The Two Noble Kinsmen, by William Shakespeare (and an other)

Shakespeare wrote The Two Noble Kinsmen, legend has it, in collaboration with a fellow called John Fletcher (who, it seems, wasn’t comfortable writing a play on his own) – so naturally most of the scholarly discussion has been in regard to which bits were written by Shakespeare (and thus can be lauded) and which bits weren’t (and thus can be disparaged). Productions of the play, I assume, merely contain Shakespeare’s episodes.

Obooki, to be honest, found it all much of a muchness – by which I mean it was actually quite enjoyable, though perhaps my fault was to read it as a play, rather than an interesting literary puzzle. I did read a bit in the introduction afterwards about which bits were which – but didn’t get much further than discovering people were inclined to ascribe Act 1 Scene 1 – in my opinion, probably the most boring and undramatic in the play – to Shakespeare. – If you ask me, the entire thing is a self-fulfilling game, based on personal aesthetics.

Of course, it’s a bit much ascribing too much of it to either Shakespeare or Fletcher, since the whole play is pilfered from Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, which I am now in the process reading. Chaucer too has Act 1 Scene 1, though not quite at the beginning, but at least he has the sense to cut down Shakespeare’s repetition. (I am thinking of doing a post in the near-future on the sources of a few of the Shakespeare plays I’ve so far read).

But as I say, overall I quite enjoyed it. It has a similar plot, in fact, to Sudermann’s The Silent Mill which we were reading the other day: two brothers [noble kinsmen] fall in love with the same girl, which causes their own relationship to fall apart. The girl then has to choose between them, the one she doesn’t choose being sentenced to death (for reasons I’m not in the mood to explain) – much (in fact, pretty much exactly) in the manner of Sophie’s Choice. The love/hate relationship between the kinsmen, and the madness of the Jailer’s Daughter (presumably this is the counterpointing “light relief”) were I felt the best parts of the action.

Next up: Volpone, by Ben Jonson.


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