Two Noble Kinsmen

Eleanor’s Penance

The play bears similarities to other late Shakespearean plays such as Pericles, Prince of Tyre, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, and The Tempest. It was entered into the Stationer’s Office on the 8th April 1634 by John Waterson, stating that it was a collaborative work by Mr. John Fletcher and Mr. William Shakespeare. It was nevertheless not included in the original Folio of 1623. An earlier play by the same name was performed at Oxford University in 1566 during the famous visit by Queen Elizabeth and Katherine Chiljan argues that the Earl of Oxford wrote the play in his youth (from his play “Palamon & Arcyte” and poetry in “Paradise of Dainty Devices” 1576), but it was later revised by John Fletcher. The literary sources were certainly available and owned by Oxford, for example his uncle’s (Arthur Golding) translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Boccacio in Italian or French, Chaucer, Plutarch and the Geneva Bible. Consequently several alternate hypotheses have been developed to account for this apparent anomaly. One is that Edmund Campion was responsible for writing the play, another that the real author was Richard Edwards, and one other that it was none other than Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. In 1566 The Stratford Shakspere would have been just two years old, and the Earl of Rutland would not have even been born therefore these candidates are ruled out altogether as authors. On closer reflection it would appear that the “losses” supposedly alluded to from the fire at the Globe Theatre in London were in fact the consequence of a wall and stairs suddenly collapsing with three men losing their lives when staging the Oxford performance in 1566. This means that all that has been determined about the origins of this play is pivotal to the ongoing authorship debate, particularly the correct dating of Shakespeare’s plays. On the 5th of September Queen Elizabeth acknowledged the death of the men with an oration to the public. A spectator John Bereblock of Exeter College, mentioned the event as follows:

“This untoward happening, although touching everyone with
sadness, could by no means destroy the enjoyment of the occasion. Accordingly, taught by the misfortune of the others to be more careful, all turn again to the play.”

Apparently a spectator at the Oxford revels described how Palamon, “having failed of every hope…casts reproaches upon Venus, saying that he had served her from infancy and that now she had neither desire nor power to help him.”

The absence of this detail in the later play and subsequent lack of narrative continuity suggests that perhaps Fletcher’s section replaced the middle section which was originally written by Shakespeare but had later been lost or censored because it did not align with the accepted chronology devised by academics to confound the truth.

A Knight’s Tale

An artist’s impression of a scene from Two Noble KInsmen

Shakespeare’s The Two Noble Kinsmen, is derived from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, it begins as Athens defeats Thebes in war. Arcite and Palamon, Theban knights and devoted cousins, are imprisoned in Athens. From their cell, they see Emilia, the sister-in-law of Theseus, Duke of Athens. Both fall in love with her, becoming bitter rivals. Arcite is released but, for love of Emilia, stays in Athens at the risk of his life. The jailer’s daughter, who loves Palamon, helps him escape, but goes mad with anxiety. Her original wooer cures her by courting her while pretending to be Palamon. Arcite encounters Palamon and challenges him to formal combat for Emilia. Theseus discovers them before they duel. He first sentences both to death, but then establishes a contest in which each will participate with Theban comrades. The loser and his knights will die. The winner will wed Emilia. Arcite prays to Mars for victory; Palamon, to Venus for Emilia’s love. Both prayers are answered. Arcite wins, but dies after a riding accident. Palamon, spared from execution, marries Emilia.

The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:


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The links to my publications 
“Shakespeare’s Qaballah”,
a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry,