The Two Noble Kinsmen
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN
The Jailer hears from his friends that Palamon has made sure that the Jailer will not be blamed for his escape. Palamon has also contributed a dowry to the Jailer’s Daughter for her marriage. The Daughter’s Wooer brings news of her madness, which her father already suspected: “Either this was her love to Palamon, / Or fear of my miscarrying on his scape, / Or both” (IV.i.49-51). The Wooer describes his overhearing her singing, and she seems deranged along rather characteristic Shakespearean lines: warbling “Willow, willow, willow” (IV.i.80) and such. She would have gone out like Ophelia — “She saw me, and straight sought the flood” (IV.i.95) — but the Wooer yanked her out of the water. The Jailer’s Brother brings the Daughter in, and she rants insanely for a page or two.
Emilia has decided, “I’ll choose, / And end their strife” (IV.ii.2-3). She has pictures of the two kinsmen and cannot decide which is more attractive. “I am a fool, my reason is lost in me; / I have no choice, and I have lied so lewdly, / That women ought to beat me” (IV.ii.34-36). A Gentleman announces the arrival of the knights, and Emilia complains to Diana that she’ll be blamed for the “blood of princes” (IV.ii.60). Theseus and the others enter, and a Messenger tediously describes the knights who will compete.
A Doctor is consulted about the madness of the Jailer’s Daughter, whose latest themes are death and hell. Her reference to Dido (IV.iii.15) is, of course, anachronistic. The Doctor’s diagnosis: “‘Tis not an engraff’d madness, but a most thick and profound melancholy” (IV.iii.48-50); the “surfeit of her eye” on Palamon has imbalanced her senses (IV.iii.70ff).His learned recommendation is that the Wooer pretend to be Palamon and date her: “It is falsehood she is in, which is with falsehoods to be combated” (IV.iii.93-94). Her inability to tell “the difference between ‘Palamon’ and Palamon,” reflects Emilia’s inability to differentiate between the two noble kinsmen (Garber 900).