When the King of Athens, Theseus, conquers the city of Thebes, he is struck by the great skill in battle of the ‘Two Noble Kinsmen’, Palamon and Arcite, and prizes them as his captives. Imprisoned in Athens, the two friends persuade themselves that they can be happy anywhere as long as they are together, until they both fall in love with Emilia, sister in law to Theseus. When love and friendship are tested, Fate takes a hand to end the fighting.
The Two Noble Kinsmen is a neglected masterpiece of the Jacobean stage, combining the lucidity and theatrical powers of Fletcher with perhaps the last words Shakespeare ever wrote for the theatre. With a tale drawn from the relationship between Venus and Mars, Shakespeare the author of Venus and Adonis returns to themes explored much earlier in his career to create a rich drama of obsessive love.