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The Two Noble Kinsmen May 6, 2015 12:00 AM | Tagged as controversy, John Fletcher, The Two Noble Kinsmen, William Shakespeare

~~The Two Noble Kinsmen
Up until a couple of months ago, The Two Noble Kinsmen was believed to have been the last surviving play linked to Shakespeare and was believed to have been written in 1613-1614.  John Fletcher was at first believed to be the original author.  Shakespeare had collaborated with him on Henry VIII and it wasn’t until the printing of the quarto edition in 1834 that it was identified as being a collaboration between Fletcher and Shakespeare.  However, in 1679 it was listed in the second folio of works as being by Fletcher and Francis Beaumont.  It has been debated for centuries as to how much involvement Shakespeare had with this play but then in the mid-1960’s, major publishers began adding it to their publications of the complete works and as being co-authored by WS and John Fletcher.  It is rarely staged; however, several Shakespearean companies are adding it to their “complete canon” lists so we have created a charm for this play also.  Since I haven’t seen it on stage, I listened to an excellent recording of the play that I bought at  It was performed wonderfully by Simon Russell Beale, Jonathan Firth, Nigel Cooke, and Helen Schlesinger.  I highly recommend this! 
About the Play
Scholars believe that Shakespeare wrote close to half of the play:  all of Act 1; scene 1 of Act 3; and all of Act 5 except scene 2.  Shakespeare wrote the main story line of the two cousins, Palamon and Arcite, who are in love and competing for the same woman, Emilia.  In the code of chivalry, nothing was quite as important as a knight’s adoration for the women he loves, and to have two knights fighting for the love of the same woman was a plot scenario that Shakespeare loved having in his plays.   Fletcher contributed the county fair and the subplot of the Gaoler’s daughter who goes mad. 
The Plot

The play is set in Greece and the original story was taken from Geoffrey Chaucer’s, “Knights Tale” which is included in his Canterbury Tales.  In the prologue they even credit Chaucer for the story;

“Chaucer (of all admir’d) the story gives;
There constant to eternity it lives. (prologue)

The main characters in the play, Palamon and Arcite, are cousins and bosom friends.  They are taken prisoner by Duke Theseus of Athens. While in captivity, they spy the beautiful Emilia. Both fall instantly in love with her, and their attachment to each other turns to hate. As mentioned before, there is also the subplot of the gaoler’s daughter that falls in love with Palamon but goes mad when he ignores her over his love for Emilia. 

Hopefully more companies with start performing this play.  I believe it is better than some of the plays, i.e. Titus Andronicus, but that is just my personal opinion.  Maybe most companies don’t perform it because it isn’t entirely Shakespeare’s work because no too many companies perform Henry VIII either which was also a collaboration. 
Either way, we now have the charm available for you when you do have a chance to see it, listen to it or read it! 

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