Cornets. A battle struck within; then a retreat.
Flourish. Then enter Theseus, victor, with Herald and
attendants, and Palamon and Arcite brought in on
hearses. The three Queens meet him, and fall on their
faces before him
To thee no star be dark.
Both heaven and earth
Friend thee for ever.
All the good that may
Be wished upon thy head, I cry amen to't.
Th' impartial gods, who from the mounted heavens
View us their mortal herd, behold who err,
And in their time chastise. Go and find out
The bones of your dead lords, and honour them
With treble ceremony; rather than a gap
Should be in their dear rights, we would supply't.
But those we will depute which shall invest
You in your dignities, and even each thing
Our haste does leave imperfect. So adieu,
And heaven's good eyes look on you.
Exeunt Queens with attendants
What are those?
Men of great quality, as may be judged
By their appointment; some of Thebes have told's
They are sisters' children, nephews to the King.
By th' helm of Mars, I saw them in the war,
Like to a pair of lions, smeared with prey,
Make lanes in troops aghast. I fixed my note
Constantly on them, for they were a mark
Worth a god's view. What prisoner was't that told me
When I inquired their names?
Wi' leave, they're called
Arcite and Palamon.
'Tis right; those, those.
They are not dead?
Nor in a state of life; had they been taken
When their last hurts were given, 'twas possible
They might have been recovered. Yet they breathe,
And have the name of men.
Then like men use 'em.
The very lees of such, millions of rates,
Exceed the wine of others. All our surgeons
Convent in their behoof; our richest balms,
Rather than niggard, waste; their lives concern us
Much more than Thebes is worth. Rather than have 'em
Freed of this plight and in their morning state,
Sound and at liberty, I would 'em dead;
But forty-thousandfold we had rather have 'em
Prisoners to us then death. Bear 'em speedily
From our kind air, to them unkind, and minister
What man to man may do – for our sake, more,
Since I have known frights, fury, friends' behests,
Love's provocations, zeal, a mistress' task,
Desire of liberty, a fever, madness,
Hath set a mark which nature could not reach to
Without some imposition, sickness in will
O'er-wrestling strength in reason. For our love
And great Apollo's mercy, all our best
Their best skill tender. Lead into the city,
Where having bound things scattered, we will post
To Athens 'fore our army.