Full Length Play: The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Two Noble Kinsmen is one of Shakespeare's least-performed plays, and widely considered to be his last. Generally accepted to be co-written with John Fletcher, this Jacobean tragicomedy has its roots in Chaucer's The Knight's Tale.
This audio version shares the same cast with The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Shakespeare's first play) which you can listen to in the Shakespeare Sessions feed. This striking audio realisation is recorded entirely on location to give the sense of a strolling company, making the most of the countryside. Listen to both plays, and trace the bard's progression across 40 years.
On the day planned for his wedding to Hippolyta, Duke Theseus of Athens is petitioned by three queens to go to war against King Creon of Thebes, who has deprived their dead husbands of proper burial rites. In Thebes, the 'two noble kinsmen', Palamon and Arcite, realize that their own hatred of Creon's tyranny must be put aside while their native city is in danger, but in spite of their valour in battle it is Theseus who is victorious. Imprisoned in Athens, the cousins catch sight of Hippolyta's sister, Emilia, and both fall instantly in love with her. Arcite is set free, but disguises himself rather than return to Thebes, while Palamon escapes with the help of the Jailer's Daughter, who loves him. Meeting each other, the kinsmen agree that mortal combat between them must decide the issue, but they are discovered by Theseus who is persuaded to revoke his sentence of death and instead decrees that a tournament shall decide which cousin is to be married to the indecisive Emilia and which is to lose his head. The Jailer's Daughter has been driven mad by unrequited love, but accepts her former suitor when he pretends to be Palamon. Before the tournament Arcite makes a lengthy invocation to Mars, while Palamon prays to Venus and Emilia to Diana – for victory to go to the one who loves her best. Although Arcite triumphs, he is thrown from his horse before the death sentence on Palamon can be carried out, and with his last breath bequeaths Emilia to his friend.
JAILER'S DAUGHTER ..... Lyndsey Marshal
EMILIA ..... Kate Phillips
PALAMON ..... Blake Ritson
ARCITE ..... Nikesh Patel
THESEUS ..... Ray Fearon
HIPPOLYTA ..... Emma Fielding
JAILER ..... Hugh Ross
PIRITHIOUS ..... Daniel Ryan
WOOER ..... Oliver Chris
QUEEN 1 ..... Susan Salmon
QUEEN 2 ..... Sara Markland
QUEEN 3/DOCTOR ..... Jane Whittenshaw
COUNTRYMAN 1/FRIEND ..... Sam Dale
ARTESIUS/COUNTRYMAN 2 ..... Carl Prekopp
COUNTRYMAN 3/BROTHER ..... Pip Donaghy
Adapted for Radio by Sara Davies
Directed by Celia de Wolff
A Pier Production for BBC Radio 3
Music composed and performed by Tom Glenister and sung by Emma Mackey and Tom Glenister