William Shakespeare and playwright John Fletcher jointly wrote The Two Noble Kinsmen. It is uncertain how much of the play Shakespeare wrote, but the best conjecture indicates that he completed Acts I and V and Fletcher, the other three acts. It is not known which author broached the idea of writing a collaborative play.
The Two Noble Kinsmen takes place in Athens. Greece, and surrounding woods. The presence of Theseus and Hippolyta indicates that the time is the age of myth, but the chivalric ideals suggest a later time. The play, therefore, has a timeless, fairytale atmosphere.
Written: Between 1612 and 1614
Probable Main Sources:."The Knight's Tale" in The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400). The Two Noble Kinsmen follows Chaucer's story closely, retaining many of the principal characters and much of the plot. Shakespeare also drew upon the following sources: Il Teseida, by Boccaccio (1313-1375); Greek mythology, including the account of Creon's refusal to allow Antigone, daughter of Oedipus, to bury her brother Polynices
First Printing: 1634 as part of a quarto edition.
The climax occurs when Arcite defeats Palamon in the contest for the hand of Emilia.
Theseus, the son of the king of Athens, was one of the great heroes of ancient Greek mythology. While still a teenager, he slew villains and monsters menacing the environs of Athens. Later, in a famous adventure, he killed the Cretan minotaur, a creature that washalf-man and half-bull, and participated with Jason in the quest for the Golden Fleece. After his father died, Theseus ruled Athens wisely, showing compassion for the downtrodden, and helped unify the people of Attica, in southeastern Greece. Although married to a woman named Phaedra, hecaptured the Amazon queen Hippolyta and fathered a child by her. Later, Hippolyta died fighting at the side of Theseus.
John Fletcher (1579-1625) was an English playwright who wrote for various acting companies–including the King’s Men, the same company for which Shakespeare wrote–between the early 1600's (probably beginning between 1604 and 1607) and the year of his death, 1625. Hesometimes collaborated with the dramatist Francis Beaumont and other writers, including William Rowley, Nathan Field, Philip Massinger, and, apparently, Shakespeare. He may also have collaborated with Ben Jonson and George Chapman. Fletcher generally focused more on plot twists than characterdevelopment to generate audience interest. Among the notable plays he wrote without collaboration are The Loyall Subject, The Faithfull Shepheardesse, A Wife for a Moneth, The Chances, The Wild Goose Chase, The Mad Lover, The Humourous Lieutenant, Rule a Wife and Have a Wife, Women Pleas’d, and The Island Princesse. Among the notable plays he wrote with Beaumont are A King and No King, Philaster, and The Maides Tragedy. Fletcher died in London of plague.
1: Love can breed enmity. Palamon and Arcite become bitter rivals
when they both fall in love with Emilia. Shakespeare developed a similar
theme in The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Theme 2: Friendship and gallantry triumph over rivalry and bitterness. Palamon and Arcite reconcile at the end of the play.
Two Noble Kinsmen is a tragicomedy. One of the central characters,
Arcite, dies in an accident after winning the hand of Emilia. The other
main character, Palamon, then marries Emilia.
Number of Words in Complete Text: 29,375.
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2003
.......Within three years after completing one of his most remarkable plays, The Tempest, William Shakespeare completed The Two Noble Kinsmen, probably his most unremarkable play, in collaboration with John Fletcher. Whereas The Tempest has enjoyed acclaim and popularity over the centuries, The Kinsmen has enjoyed mostly the silence of library bookshelves. It reposes at the end of the Shakespeare row as an oddity, a pariah play excluded from the Shakespeare canon because of unresolved questions about whether Shakespeare, in fact, participated in the writing of an undistinguished play.
.......Doubters–a goodly passel of them admirers of Shakespeare–ask: How could the Stratfordian have co-created a work largely vacant of the exceptional incandescence and insight of his earlier plays? However, in recent times, these doubters have begun to concede thatShakespeare indeed wrote part of the play, if only because their research has failed to explain the byline on the title page of the 1634 quarto edition: The Two Noble Kinsmen . . . Written by the Worthies of their time, Mr. John Fletcher and Mr. William Shakespeare.
.......Of course, acknowledgment of Shakespeare as a co-author does not automatically free the play from its bookshelf prison; it still must answer for its un-Shakespearean writing. Sections believed to have been written by Shakespeare–Acts I and V and thefirst scene in Act III–simply do not measure up. Something is missing; the muse of fire seems only to smolder. One is hard pressed to track down verses in the play that qualify as first-rate epigrams or aphorisms. In Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Othello, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Henry V, Richard III, and other Shakespeare plays, such lines crowd the texts, jostling for attention and inviting readers to commit the lines to memory.
.......The Kinsmen also lacks character development: Palamon and Arcite, Theseus, Emilia–in fact, every character in the play–is a one-dimensional stick figure; each remains virtually unchanged from beginning to end. This fault would be pardonable if these characters laughed, cried, hated, or loved with the believable zeal of a Richard III or a Volumnia (Coriolanus). But they do not; as marionettes or manikins, they dress their parts, but they do not become their parts. It is true that Palamon and Arcite fall desperately in love with Emilia; but theirs is factitious love, infatuation, fixed on skin-deep beauty.
.......Before they duel for her hand, Emilia agrees to marry the victor without ever having conversed privately with either combatant. After Arcite prevails, he wins Emilia, and Palamon loses his head. But, no, wait. On his triumphal victory ride through the streetsof Athens, Arcite falls off his horse and dies. Emilia cries onion tears, then marries her backup beau, Palamon, after Theseus pardons him before the axe falls.
.......It’s all good fun, the stuff of an American romance film–but not good Shakespeare.
Two Noble Kinsmen: Audiocassette Audiocassette of the Play Available at Amazon.com
By William Shakespeare and John Fletcher
A Study Guide
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2003
.......Three queens bear a sad tale to Theseus, Duke of Athens:
.......Cruel Creon, ruler of Thebes, has killed their husbands. Furthermore, he refuses them a decent cremation to "urn their ashes." With Theseus are his Amazon bride, Hippolyta, and her sister, Emilia. All three sympathize with the queens, and Theseus vowsvengeance. When war clouds gray the sky, they disrupt the lives of two noble kinsmen, Arcite and Palamon, the very best of friends. Although they are cousins of Creon, they loathe him passionately. Creon is bad news. Nevertheless, when Creon calls them to arms to fight the forces of Theseus,they bow to honor and duty and take up arms. Theseus wins the war, and the three queens get to incinerate their husbands. After the battle, Theseus reports that two enemy soldiers–Arcite and Palamon–fought with great valor and ferocity.
th' helm of Mars, I saw them in the war,
orders his best surgeons to tend to their wounds, declaring, "Their lives
concern us much more than Thebes is worth." Nevertheless, because they
are enemies, he jails them. At the prison, the jailer's daughter casts
a roving eye upon Arcite and Palamon,who ripple with youthful good looks,
and says, "It is a holiday to look on them." While keeping company with
the walls of their cell, the two
men remain in good cheer–until they espy Theseus' sister, Emily, in a garden
below their cell window. She is the vision of visions, with enough beauty
to blind the sun. Both men fall in love with her at first sight, then commence
fighting over her. "I saw her first," Palamon says. WhenArcite stakes
his claim, their friendship disintegrates, and Palamon threatens to brain
Arcite with his shackles. Before they come to blows, the jailer hauls Arcite
off to the duke, who banishes him from Athens. Palamon remains behind in
the cell. While in exile in a forest near Athens, Arcitekeeps thinking
about Emilia. Unless he acts fast, he decides, Palamon will have her all
to himself. Meanwhile, the jailer's daughter falls hopelessly in love with
Palamon and frees him. He takes refuge in the same forest that hides Arcite.
ignorant and mad malicious traitors,
.......The kinsmen readily admit their crimes (violation of the decree of exile and escape from jail). But they also disclose that their crimes had a common cause, a noble cause: their love for the fair Emilia. Both want to be close to her. Both want to win her. Bothare willing to die fighting for her. Their story touches Emilia and Hippolyta, and the duke decrees that Emilia must choose between them. The man not chosen must die. Arcite says:
she refuse me, yet my grave will wed me,
Emilia tells the duke she cannot choose between them because "They are both too excellent." The duke then orders the kinsmen to return in a month for a contest of strength. The winner gets Emilia; the loser gets beheaded. On the day of the contest, the struggleshifts back and forth–now favoring one, now favoring the other. In the end, Arcite wins. As Palamon prepares to lay his head on the chopping block, he inquires about the fate of the jailer's daughter and learns that she is to marry a wooer (disguised as Palamon). Then news comes that Arcite,while "trotting the stones of Athens" on his horse, fell off and suffered mortal injury. Before dying, he reconciles with Palamon and bequeaths him Emilia, saying Palamon was the better match for Emilia all along. Athens then prepares for a wedding and a funeral.
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|Hamlet (1990) NR||Kevin Kline||Kevin Kline|
|Hamlet (1991) PG||Franco Zeffirelli||Mel Gibson, Glenn Close|
|Hamlet (1996) PG-13||Kenneth Branagh||Kenneth Branagh,|
|Hamlet (1964) NR||John Gielgud, Bill Colleran||Richard Burton, Hume Cronyn|
|Hamlet (1964) NR||Grigori Kozintsev||Innokenti Smoktunovsky|
|Hamlet (2000) NR||Cambpell Scott, Eric Simonson||Campbell Scott, Blair Brown|
|Henry V (1989) PG-13||Kenneth Branagh||Kenneth Branaugh, Derek Jacobi|
|Henry V( 1946) NR||Laurence Olivier||Leslie Banks, Felix Aylmer|
|Julius Caesar (1950) NR||David Bradley||Charlton Heston|
|Julius Caesar (1953) NR||Joseph L. Mankiewicz||Marlon Brando, James Mason|
|Julius Caesar (1970) G||Stuart Burge||Charlton Heston, Jason Robards|
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|King Lear (1976) NR||Tony Davenall||Patrick Mower, Ann Lynn|
|King Lear (1984) NR||Michael Elliott||Laurence Olivier, Colin Blakely|
|King Lear (1997) NR||Richard Eyre||Ian Holm|
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|Macbeth (1971) R||Roman Polanski||Jon Finch, Francesca Annis|
|Macbeth (1978) NR||Philip Casson||Ian McKellen, Judy Dench|
|The Merchant of Venice (2004) R||Michael Radford||Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons|
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|Midsummer Night's Dream (1996) PG-13||Adrian Noble||Lindsay Duncan, Alex Jennings|
|A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)||Michael Hoffman||Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer|
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|Romeo and Juliet (1968) G||Franco Zeffirelli||Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey|
|Romeo and Juliet (1996) PG-13||Baz Luhrmann||Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes|
|Romeo and Juliet (1976) NR||Joan Kemp-Welch||Christopher Neame, Ann Hasson|
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|The Taming of the Shrew (1976)||Kirk Browning||Raye Birk, Earl Boen, Ron Boussom|
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