Item description for The Two Noble Kinsmen (Arden Shakespeare: Third Series) by Lois Potter William Shakespeare...
This is the first Arden edition of The Two Noble Kinsmen. Largely ignored for centuries because of doubts about its authorship and its subject matter, once considered distasteful, it is surprisingly relevant to many current interests. Lois Potter's valuable edition gives a full exposition of contemporary claims as to authorship and genre, discussing all the elements of collaborative writing -- not only the two authors themselves but their historical, theatrical and literary contexts. She argues that, complex as the collaboration process was, the end product can be discussed as a coherent work because of and not despite the circumstances of its production. Potter supplies new information on sources and, drawing on her extensive experience as a theatre critic, discusses the play's afterlife and compares a number of recent stagings of the play. 'Potter's The Two Noble Kinsmen...shows how, even in the case of a play with a comparatively limited performance history, understanding of performance can inform every aspect of an edition...as usual with the Arden series, it is the amplitude and intelligence of the commentary that is so striking.' Peter Holland, Times Literary Supplement
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.16" Width: 5.38" Height: 1.02" Weight: 1.15 lbs.
Release Date Feb 20, 1997
ISBN 1904271170 ISBN13 9781904271178
Reviews - What do customers think about The Two Noble Kinsmen (Arden Shakespeare: Third Series)?
awful, awful, awful Jul 25, 2008
Opening scene: two guys are pledging their eternal, lifelong, best friends forever friendship when, without taking a breath, they look out a window, see a beautiful young woman and are immediately ready to fight to the death to possess her! Egads! I agree that one can "hear" Shakespeare's voice in places in this play and those parts are a relief from the rest. However, this (and Chaucer's The Kinight's Tale) are the silliest, most stultifying, absolutely awfulest pieces of literature I have read. I am a Shakespeare groupie and I have read all the plays, many of them multiple times. It took me a long time to find The Two Noble Kinsmen because it was not part of most of the American Shakespearean collections. If you are deciding between this play and any other, buy the other! Having said this, I would like to find some of the other maybe plays. They may be awful, but they are instructive. Even Henry VIII has the excuse of "special effects" -- the costumes. I'll get off my soapbox now. :)
A gem of a play "Written by the memorable Worthies of their time" Sep 21, 2007
"If this play do not keep A little dull time from us, we perceive Our losses fall so thick we must needs leave [that is, give up acting]."
The above is the last sentence found in the prologue of this extraordinary play (written and first performed circa 1613), rarely performed on stage. For centuries it has been the victim of constant speculation about its authorship. It was initially thought that this play was the result of a collaboration between dramatist Francis Beaumont (1584 to 1616) and playwright John Fletcher (1579 to 1625). However, it was much later recognized that it was actually the result of a collaboration between William Shakespeare (1564 to 1616) and Fletcher. (Fletcher also collaborated with Shakespeare on the play "Henry VIII" and the lost play "Cardenio.")
If you were to classify this play using the traditional classification scheme, it's a comedy. However, after reading it, I found that it's actually a "romantic tragicomedy." The plot is primarily based on Geoffrey Chaucer's (1343 to 1400) "The Knight's Tale" (the first tale in Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales").
Briefly, two kinsmen and warriors, men of deep personal honor, are taken prisoner of war. From their prison window they see walking in a garden a beautiful and an astonishing women whom they both fall in love with. The play traces the tragic consequences of this moment and the destruction of their sacred friendship. Also, the subplot presents the story of the poor jailer's daughter who is driven mad by her infatuation with one of the kinsmen.
This play consists of 23 scenes with a brief prologue and an even briefer epilogue. It is thought that the five scenes of act one and the four scenes of act 5 (excluding scene 2) as well as some lines in other scenes were written by Shakespeare with the rest being written by Fletcher. Crunching the numbers, I found that about 40% of the play is due to Shakespeare and 60% is due to Fletcher. No doubt in the future these percentages will change.
What I found fascinating about this play is that it has strong elements of Shakespearean plays written before it. Especially prominent were elements of both "Hamlet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
As well, you will notice the difference in writing styles between Shakespeare and Fletcher. The reader will see that Shakespeare was a "supreme" writer while Fletcher was a writer "at least major in his time."
The Oxford World's Classics edition of this play (published by Oxford University Press in 2002) has illustrations along with an excellent, helpful introduction. It even has an index!
Finally, after reading this play, I recommend listening to the audio compact disc by Arkangel Shakespeare that was published by The Audio Partners in 2006. It gives an effective and balanced performance. It may be the first unabridged audio recording of this play of its kind!!
In conclusion, the first sentence of this play's epilogue states:
"I would now ask ye how ye like the play?"
I liked it!! I speculate that any potential reader will like it also.
A Rosetta Stone for Appreciating Shakespeare Oct 26, 2001
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!
an unsung masterpiece Jul 4, 2001
I will be the first to admit this is not the "best" or the "greatest" play written by the bard, but it is still very worthy of his name, and incredibly beautiful! Kinsmen is a romance in the style of Shakespeare's other late plays, Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest (my favorite). In many ways it reflects his earlier works, namely A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, and The Tempest. It tells a wonderfully romantic story of two good friends who fall for the same girl (I know, sounds familiar, but trust me, it's a different take on the setup) in Athens. The poetry in it is lovely, the characters very well developed, and the plot is incredible. Many people haven't heard of this play as Shakespeare cowrote it with Fletcher, but belive me, it is still wonderful. Highly recomended.
The only recording and fortunately a good one from Arkangel Jan 14, 2000
The Arkangel Shakespeare series being issued by Penguin Audio is now halfway through the plays and the surprise is that 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.