The Two Noble Kinsmen

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The Two Noble Kinsmen is a Jacobean tragicomedy, first published in 1634 and attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. Its plot derives from "The Knight's Tale" in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, which had already been dramatised at least twice before.

Formerly a point of controversy, the dual attribution is now generally accepted by the scholarly consensus.

Title page of the 1634 quarto

Date and text

Links between The Two Noble Kinsmen and contemporaneous works point to 1613–14 as its date of composition and first performance. A reference to Palamon, one of the protagonists of Kinsmen, is contained in Ben Jonson's play Bartholomew Fair (1614). In Jonson's work, a passage in Act IV, scene iii, appears to indicate that Kinsmen was known and familiar to audiences at that time. In Francis Beaumont's The Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn (1613), the second anti-masque features this cast of rural characters: pedant, May Lord and Lady, servingman and chambermaid, tavern host and hostess, shepherd and his wench, and two "bavians" (male and female baboon). The same cast slightly simplified (minus wench and one "bavian") enacts the Morris dance in Kinsmen, II,v,120-38. A successful "special effect" in Beaumont's masque, designed for a single performance, appears to have been adopted and adapted into Kinsmen, indicating that the play followed the masque at no great interval.

The play was entered into the Stationers' Register on 8 April 1634; the quarto was published later that year by the bookseller John Waterson, printed by Thomas Cotes. The play was not included in the First Folio (1623) or any of the subsequent Folios of Shakespeare's works, though it was included in the second Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1679.

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Published in 17/09/2018

Updated in 19/02/2021

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