Epilogue: Via The Two Noble Kinsmen
Shakespeare and Fletcher's The Two Noble Kinsmen looks like a conqueror's
wish fulfillment, A Midsummer Night's Dream come true. Hippolyta in this
play says the things that readers of Shakespeare's earlier Hippolyta have
had to say for her, expressing a desire for marriage, kneeling to her hus-
band not once but twice, and referring unambiguously to her place in
the nuptial bed. Her simultaneously martial and sexual surrender en-
capsulates the fantasy of the Amazon encounter; according to one of
the supplicant queens, Hippolyta "wast near to make the male/To thy
sex captive," but Theseus proved an irresistible force.
This thy lord,
Born to uphold creation in that honour
First nature styled it in, shrunk thee into
The bound thou was o'erflowing, at once subduing
Thy force and thyaffection.I
Recalling Kleinbaum's formulation- "To win an Amazon, either
through arms or through love or, even better, through both, is to be cer-
tified as a hero" - the Hippolyta here described guarantees both The-
seus's chivalric worth and the patriarchal order he represents.2 As a frame
narrative, her marriage seems to guarantee the play's plot as well:
through the figures of Palamon, Arcite, and Emilia, The Two Noble Kins-
men co-opts amazonian desires to the traffic in women, its relationships
progressing from homoerotic identity through homosocial rivalry to
heterosexual marriage.
That progress is not predicted by early appearances, in which the
characters of the central love plot seem entirely preoccupied with erotic
isolation. Emilia turns desire toward the past, describing her love for
the now dead Flavina in a speech concluding, "The true love 'tween
maid and maid may be/More than in sex dividual" (1.3.81-82).3 Hip-
polyta interprets her speech as a declaration against marriage - 'l\nd
this high-speeded pace is but to say/That you shall never, like the maid
Flavina,fLove any that's called man" -to which Emilia replies, "I am
sure I shall not" (1+83-85). And if Emilia lives up to expectations of
amazonian separatism, Palamon and Arcite are still more literally cut
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