The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Two Noble Kinsmen, written in collaboration with John Fletcher, is a dramatization of the first and noblest of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the tragic ‘Knight’s Tale’. Two near-brothers fall out with each other because of their shared desire for a woman: it is a theme familiar from many earlier Shakespearean works. Stylistic studies suggest that Shakespeare was primarily responsible for the first and last acts, Fletcher for the middle of the play. The most touching scenes are the non-Chaucerian ones featuring the Jailer’s Daughter who runs mad as a result of her unrequited love for the dashing Palamon. These sequences were written by Fletcher in the style of Shakespeare: the junior partner was manifestly under the influence of one of his collaborator’s most celebrated creations: the demented Ophelia.
Written by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, this play tells the familiar story of a love triangle. Here, though, it seems distant and strange. The play is based on “The Knight’s Tale” in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Chaucer’s tale comes from an Italian poem by Boccaccio. Thus in The Two Noble Kinsmen we have a late medieval narrative transformed into a seventeenth-century play.