The Two Noble Kinsmen | Study Guide

William Shakespeare & John Fletcher

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The Two Noble Kinsmen | Scene Summaries

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Timeline of Events

  • Springtime

    Three widowed queens interrupt Theseus's wedding day to ask him to fight King Creon of Thebes.

    Act 1, Scene 1
  • Soon after

    Victorious in Thebes, Theseus returns to Athens with Arcite and Palamon as prisoners.

    Act 1, Scene 4
  • Soon after

    Arcite and Palamon arrive at the prison where the jailer's daughter admires their nobility.

    Act 2, Scene 1
  • Directly after

    Palamon and then Arcite see Emilia from the prison and declare their love for her.

    Act 2, Scene 2
  • Soon after

    Pirithous keeps Palamon in prison but banishes Arcite, who stays unlawfully in Athens.

    Act 2, Scene 2
  • Later in Spring

    Disguised, Arcite wins an athletic event and impresses Theseus, who appoints him to serve Emilia.

    Act 2, Scene 5
  • Soon after

    Having fallen in love with Palamon, the jailer's daughter frees him and hides him in the forest.

    Act 2, Scene 6
  • Within hours

    Palamon leaves the hiding place while the jailer's daughter has gone to get him food.

    Act 3, Scene 1
  • Within hours

    Encountering Palamon in the forest, Arcite brings him food and armor so they can fight for Emilia.

    Act 3, Scene 1
  • Later that night

    Fearing Palamon dead and her father in trouble, the jailer's daughter wishes to die.

    Act 3, Scene 2
  • May 1

    The jailer's daughter, mad because of fear and unrequited love, dances with the countryfolk.

    Act 3, Scene 5
  • Later that day

    Discovering Arcite and Palamon dueling illegally, Theseus swears they will die.

    Act 3, Scene 6
  • Immediately after

    Agreeing to Emilia's pleas to spare the cousins' lives, Theseus arranges a later contest.

    Act 3, Scene 6
  • One month later

    Arcite and Palamon arrive for their fight as Emilia laments one of them must die for love of her.

    Act 4, Scene 2
  • About that time

    A doctor advises the wooer to pretend to be Palamon to cure the jailer's daughter's madness.

    Act 4, Scene 3
  • Soon after

    Arcite, Palamon, and Emilia offer prayers to gods and goddesses for good results in the fight.

    Act 5, Scene 1
  • Later that day

    Defeating Palamon, Arcite wins Emilia's hand, while Palamon is sentence to die.

    Act 5, Scene 3
  • After the contest

    As Palamon and his knights prepare to die, they offer money for the jailer's daughter's dowry.

    Act 5, Scene 4
  • Moments later

    Pirithous stops the execution, announcing Arcite is near death from an accident.

    Act 5, Scene 4
  • Soon after

    Arcite gives Emilia to Palamon and then dies.

    Act 5, Scene 4

Scene Summaries Chart

Scene Summary
Prologue The speaker of the Prologue, a character, compares new plays and virginity. Both are highly sought after "if they stand ... Read More
Act 1, Scene 1 Theseus, Duke of Athens, has just married Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. They are on the way to their wedding feast, l... Read More
Act 1, Scene 2 Arcite, nephew of Creon, King of Thebes (and the same villain who prevents the burial of one of Oedipus's sons in the fa... Read More
Act 1, Scene 3 Pirithous, eager to support his friend Theseus, sets off to join him with the good wishes of Hippolyta and Emilia. Emili... Read More
Act 1, Scene 4 Theseus has won the battle in Thebes, and the three queens fall prostrate before him in praise. Theseus awards the victo... Read More
Act 1, Scene 5 In this brief scene the queens hold a doleful funeral for their fallen husbands, transported in a procession of "hearses... Read More
Act 2, Scene 1 A jailer in Athens advises a young man who wants to wed his daughter she may have little inheritance because he has litt... Read More
Act 2, Scene 2 Palamon laments they will be prisoners forever, a fate Arcite says he will try to bear patiently. The cousins mourn the ... Read More
Act 2, Scene 3 Although Arcite knows his banishment is a blessing in comparison with jail, to him it is now a punishment worse than dea... Read More
Act 2, Scene 4 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-bo... Read More
Act 2, Scene 5 A disguised Arcite has won the wrestling and running contests, and Theseus congratulates him on a worthy performance. Th... Read More
Act 2, Scene 6 The jailer's daughter has successfully freed Palamon and taken him to a hiding spot in the woods, where he is to remain ... Read More
Act 3, Scene 1 In the forest outside Athens, Theseus and Hippolyta have parted to perform May rites in separate glades. Arcite, meanwhi... Read More
Act 3, Scene 2 The jailer's daughter does not find Palamon where she told him to wait in the forest. He is gone. It is the dark of nigh... Read More
Act 3, Scene 3 Arcite returns to the forest with food, wine, and files to remove Palamon's shackles. Although Palamon insults him, Arci... Read More
Act 3, Scene 4 Lost and confused, the jailer's daughter shivers beneath the stars, supposing Palamon must be in heaven. Looking out to ... Read More
Act 3, Scene 5 In the forest the Schoolmaster scolds the group of countryfolk for not understanding their roles in the upcoming perform... Read More
Act 3, Scene 6 Palamon awaits Arcite in the forest. He has regained his strength from the food his cousin provided and gives thanks for... Read More
Act 4, Scene 1 The jailer inquires whether his friend has heard anything more of Palamon's escape. The friend has just witnessed Emilia... Read More
Act 4, Scene 2 Looking at pictures of Arcite and Palamon, Emilia wonders whether she might yet be able to choose between them. As she t... Read More
Act 4, Scene 3 When the doctor asks about the daughter's symptoms, the jailer says she is always in a state of "harmless distemper," do... Read More
Act 5, Scene 1 Theseus and Pirithous welcome the combatants to a temple to offer prayers to the gods before their fight begins. Palamon... Read More
Act 5, Scene 2 The doctor inquires whether the wooer, disguised as Palamon, has had success with the jailer's daughter. The ruse seems ... Read More
Act 5, Scene 3 Theseus and his entourage proceed to watch the fight, but Emilia stops en route and will go no farther. She cannot bear ... Read More
Act 5, Scene 4 Guarded by the jailer and soldiers, Palamon and his knights prepare for their execution. Palamon tries to steel his knig... Read More
Epilogue The Epilogue, personified in a character, would ask how the audience liked the play but is afraid of what they might ans... Read More
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