The Two Noble Kinsmen | Study Guide

William Shakespeare & John Fletcher

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The Two Noble Kinsmen | Act 1, Scene 5 | Summary

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Summary

In this brief scene the queens hold a doleful funeral for their fallen husbands, transported in a procession of "hearses." A mournful song about urns and incense, heavy hearts, and tears is sung to signify the solemnity of the occasion, which brings only woe. The procession reaches the separate paths to each king's family burial plot. The queens go their separate ways to bury their husbands, with the third queen lamenting, "This world's a city full of straying streets, / And death's the market-place, where each one meets."

Analysis

The funeral procession in this scene echoes the wedding procession that opens the play (Act 1, Scene 1), though at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. A song consecrates both occasions: the wedding song offers blessings, whereas the funeral song reflects grief and offers no comfort to the mourners. The scene is stark: death is the end of every person's journey and cannot be avoided. The three queens, despite their grieving, proceed in a straightforward manner with the burials, accepting death as an inevitable part of life. This scene brings their role in the play to a close, framing Act 1 with a ceremony of joy uniting a couple and one of grief dividing others. These ideas will reappear as couples join and break apart and individuals die in an odd mixture of tragedy with comedy in terms of happy endings.

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