The Two Noble Kinsmen



  • A little-known tragicomedy by Shakespeare and JohnFletcher; it is probably the last play that Shakespeare workedon. It was written in 1613-14, performed at court in about 1619, andpublished in a 1634 quarto, whose title page credits "the memorableWorthies of their time; Mr John Fletcher, and Mr William Shakespeare, Gent".It is believed that Shakespeare wrote the first and fifth acts, andFletcher the rest. The main plot was adapted from Boccaccio's Teseidaand Chaucer's The Knight's Tale.

    The story centres upon the cousins Palamon and Arcite, whohave been captured in war by Theseus, Duke of Thebes. While in prisonboth fall in love with Emilia, Theseus's sister-in-law. After Arciteis released and Palamon escapes, the two cousins meet to fight a duelover Emilia. Theseus interrupts the proceedings and, when Emilia failsto decide between them, orders them to fight again in a month's time;the winner will have Emilia and the loser will die. Arcite wins theencounter only to suffer a fatal fall from his horse. Dying, he requeststhat Emilia should wed his cousin, thereby saving him from execution.There is also a lively subplot involving a jailor's daughter who goesmad from unrequited love for Palamon.