The Two Noble Kinsmen | Study Guide

William Shakespeare & John Fletcher

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The Two Noble Kinsmen | Epilogue | Summary



The Epilogue, personified in a character, would ask how the audience liked the play but is afraid of what they might answer. Before they go, he looks out and tries to gauge how they liked it. "No man smile? Then it goes hard, I see," he says. He asks for men who have loved a young girl to show themselves—it would be strange if none were there. If such men insult the play and ruin its chances at success, they do so against their own consciences. He cannot stop them from hissing, though. "Have at the worst can come, then!" he declares but asks people not to mistake his purpose. He does not mean to be arrogant but wants to say their play was meant merely to entertain them. If it has pleased the audience at all, it has succeeded. Before long they'll see better, he says, which will restore their love of the players, who remain at their service. He bids the audience goodnight.


Like the Prologue, the Epilogue is treated as a character or a personification of the concept of epilogue. This is unusual for Shakespeare's plays, in which the epilogue is usually spoken by a named character. It is unclear whether Shakespeare or Fletcher wrote the epilogue, though its apologetic nature differs from Shakespeare's other epilogues. Here, the speaker clearly seeks approval from the audience, in particular from the young men who have loved young women. The speaker seems to think these theatergoers may be more sympathetic to the play than others. He then defiantly urges audience members to scorn the play if they will—"Have at the worst can come, then!"—but reminds them the players are simply trying to please and entertain. His speech is meant to gain audience goodwill and, the speaker hopes, ensure the play's success.

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