The Two Noble Kinsmen (Folger Shakespeare Library Series)

The Two Noble Kinsmen (Folger Shakespeare Library Series)

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The Two Noble Kinsmen 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Arkangel Shakespeare series being issued by Penguin Audio is now halfway through the plays and the surprise is that 'The Two Noble Kinsmen' was given preference to the remaining more familiar works. Co-authored by Shakespeare and Fletcher, this play remains an odd man out for several reasons. Based fairly closely on the 'Knight's Tale' from Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales,' it tells of two cousins, who just after swearing eternal friendship in one of Duke Theseus' prisons immediately fall in love with the same woman, Emilia, and become bitter rivals for her affections. One of them, Arcite, is exiled but returns in disguise; the other, Palamon, escapes with the help of the Jailer's Daughter, who goes mad for love of him; and¿well, see for yourself. Of the play's 23 scenes, 7 and part of an 8th are attributed to Shakespeare, a 9th doubtfully so, and the rest to John Fletcher, who was probably handed over to Shakespeare to learn the ropes as it were. The Shakespeare parts are easy to spot: they are nearly impossible to understand without a heavily annotated copy of the text open before you! Even more so than in his late plays like 'Cymberline' and 'Winter's Tale,' the syntax is so complex, the thoughts so condensed, that one might (and has) compared his writing with the late Beethoven String Quartets. As one of the scholars quoted in the excellent Signet Classic paperback edition of this play comments, the play is most unShakespearean in that none of the characters change over the course of the play. And I should add the subplot of the Daughter's madness is never integrated into the main plot. One scene, in fact, is devoted entirely to the description of some minor characters and might have been influenced by a similar and much longer sequence in 'Seven Against Thebes.' In short, do not play this for a casual listen; but be prepared to be challenged. Look especially for echoes of the earlier all-Shakespearean plays. The nuptials of Theseus and Hippolyta recall the opening scenes of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' the main plot that of 'Two Gentlemen of Verona,' the Daughter's madness of Ophelia, and so on. As for the actual recording, it would be difficult to better it! The voices of the two kinsmen (Johnathan Firth and Nigel Cooke) are easily distinguishable, Theseus (Geoffrey Whitehead) sounds advanced in years and noble, Emila (Helen Schlesinger) mature and alert, Hippolyta (Adjoa Andoh) vocally of African origins as perhaps befits the character, and all the rest as understandable as the text allows and 'into' their roles. Thank you, Penguin, for this noble entry in a series that is getting better and better.