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The Two Noble Kinsmen - Act 1, scene 2
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Navigate this workThe Two Noble Kinsmen - Act 1, scene 2
Act 1, scene 2
Two noble cousins, Palamon and Arcite, discuss leaving Thebes, where the reign of their despised uncle Creon has corrupted the state. News comes of Theseus’s advance on Thebes and, despite their hatred of Creon, they go to the city’s defense.Enter Palamon and Arcite.
0309 Dear Palamon, dearer in love than blood
0310 And our prime cousin, yet unhardened in
0311 The crimes of nature, let us leave the city
0312 Thebes, and the temptings in ’t, before we further
0313 5 Sully our gloss of youth,
0314 And here to keep in abstinence we shame
0315 As in incontinence; for not to swim
0316 I’ th’ aid o’ th’ current were almost to sink,
0317 At least to frustrate striving; and to follow
0318 10 The common stream, ’twould bring us to an eddy
0319 Where we should turn or drown; if labor through,
0320 Our gain but life and weakness.
PALAMON 0321 Your advice
0322 Is cried up with example. What strange ruins,
0323 15 Since first we went to school, may we perceive
0324 Walking in Thebes! Scars and bare weeds
0325 The gain o’ th’ martialist, who did propound
0326 To his bold ends honor and golden ingots,
0327 Which though he won, he had not, and now flirted
0328 20 By peace for whom he fought. Who then shall offer
0329 To Mars’s so-scorned altar? I do bleed
0330 When such I meet, and wish great Juno would
0331 Resume her ancient fit of jealousy
0332 To get the soldier work, that peace might purge
0333 25 For her repletion, and retain anew
0334 Her charitable heart, now hard and harsher
0335 Than strife or war could be.
ARCITE 0336 Are you not out?
0337 Meet you no ruin but the soldier in
0338 30 The cranks and turns of Thebes? You did begin
0339 As if you met decays of many kinds.
p. 310340 Perceive you none that do arouse your pity
0341 But th’ unconsidered soldier?
PALAMON 0342 Yes, I pity
0343 35 Decays where’er I find them, but such most
0344 That, sweating in an honorable toil,
0345 Are paid with ice to cool ’em.
ARCITE 0346 ’Tis not this
0347 I did begin to speak of. This is virtue
0348 40 Of no respect in Thebes. I spake of Thebes—
0349 How dangerous, if we will keep our honors,
0350 It is for our residing, where every evil
0351 Hath a good color; where every seeming good’s
0352 A certain evil; where not to be e’en jump
0353 45 As they are here were to be strangers, and,
0354 Such things to be, mere monsters.
PALAMON 0355 ’Tis in our power—
0356 Unless we fear that apes can tutor ’s—to
0357 Be masters of our manners. What need I
0358 50 Affect another’s gait, which is not catching
0359 Where there is faith? Or to be fond upon
0360 Another’s way of speech, when by mine own
0361 I may be reasonably conceived—saved too,
0362 Speaking it truly? Why am I bound
0363 55 By any generous bond to follow him
0364 Follows his tailor, haply so long until
0365 The followed make pursuit? Or let me know
0366 Why mine own barber is unblessed, with him
0367 My poor chin too, for ’tis not scissored just
0368 60 To such a favorite’s glass? What canon is there
0369 That does command my rapier from my hip
0370 To dangle ’t in my hand, or to go tiptoe
0371 Before the street be foul? Either I am
0372 The forehorse in the team, or I am none
0373 65 That draw i’ th’ sequent trace. These poor slight
p. 330375 Need not a plantain. That which rips my bosom
0376 Almost to th’ heart’s—
ARCITE 0377 Our Uncle Creon.
PALAMON 0378 70 He.
0379 A most unbounded tyrant, whose successes
0380 Makes heaven unfeared and villainy assured
0381 Beyond its power there’s nothing; almost puts
0382 Faith in a fever, and deifies alone
0383 75 Voluble chance; who only attributes
0384 The faculties of other instruments
0385 To his own nerves and act; commands men service,
0386 And what they win in ’t, boot and glory; one
0387 That fears not to do harm; good, dares not. Let
0388 80 The blood of mine that’s sib to him be sucked
0389 From me with leeches; let them break and fall
0390 Off me with that corruption.
ARCITE 0391 Clear-spirited cousin,
0392 Let’s leave his court, that we may nothing share
0393 85 Of his loud infamy; for our milk
0394 Will relish of the pasture, and we must
0395 Be vile or disobedient, not his kinsmen
0396 In blood unless in quality.
PALAMON 0397 Nothing truer.
0398 90 I think the echoes of his shames have deafed
0399 The ears of heav’nly justice. Widows’ cries
0400 Descend again into their throats and have not
0401 Due audience of the gods.
0403 95 The King calls for you; yet be leaden-footed
0404 Till his great rage be off him. Phoebus, when
0405 He broke his whipstock and exclaimed against
0406 The horses of the sun, but whispered to
0407 The loudness of his fury.
p. 35PALAMON 0408 100 Small winds shake him.
0409 But what’s the matter?
0410 Theseus, who where he threats appalls, hath sent
0411 Deadly defiance to him and pronounces
0412 Ruin to Thebes, who is at hand to seal
0413 105 The promise of his wrath.
ARCITE 0414 Let him approach.
0415 But that we fear the gods in him, he brings not
0416 A jot of terror to us. Yet what man
0417 Thirds his own worth—the case is each of ours—
0418 110 When that his action’s dregged with mind assured
0419 ’Tis bad he goes about?
PALAMON 0420 Leave that unreasoned.
0421 Our services stand now for Thebes, not Creon.
0422 Yet to be neutral to him were dishonor,
0423 115 Rebellious to oppose. Therefore we must
0424 With him stand to the mercy of our fate,
0425 Who hath bounded our last minute.
ARCITE 0426 So we must.
0427 ⌜To Valerius.⌝ Is ’t said this war’s afoot? Or, it shall
0428 120 be,
0429 On fail of some condition?
VALERIUS 0430 ’Tis in motion;
0431 The intelligence of state came in the instant
0432 With the defier.
PALAMON 0433 125 Let’s to the King, who, were he
0434 A quarter carrier of that honor which
0435 His enemy come in, the blood we venture
0436 Should be as for our health, which were not spent,
0437 Rather laid out for purchase. But alas,
0438 130 Our hands advanced before our hearts, what will
0439 The fall o’ th’ stroke do damage?
ARCITE 0440 Let th’ event,
0441 That never-erring arbitrator, tell us
p. 370442 When we know all ourselves, and let us follow
0443 135 The becking of our chance.