The Two Noble Kinsmenby William Shakespeare
Pub. Date: 04/05/2012
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Presenting a fresh approach to this once marginalized play, this edition addresses issues including collaboration, performance history, craftsmanship and sources.
Table of Contents
Introduction: authorship; Date; Sources; Craftsmanship; Critical reception; Shakespeare's late style; The Two Noble Kinsmen in performance; Note on text; List of characters; The play; Supplementary notes; Textual analysis; Appendix: The Two Noble Kinsmen: a performance chronology; Reading list.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
The Two Noble Kinsmen was only partially written by Shakespeare. The primary author was John Fletcher, and Shakespeare seems to have been doing a rewrite more than a collaboration. As a result, you get two different styles of narration and development in the same story. The underlying tale follows very closely on the famous Knight¿s Tale from Chaucer¿s The Canterbury Tales. As a result, you get a three way perspective on Shakespeare that is not available elsewhere -- what his co-author did, what Chaucer did, and how Shakespeare handled similar problems in other plays. Where the Knight¿s Tale was primarily a story about chivalry, love, and spirituality, The Two Noble Kinsmen is very much about psychology and human emotions. Like other plays that Shakespeare wrote, this one shows how conflicting emotions create problems when we cannot master ourselves. In this case, the two loving cousins, Palamon and Arcite, fall out over having been overwhelmed by love for the appearance of Emilia, Duke Theseus¿s sister. The play explores many ways that their fatal passion for Emilia might be quenched or diverted into more useful paths. The dilemma can only be resolved by the removal of one of them. This places Emilia in an awkward situation where she will wed one, but at the cost of the life of the other. She finds them both attractive, and is deeply uncomfortable with their mutual passion for her. In a parallel subplot, the jailer¿s daughter similarly falls in love with Palamon, putting her father¿s life and her own in jeopardy. Overcome with unrequited love, she becomes mad from realizing what she has done. Only by entering into her delusions is she able to reach out to others. What most impressed me from reading this play is how much better Shakespeare was as a writer than either Chaucer or Fletcher. You can tell the parts that Shakespeare wrote because the language is so compact, so powerful, and so filled with relevant imagery. The tension is unremitting and makes you squirm. By contrast, the Knight¿s Tale is one of the dullest stories you could possibly hope to read and admire for its virtuosity without experiencing much enjoyment. Although the same plot is developed, few emotions will be aroused in you. When Fletcher is writing in this play, the development is slow, the content lacks much emotion, and you find yourself reaching for a blue pencil to strike major sections as unnecessary. In fact, this play would not be worth reading except for the exquisite development of the dilemmas that are created for Emilia. Her pain will be your pain, and you will want to escape from it as much as she does. In these sections, you will find some of Shakespeare¿s greatest writing. I also was moved by the way several scenes explored the duality of cousinly friendship and affection occurring at the same time that lethal passions of love and jealousy are loose. Although this play will probably not be among your 50 favorites, you will probably find that it will sharpen your appetite for and appreciation of Shakespeare¿s best works. I also listened to Arkangel recording, and recommend it. The performances are fine, the voices are easy to distinguish, the music is magnificent, the singing adds to the mood nicely, and you will find your engagement in the play¿s action powerfully increased over reading the play. When do you lose control over your emotions? What does it cost you? How could you regain control before harm is done? May you find peaceful, positive solutions to all of your dilemmas! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution