The Speech That Sums It All Up In “The Two Noble Kinsmen”

If the epilogue to the Tempest is Shakespeare’s official farewell to the theatre, then the last speech of TTNK (not including the epilogue strongly presumed to be authored by Fletcher) is Shakespeare’s ultimate farewell of farewells; it is likely that, other than his will, it is the last thing he wrote. It is a speech that ranks as one of the most momentous in the canon as it summarizes one of the most profound and ultimate truths life:  the inherennt uncertainty & vicissitudinousness of fortune. It is render’d in poetic terms unmatch’d by any:

[5.4 lines 123-136] A day or two

Let us look sadly, and give grace unto

The funeral of Arcite, in whose end

The visages of bridegrooms we’ll put on

And smile with Palamon; for whom an hour,

But one hour since, I was as dearly sorry

As glad of Arcite; and am now as glad

As for him sorry. O you heavenly charmers,

What things you make of us! For what we lack,

We laugh, for what we have, are sorry; still

Are children in some kind. Let us be thankful

For that which is, and with you, leave dispute

That are above our question. Let’s go off,

And bear us like the time.

I think it’s heartwarming to note that the last speech Shakespeare ever wrote leaves us with the Bard’s impression of what it means to be truly grateful for our lives. Shakespeare certainly realized that he had lived an incredible life and here two years before his death, he promulgates his gratitude: “Let us be thankful for that which is, and,…leave dispute that are above our question.”

What a beautiful paradigm for us to live by as we navigate through this crazy adventure we call life; continuing to discover and re-discover what it means to be human. We thank you so very much, William Shakespeare, Sweet Swan of Avon!