The Two Noble Kinsmen


Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V

Enter Palamon from the bush
faith (n.) 1 promise, assurance, pledge


About this hour my cousin gave his faith

To visit me again, and with him bring

Two swords and two good armours; if he fail,
armour (n.) suit of armour

He's neither man nor soldier. When he left me,

I did not think a week could have restored

My lost strength to me, I was grown so low

And crestfallen with my wants. I thank thee, Arcite,

Thou art yet a fair foe; and I feel myself,

With this refreshing, able once again

To outdure danger. To delay it longer
outdure (v.) endure, outlast, survive

Would make the world think, when it comes to hearing,

That I lay fatting like a swine to fight,
fat (v.) fatten, feed up, nourish
swine (n.) wild boar

And not a soldier. Therefore this blest morning

Shall be the last; and that sword he refuses,

If it but hold, I kill him with; 'tis justice.
hold (v.) 7 stay unbroken, hold out [in a fight]

So, love and fortune for me!

Enter Arcite with armours and swords

                         O, good morrow.
morrow (n.) morning See Topics: Frequency count


Good morrow, noble kinsman.


                         I have put you

To too much pains, sir.


                         That too much, fair cousin,

Is but a debt to honour, and my duty.


Would you were so in all, sir; I could wish ye

As kind a kinsman as you force me find

A beneficial foe, that my embraces

Might thank ye, not my blows.


                         I shall think either,

Well done, a noble recompense.
quit (v.) 5 pay back, repay, reward


                         Then I shall quit you.


Defy me in these fair terms, and you show
show (v.) appear, look [like], present [as]

More than a mistress to me; no more anger,

As you love anything that's honourable!

We were not bred to talk, man; when we are armed,

And both upon our guards, then let our fury,

Like meeting of two tides, fly strongly from us,

And then to whom the birthright of this beauty

Truly pertains – without upbraidings, scorns,
pertain (v.) belong, have a right

Despisings of our persons, and such poutings

Fitter for girls and schoolboys – will be seen,

And quickly, yours or mine. Wilt please you arm, sir?

Or if you feel yourself not fitting yet
fit (v.) 6 be fit, be in satisfactory condition

And furnished with your old strength, I'll stay, cousin,

And every day discourse you into health,
discourse (v.) 1 talk, chat, converse

As I am spared. Your person I am friends with,
spare (v.) 6 be free [at court], not needed

And I could wish I had not said I loved her,

Though I had died; but loving such a lady,

And justifying my love, I must not fly from't.


Arcite, thou art so brave an enemy
brave (adj.) 2 noble, worthy, excellent

That no man but thy cousin's fit to kill thee.

I am well and lusty. Choose your arms.
lusty (adj.) 1 vigorous, strong, robust, eager


                         Choose you, sir.


Wilt thou exceed in all, or dost thou do't
exceed (v.) outdo, surpass, excel, be superior

To make me spare thee?


                         If you think so, cousin,

You are deceived, for as I am a soldier

I will not spare you.
find (v.) 4 find the truth about, discover the reason for


                         That's well said.


                                                         You'll find it.


Then as I am an honest man and love,

With all the justice of affection
affection (n.) 4 love, devotion

I'll pay thee soundly. This I'll take.

He chooses his armour
pay (v.) 2 punish, pay back, retaliate against
soundly (adv.) 1 severely, strongly, dearly, in full


                         That's mine then.

I'll arm you first.


                         Do. Pray thee tell me, cousin,

Where gottest thou this good armour?


                         'Tis the Duke's,

And to say true, I stole it. Do I pinch you?




                         Is't not too heavy?


                                                         I have worn a lighter,

But I shall make it serve.
close (adv.) 3 tightly, in a close-fitting way


                         I'll buckle't close.


By any means.
care for (v.) want, like, wish
grand guard piece of tournament armour protecting the chest and left shoulder See Topics: Weapons


                         You care not for a grand guard?


No, no, we'll use no horses. I perceive

You would fain be at that fight.
fain (adv.) gladly, willingly See Topics: Frequency count
indifferent (adj.) 2 unconcerned, without a preference


                         I am indifferent.


Faith, so am I. Good cousin, thrust the buckle

Through far enough.
casque, caske (n.) helmet See Topics: Weapons
warrant (v.) 1 assure, promise, guarantee, confirm See Topics: Frequency count


                         I warrant you.


                                                         My casque now.


Will you fight bare-armed?


                         We shall be the nimbler.


But use your gauntlets, though. Those are o'th' least;
least, of the too small; or: inferior

Prithee take mine, good cousin.


                         Thank you, Arcite.

How do I look? Am I fallen much away?
fall away (v.) be thin, emaciate, waste away


Faith, very little; love has used you kindly.


I'll warrant thee I'll strike home.
warrant (v.) 1 assure, promise, guarantee, confirm See Topics: Frequency count


                         Do, and spare not;

I'll give you cause, sweet cousin.


                         Now to you, sir.

He arms Arcite
methinks(t), methought(s) (v.) it seems /seemed to me See Topics: Frequency count

Methinks this armour's very like that, Arcite,

Thou worest that day the three kings fell, but lighter.


That was a very good one, and that day,

I well remember, you outdid me, cousin.

I never saw such valour; when you charged

Upon the left wing of the enemy,

I spurred hard to come up, and under me
come up (v.) 1 come forward [from the rear], reach, advance

I had a right good horse.


                         You had indeed;

A bright bay, I remember.


                         Yes, but all

Was vainly laboured in me; you outwent me,
outgo (v.) 1 outdo, outstrip, surpass

Nor could my wishes reach you; yet a little
reach (v.), past form raught 1 equal, match, attain to

I did by imitation.
virtue (n.) 3 courage, valour, bravery


                         More by virtue;

You are modest, cousin.


                         When I saw you charge first,

Methought I heard a dreadful clap of thunder
methinks(t), methought(s) (v.) it seems /seemed to me See Topics: Frequency count

Break from the troop.


                         But still before that flew

The lightning of your valour. Stay a little;

Is not this piece too strait?
strait (adj.) 5 tight, close-fitting, narrow


                         No, no, 'tis well.


I would have nothing hurt thee but my sword;

A bruise would be dishonour.
perfect (adj.) 7 completely prepared, fully made ready


                         Now I am perfect.


Stand off then.
hold (v.) 10 consider, regard, esteem, value [as]
stand off (v.) 1 stand back, draw back


                         Take my sword; I hold it better.


I thank ye. No, keep it, your life lies on it.
lie (v.) 5 hang, depend, hinge

Here's one; if it but hold, I ask no more,
hold (v.) 7 stay unbroken, hold out [in a fight]

For all my hopes. My cause and honour guard me!


And me my love!

They bow several ways, then advance and stand
aught (n.) anything, [with negative word] nothing See Topics: Frequency count
several (adj.) 1 separate, different, distinct See Topics: Frequency count
stand (v.) 4 stand still, stop, cease moving

                         Is there aught else to say?


This only, and no more. Thou art mine aunt's son,

And that blood we desire to shed is mutual,

In me, thine, and in thee, mine; my sword

Is in my hand, and if thou killest me

The gods and I forgive thee. If there be

A place prepared for those that sleep in honour,

I wish his weary soul that falls may win it.

Fight bravely, cousin; give me thy noble hand.


Here, Palamon. This hand shall never more

Come near thee with such friendship.
commend (v.) 2 commit, entrust, hand over


                         I commend thee.


If I fall, curse me, and say I was a coward,

For none but such dare die in these just trials.

One more farewell, my cousin.


                         Farewell, Arcite.

They fight. Then horns sound within; they stand
stand (v.) 4 stand still, stop, cease moving


Lo, cousin, lo, our folly has undone us!




                         This is the Duke, a-hunting as I told you;

If we be found, we are wretched. O, retire

For honour's sake, and safety, presently
presently (adv.) 1 immediately, instantly, at once See Topics: Frequency count

Into your bush again, sir; we shall find

Too many hours to die in. Gentle cousin,
gentle (adj.) 1 well-born, honourable, noble See Topics: Frequency count

If you be seen you perish instantly

For breaking prison, and I, if you reveal me,

For my contempt; then all the world will scorn us,
contempt (n.) 1 disobedience, disregard, defiance

And say we had a noble difference,
difference (n.) 1 quarrel, disagreement, dispute

But base disposers of it.
base (adj.) 1 dishonourable, low, unworthy See Topics: Frequency count
disposer (n.) 1 settler, handler, manager


                         No, no, cousin,

I will no more be hidden, nor put off

This great adventure to a second trial.
adventure (n.) 1 venture, enterprise, issue, hazard

I know your cunning, and I know your cause;
cause (n.) 1 reason, motive, ground
cunning (n.) 3 deviousness, deceit, craftiness, artfulness

He that faints now, shame take him! Put thyself
faint (v.) 1 lose courage, show fear, lose heart, take fright

Upon thy present guard.


                         You are not mad?


Or I will make th' advantage of this hour

Mine own, and what to come shall threaten me

I fear less than my fortune. Know, weak cousin,

I love Emilia, and in that I'll bury
bury (v.) 1 abandon forever, consign to oblivion, eliminate

Thee, and all crosses else.
cross (n.) 2 hindrance, obstacle, stumbling block


                         Then come what can come,

Thou shalt know, Palamon, I dare as well

Die as discourse or sleep; only this fears me,
discourse (v.) 1 talk, chat, converse
fear (v.) 1 frighten, scare, terrify, daunt

The law will have the honour of our ends.
honour (n.) 1 fame, renown, glory

Have at thy life!
have at [someone] [said at the start of a fencing attack or other confrontation] I come at, let me at [a person] See Topics: Discourse markers


                         Look to thine own well, Arcite.

They fight again. Horns sound within; enter Theseus,

Hippolyta, Emilia, Pirithous, and train


What ignorant and mad malicious traitors
malicious (adj.) 1 wicked, evil-minded, of ill will

Are you, that 'gainst the tenor of my laws
tenor, tenour (n.) 2 meaning, purpose, intention

Are making battle, thus like knights appointed,
appoint (v.) 1 arm, equip, furnish

Without my leave and officers of arms?
officer of arms (n.) herald, pursuivant

By Castor, both shall die.
hold (v.) 1 keep, maintain, observe


                         Hold thy word, Theseus;

We are certainly both traitors, both despisers

Of thee, and of thy goodness. I am Palamon

That cannot love thee, he that broke thy prison –

Think well what that deserves – and this is Arcite;

A bolder traitor never trod thy ground,

A falser ne'er seemed friend; this is the man
false (adj.) 1 treacherous, traitorous, perfidious See Topics: Frequency count

Was begged and banished, this is he contemns thee
contemn (v.) despise, scorn, treat with contempt

And what thou darest do, and in this disguise,

Against thine own edict follows thy sister,
follow (v.) 1 seek after, pursue, strive for, court

That fortunate bright star, the fair Emilia –
fortunate (adj.) 1 bringing good fortune, lucky, favourable

Whose servant, if there be a right in seeing,
servant (n.) 1 devotee, one who gives dedicated service, lover

And first bequeathing of the soul to, justly

I am – and which is more, dares think her his.

This treachery, like a most trusty lover,

I called him now to answer; if thou be'st
answer (v.) 14 account for, justify, defend

As thou art spoken, great and virtuous,

The true decider of all injuries,

Say ‘ Fight again,’ and thou shalt see me, Theseus,

Do such a justice thou thyself wilt envy.

Then take my life; I'll woo thee to't.


                         O heaven,

What more than man is this!


                         I have sworn.


                                                         We seek not

Thy breath of mercy, Theseus; 'tis to me

A thing as soon to die as thee to say it,

And no more moved. Where this man calls me traitor,
move (v.) 1 arouse, affect, stir [by emotion]
where (conj.) 1 whereas

Let me say thus much: if in love be treason,

In service of so excellent a beauty,

As I love most, and in that faith will perish,

As I have brought my life here to confirm it,

As I have served her truest, worthiest,

As I dare kill this cousin that denies it,

So let me be most traitor, and ye please me.

For scorning thy edict, Duke, ask that lady
for (conj.) 1 as for

Why she is fair, and why her eyes command me

Stay here to love her; and if she say ‘ traitor,’

I am a villain fit to lie unburied.


Thou shalt have pity of us both, O Theseus,

If unto neither thou show mercy. Stop,
stop (v.) 2 stop up, close (up), shut

As thou art just, thy noble ear against us;

As thou art valiant, for thy cousin's soul,

Whose twelve strong labours crown his memory,

Let's die together, at one instant, Duke;

Only a little let him fall before me,

That I may tell my soul he shall not have her.


I grant your wish, for to say true your cousin

Has ten times more offended, for I gave him

More mercy than you found, sir, your offences

Being no more than his. None here speak for 'em;

For ere the sun set, both shall sleep for ever.


Alas the pity! Now or never, sister,

Speak not to be denied; that face of yours
deny (v.) 1 refuse, rebuff, reject

Will bear the curses else of after ages

For these lost cousins.


                         In my face, dear sister,

I find no anger to 'em, nor no ruin;

The misadventure of their own eyes kill 'em.

Yet that I will be woman and have pity,
that (conj.) 5 to show that

My knees shall grow to th' ground but I'll get mercy.

Help me, dear sister; in a deed so virtuous,

The powers of all women will be with us.

(The ladies kneel)

Most royal brother –


                         Sir, by our tie of marriage –


By your own spotless honour –


                         By that faith,

That fair hand, and that honest heart you gave me –


By that you would have pity in another,
by that (conj.) by the fact that

By your own virtues infinite –


                         By valour,

By all the chaste nights I have ever pleased you –
chaste (adj.) 2 of allowed love-making [because married]


These are strange conjurings.
conjuring (n.) entreaty, invocation, incantation


                         Nay, then I'll in too;

By all our friendship, sir, by all our dangers,

By all you love most, wars and this sweet lady –


By that you would have trembled to deny

A blushing maid –


                         By your own eyes; by strength

In which you swore I went beyond all women,
go beyond (v.) exceed, surpass, transcend

Almost all men, and yet I yielded, Theseus –


To crown all this; by your most noble soul,

Which cannot want due mercy, I beg first –
want (v.) 1 lack, need, be without See Topics: Frequency count


Next hear my prayers –


                         Last let me entreat, sir –


For mercy.




                                                         Mercy on these princes!


Ye make my faith reel. Say I felt
faith (n.) 2 constancy, fidelity, loyalty

Compassion to 'em both, how would you place it?


Upon their lives – but with their banishments.


You are a right woman, sister; you have pity,
right (adj.) 1 typical, true, classic

But want the understanding where to use it.
want (v.) 1 lack, need, be without See Topics: Frequency count

If you desire their lives, invent a way

Safer than banishment; can these two live,

And have the agony of love about 'em,

And not kill one another? Every day

They'd fight about you, hourly bring your honour

In public question with their swords. Be wise then,
question (n.) 1 argument, contention, dispute

And here forget 'em; it concerns your credit
credit (n.) 3 reputation, name, standing, honour

And my oath equally; I have said they die.

Better they fall by th' law than one another.

Bow not my honour.
bow (v.) 1 make to bend, cause to bend


                         O, my noble brother,

That oath was rashly made, and in your anger;

Your reason will not hold it. If such vows
hold (v.) 1 keep, maintain, observe
reason (n.) 1 power of reason, judgement, common-sense [often opposed to ‘passion’]

Stand for express will, all the world must perish.
express (adj.) 4 fixed, final, irrevocable
stand (v.) 2 continue, remain, wait, stay put
will (n.) 4 intent, purpose, design

Beside, I have another oath 'gainst yours,

Of more authority, I am sure more love;

Not made in passion neither, but good heed.
heed (n.) 1 consideration, care, attention
passion (n.) 4 fit of anger, feeling of rage


What is it, sister?
brave (adj.) 2 noble, worthy, excellent


                         Urge it home, brave lady.


That you would ne'er deny me anything

Fit for my modest suit, and your free granting.
suit (n.) 1 formal request, entreaty, petition See Topics: Frequency count

I tie you to your word now; if ye fall in't,
fall (v.) 5 fall short, fail, do not live up to

Think how you maim your honour –

For now I am set a-begging, sir, I am deaf

To all but your compassion – how their lives

Might breed the ruin of my name, opinion.
name (n.) 1 reputation, fame, renown
opinion (n.) 3 gossip, suspicion, malicious rumour
opinion (n.) 2 reputation, character, honour

Shall anything that loves me perish for me?

That were a cruel wisdom; do men prune

The straight young boughs that blush with thousand blossoms

Because they may be rotten? O Duke Theseus,
be (v.) 2 become, come to be

The goodly mothers that have groaned for these,
groan (v.) utter groans during childbirth

And all the longing maids that ever loved 'em,

If your vow stand, shall curse me and my beauty,

And in their funeral songs for these two cousins

Despise my cruelty, and cry woe worth me,
worth (v.) become of, happen to, fall on

Till I am nothing but the scorn of women;

For heaven's sake, save their lives and banish 'em.


On what conditions?


                         Swear 'em never more

To make me their contention, or to know me,
contention (n.) quarrel, dispute, strife
know (v.) 1 acknowledge, remember, think [of] See Topics: Discourse markers

To tread upon thy dukedom, and to be,

Wherever they shall travel, ever strangers

To one another.
a (prep.) 3 variant form of ‘ in’


                         I'll be cut a-pieces

Before I take this oath! Forget I love her?

O all ye gods, despise me then. Thy banishment

I not mislike, so we may fairly carry
mislike (v.) dislike, be displeased with

Our swords and cause along; else never trifle,

But take our lives, Duke. I must love and will,

And for that love must and dare kill this cousin

On any piece the earth has.
piece (n.) 10 bit of ground, place


                         Will you, Arcite,

Take these conditions?


                         He's a villain, then.


These are men!


No, never, Duke; 'tis worse to me than begging

To take my life so basely. Though I think
basely (adv.) dishonourably, shamefully, ignominiously
take (v.) 10 accept, receive, escape with

I never shall enjoy her, yet I'll preserve

The honour of affection and die for her,
affection (n.) 4 love, devotion

Make death a devil.
devil (n.) diabolical thing, worst possible event


What may be done? For now I feel compassion.

The ladies rise
fall (v.) 5 fall short, fail, do not live up to


Let it not fall again, sir.


                         Say, Emilia,

If one of them were dead, as one must, are you

Content to take the other to your husband?
content (adj.) 1 agreeable, willing, ready See Topics: Frequency count

They cannot both enjoy you. They are princes

As goodly as your own eyes, and as noble

As ever fame yet spoke of; look upon 'em,

And if you can love, end this difference.
difference (n.) 1 quarrel, disagreement, dispute

I give consent; are you content too, princes?


With all our souls.


                         He that she refuses

Must die then.


                         Any death thou canst invent, Duke.


If I fall from that mouth, I fall with favour,

And lovers yet unborn shall bless my ashes.


If she refuse me, yet my grave will wed me,

And soldiers sing my epitaph.


                         Make choice then.


I cannot, sir, they are both too excellent;

For me, a hair shall never fall of these men.


What will become of 'em?


                         Thus I ordain it,

And by mine honour once again, it stands,
stand (v.) 2 continue, remain, wait, stay put

Or both shall die: you shall both to your country,

And each within this month, accompanied

With three fair knights, appear again in this place,

In which I'll plant a pyramid; and whether,
plant (v.) 2 fix in the ground, set up, place
pyramid (n.) obelisk, pillar

Before us that are here, can force his cousin

By fair and knightly strength to touch the pillar,

He shall enjoy her; the other lose his head,

And all his friends; nor shall he grudge to fall,
grudge (v.) grumble, complain, be discontented

Nor think he dies with interest in this lady.
interest (n.) 1 valid claim [on], rights of possession [to]

Will this content ye?


                         Yes! – Here, cousin Arcite,

I am friends again, till that hour.


                         I embrace ye.


Are you content, sister?


                         Yes, I must, sir,

Else both miscarry.
miscarry (v.) 1 come to harm, perish, meet death


                         Come, shake hands again then,

And take heed, as you are gentlemen, this quarrel

Sleep till the hour prefixed, and hold your course.
course (n.) 1 course of action, way of proceeding See Topics: Frequency count
hold (v.) 1 keep, maintain, observe
prefixed (adj.) fixed, settled, prearranged, decided in advance


We dare not fail thee, Theseus.


                         Come, I'll give ye

Now usage like to princes and to friends.

When ye return, who wins, I'll settle here;
settle (v.) establish, set up, give a home to

Who loses, yet I'll weep upon his bier.


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