The Two Noble Kinsmen | Study Guide

William Shakespeare & John Fletcher

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The Two Noble Kinsmen | Act 2, Scene 4 | Summary

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Summary

The jailer's daughter finds she is in love with Palamon, though she knows it is folly. He is a prince, and she is low-born. She cannot hope to marry him, and "to be his whore is witless." She thinks about how when she first saw him, she admired his looks, for he is as good looking as any man she's seen. Then she pitied him, as any young girl would do with such a handsome imprisoned man. And then she loved him with her whole heart, and it is a torment to her. To hear him sing is heaven, but his songs are all sad, and his grief makes her miserable. He speaks kindly to her, bowing and greeting her each morning with good wishes. "Once he kissed me; / I loved my lips the better ten days after— / Would he would do so every day!" she exclaims. Wondering how to make him love her, she devises a plan to set him free, convinced her efforts will win his heart.

Analysis

Although the jailer's daughter sees her own folly in falling for Palamon, she doesn't try to fight her feelings. Rather, she indulges them. She reviews the stages in which she fell in love and the reasons she did—from his good looks to his kind manners. Although these reasons do seem valid—Palamon is not without good qualities—her feelings for him develop so quickly as to seem more like unbridled infatuation than real love. The young woman fantasizes about their "relationship," daydreaming of his kisses, when it is likely he never intended to arouse her affection but was just being well mannered, or chivalrous. But unlike Arcite and Palamon who merely spied Emilia from a window, the jailer's daughter at least has something on which to base her love. If her desire to make Palamon love her may cause the audience to pity her, it is at best wishful thinking. At worst it's a possible disaster waiting to happen to move the play along and create contrasts between the different varieties of love.

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