David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s “The Two Noble Kinsmen”: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scene 2

— 3.2 —

The jailor’s daughter was alone in the woods. In her hand was a file she had brought for Palamon to use to release himself from his fetters.

She said to herself, “Palamon has misunderstood which thicket I meant, and he has gone wherever his fancy takes him. It is now almost morning. It doesn’t matter; I wish it were perpetual night, and darkness were the lord of the world.”

A wolf howled.

“Listen, it is a wolf! Grief has slain fear in me, and except for one thing, I care for nothing, and that one thing is Palamon. I don’t care if the wolves would bite me as long as he had this file. What if I hallooed for him? I cannot halloo. If I whooped, what would happen then? If he did not answer, I would call a wolf and do him only that ‘service’ or service. Either the wolf would find and eat him, or I would save his life by the wolf’s finding and eating me.

“I have heard strange howls all this livelong night; why may it not be that the wolves have made prey of him? He has no weapons; he cannot run; the jingling of his fetters might call deadly things to listen, deadly things that have in them a sense to know when a man is unarmed. Deadly things can smell where resistance is possible.

“I’ll set it down that he’s torn to pieces; many wolves howled together, and then they fed on him; so much for that. Be bold to ring the bell that announces his death.

“How do I stand then? All’s done when he is gone. No, no, I lie. My father is to be hanged because of Palamon’s escape. I myself will be forced to beg, if I prize life so much as to deny my act of helping Palamon to escape, but that I would not, even if I would try dozens of deaths — die dozens of times in dozens of ways.

“I am bewildered and confused. I have eaten no food for the past two days; I have sipped some water. I have not closed my eyes except when my lids scoured off their brine with tears.

“Alas, dissolve, my life! Let not my sense become unsettled, lest I should drown, or stab, or hang myself.

“Oh, state of nature, fail altogether in me, since your best props are warped! Let me die!

“So, which way now? The best way is the nearest way to a grave. Each step that does not lead me to a grave is torment.

“Look, the moon is down, the crickets chirp, the screech owl and not the rooster announces the dawn.

“All my duties are done except that one I failed at — joining Palamon. But the point is this —”

She hesitated and then said, “An end, which is my death, and that is all.”

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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