite, Thebans who have sworn a vow of friendship until death, claiming, "Is there record of any two that loved/Better than we do?" King Theseus of Athens leads an invasion against Thebes, and returns to Athens with the two cousins, who both fall in love with Princess Emilia, Theseus' sister-in-law. Both become rivals for Emilia's hand, incurring the wrath of Theseus. The action moves to the forest, where Palamon and Arcite prepare to duel over Emilia, only to be interrupted by Theseus, who delays the duel for one month, commanding that whoever wins the duel will marry Emilia, whilst the loser will be executed. On the day Arcite defeats Palamon, but is then crushed under his own horse. As he dies he bequeaths Emilia's hand to his cousin. The play ends with their wedding ceremony. Two Noble Kinsmen concludes with a note of resignation, as Theseus says "Let us be thankful/For that which is, and with you leave dispute/That are above our question", but as always, it is dangerous to see this as Shakespeare pronouncing on life itself, or simply another character in one of his plays voicing a particularly elegiac viewpoint on the sad events portrayed. --Jerry Brotton
  Roger_Scoppie | Apr 3, 2013 |
Largely ignored for centuries because of doubts about its authorship and its subject matter, 'The Two Noble Kinsmen' is surprisingly relevant to many current interests. This text supplies information on sources and contexts, and compares a number of late-20th century stagings of the play.rrShakespeare's last dramatic work, Two Noble Kinsmen has often been marginalised by editors who believe that Shakespeare was just one of its many writers. This does a disservice to what is a fascinating and haunting play. The two noble kinsmen of the play's title are Palamon and his cousin Arcite, Thebans who have sworn a vow of friendship until death, claiming, "Is there record of any two that loved/Better than we do?" King Theseus of Athens leads an invasion against Thebes, and returns to Athens with the two cousins, who both fall in love with Princess Emilia, Theseus' sister-in-law. Both become rivals for Emilia's hand, incurring the wrath of Theseus. The action moves to the forest, where Palamon and Arcite prepare to duel over Emilia, only to be interrupted by Theseus, who delays the duel for one month, commanding that whoever wins the duel will marry Emilia, whilst the loser will be executed. On the day Arcite defeats Palamon, but is then crushed under his own horse. As he dies he bequeaths Emilia's hand to his cousin. The play ends with their wedding ceremony. Two Noble Kinsmen concludes with a note of resignation, as Theseus says "Let us be thankful/For that which is, and with you leave dispute/That are above our question", but as always, it is dangerous to see this as Shakespeare pronouncing on life itself, or simply another character in one of his plays voicing a particularly elegiac viewpoint on the sad events portrayed. --Jerry Brotton
  Roger_Scoppie | Apr 3, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fletcher, Johnmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Fletcher, Johnmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Fletcher, Johnmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Fletcher, Johnmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Shakespeare, Williammain authorall editionsconfirmed
Potter, LoisEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sipari, LauriTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skeat, Walter W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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New Playes, and Maydenheads, are neare a kin,

Much follow'd both, for both much mony g'yn,

If they stand sound, and well: And a good Play

(Whose modest Sceanes blush on his marriage day,

And shake to loose his honour) is like hir

That after holy Tye and first nights stir

Yet still is Modestie, and still retaines

More of the maid to sight, than Husbands paines;

We pray our Play may be so; For I am sure

It has a noble Breeder, and a pure,

A learned, and a Poet never went

More famous yet twixt Po and silver Trent:

Chaucer (of all admir'd) the Story gives,

There constant to Eternity it lives.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140707301, Mass Market Paperback)

Part of "The New Penguin Shakespeare" series, this text looks at "The Two Noble Kinsmen" with an introduction, a list of further reading, commentary and a short account of the textual problems of the play. The series is used and recommended by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:53 -0400)

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"Palamon and Arcite, cousins and bosom friends, are taken prisoner by Duke Theseus of Athens. While in captivity, they spy the beautiful Emilia. Both fall instantly in love with her, and their attachment to each other turns to hate. This dark-edged tragicomedy is now widely regarded at having been written by Shakespeare in collaboration with John Fletcher. Probably composed in 1613-14, it is the final play in Shakespeare's dramatic career"--Container.… (more)

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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