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 as having been written by Shakespeare in collaboration with John Fletcher. Composed sometime in 1613-14, The Two Noble Kinsmen is the final play in Shakespeare's dramatic career.
Jonathan Firth plays Palamon, Nigel Cooke is Arcite, and Emilia is played by Helen Schlesinger.
“Our reasons are not prophets
When oft our fancies are.”
― William Shakespeare, The Two Noble Kinsmen
This play sits next to 'Pericles, The Two Gentlemen of Verona', 'Henry VIII', and 'Cymbeline' as one of my least favorite Shakespeare plays. Ugh. I'm not a fan of Shakespeare's collaborations (see 'Henry VIII') plus 'The Two Noble Kinsmen' is also just a bit boring.
The story is losely based on Chauser's 'A Knight's Tale', but Shakespeare puts the two cousin's in love with one woman and sets the story in Athens and Thebes. I think the failing of this tragedy stems from, surprisingly, the inability of the play to convince me (the reader) in the transformation of the cousins from noble cousins to jealous dicks. There just isn't a strong enough catelyst. My other major beef with the play, is there isn't enough Shakespeare in it. Not enough amazing lines. Not enough dance to the English.
Most scholars agree on the following division in the play:
Prologue - Fletcher
Act 1 - Shakespeare
Act 2.1 - Shakespeare
Act 2.2-2.6 Fletcher
Act 3.1-3.2 Shakespeare
Act 3 Fletcher
Act 4 Fletcher
Act 5.1 Shakespeare
Act 5.2 Fletcher
Act 5.3-5.4 Shakespeare
Epilogue - Fletcher
There is some disagreement about whether Shakespeare or Fletcher wrote the first 33 lines of Act 5. Think about THAT. That is Biblical level exegesis when scholars, nearly 400 years after the fact are still disputing a page of lines of a VERY minor play. That level of byzantine back and forth is worthy of a play, or at least a narrative poem.
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I listened to the Arkangel audio while reading the play in E Book format from Delphi Complete Works of William Shakespeare. I found this play exceptionally enjoyable and entertaining. Quite a good amount of musical scores accompanied this production and the singing was outstanding. In the work two cousins are prisoners after a battle they participated in was lost and they both fall in love instantly with the same maiden. As the play proceeds there is betrayal, fighting and the jailers daughter becomes a bit of a mad person who goes about the town singing and acting foolish (well love does that to you I suppose). The cast of the production put in a delightful performance. Highly recommend enjoying Shakespeare this way.