Jailers Daughter Monologue (Act 2, Scene 4) | Monologues Unpacked

Jailers Daughter Monologue (Act 2, Scene 4)

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Hello wonderful actors, today we’ll be looking at the Jailer’s Daughter Monologue from act 2 scene 4 of The Two Noble Kinsmen. If you’re looking for a piece to really test you on your soliloquy skills, your ability to connect with the audience, and your targeting skills, then look no further – this is the monologue for you. It’s a cracker of a piece for auditions, or just for scratching up on your skills. This play is very rarely performed, so that also gives you the added benefit of not very many people already having pre-conceived ideas of the piece. No need to blow any dust off the pages here, this is the freshest four hundred year old monologue one can find!


Theseus and Hippolyta marry, and shortly afterwards three widowed queens arrive from Thebes. They beg Theseus to go to war with the tyrant Creon so that their husbands’ bodies can receive proper burial. Hippolyta and her sister Emilia also plead for them, and he agrees to go off to fight. His friend Pirithous later leaves to join his campaign. Two Theban friends, Palamon and Arcite, decry the evil in their city, but out of loyalty stay to help defend it. Following Theseus’ victory, they are recognized for their prowess in battle. Almost dead, they are brought to Athens and given care, though imprisoned. In this very prison the Jailer has tried to set his daughter up with a guy simply named ‘Wooer’, but this goes as well as you’d expect when someone’s Dad tries to push a potential suitor before his own daughter – not well at all. The Jailer’s daughter falls for Palamon hard when she sees him, disregarding Wooer completely. In this monologue the expresses her deep love and misguided devotion for Palamon, nonetheless these feelings for her are completely real. Her first love completely smashing down the walls of her young, sheltered, and so far – grim life tending to the jail cells day in and day out. After this monologue, emboldened by these powerful, new feelings of love and lust she busts Palamon out of jail. She confesses her love for him and worryingly for her – he does not kiss her in return. Bravely, she heads back to the jail to get some tools to cut his off his shackles she celebrates her huge and dangerous achievement with the audience and as she celebrates she sees him run off into the woods without her. Determined to make her dreams of love her reality, and optimistically undeterred by this setback she announces her grand plan to the audience to run away with him and follow him through the forest until he falls in love with her. She wanders the forest, loses Palamon and also her wits. The schoolmaster, rehearsing the country people for the dance, finds he is a woman short, but the Jailer’s Daughter supplies the place. They perform the dance in front of Theseus and Hippolyta. The Jailer and his friends despair over his daughter’s madness. They consult a doctor, who instead of providing her with proper care, ill-advisedly says that the Daughter’s wooer should pretend to be
Palamon. Taking complete advantage of Jailer’s Daughter’s compromised and traumatised mental wellbeing, they do this. Wooer impersonates Palamon to ‘win her’, she of course falls for this ploy, and they go off to be married.

Original Text

Why should I love this gentleman? ’Tis odds
He never will affect me. I am base,
My father the mean keeper of his prison,
And he a prince. To marry him is hopeless;
To be his whore is witless. Out upon’t!
What pushes are we wenches driven to
When fifteen once has found us! First, I saw him:
I, seeing, thought he was a goodly man;
He has as much to please a woman in him
(If he please to bestow it so) as ever
These eyes yet look’d on. Next, I pitied him;
And so would any young wench o’ my conscience
That ever dream’d, or vow’d her maidenhead
To a young handsome man. Then, I lov’d him,
Extremely lov’d him, infinitely lov’d him;
And yet he had a cousin, fair as he too;
But in my heart was Palamon, and there,
Lord, what a coil he keeps! To hear him
Sing in an evening, what a heaven it is!
And yet his songs are sad ones. Fairer spoken
Was never gentleman. When I come in
To bring him water in a morning, first
He bows his noble body, then salutes me thus:
“Fair gentle maid, good morrow. May thy goodness
Get thee a happy husband!” Once he kiss’d me—
I lov’d my lips the better ten days after.
Would he would do so ev’ry day! He grieves much,
And me as much to see his misery.
What should I do to make him know I love him,
For I would fain enjoy him? Say I ventur’d
To set him free? What says the law then?
Thus much for law or kindred! I will do it,
And this night, or tomorrow, he shall love me.

Unfamiliar Language

Tis – Abbreviation of ‘It is’
Base – Of inferior quality or value
Upon’t – Abbreviation of ‘Upon it’
Wenches – A female servant, typically young
Morrow – The next day, or in this case used as ‘Morning’.
Goodly – Fairly large
Bestow – To present
Look’d – Abbreviation of ‘Looked’
Maidenhead – Hymen/virginity/maidenhood
Dream’d – Abbreviation of ‘Dreamed’
Vow’d – Abbreviation of ‘Vowed’
Lov’d – Abbreviation of ‘Loved’
Thus – As a result or consequence. Used where ‘….as such’ and ‘And so…’ would be used
Thee – Objective form of ‘thou’. ‘Thou’ being when you address a person as ‘You’
Ev’ry – Abbreviation of ‘Every’.
Fain – Gladly or willingly
Ventur’d – Abbreviation of ‘Ventured’
Kindred – Relative or a person related by blood or marriage. In this case, blood.

Modern Translation

Why should I love this gentlemen? He most likely
will never fall in love with me. I am low class,
My dad is the person who runs this prison,
And he’s a prince. I’d have zero chance in marrying him, and
I’d be out of my mind to be his (booty call/side piece). Forget about it!
What extremes us poor servant girls are driven to
once we turn fifteen! First I saw him:
I, seeing him, thought he was a decent sized man;
he is as well-endowed to please a woman
(if he wishes to present himself so) as ever
my eyes did see. Then, I felt sorrow for him,
as would any young woman in my current state
who’s ever dreamed about, or is hell-bent on losing her virginity
to a man as smoking hot as he is. Then, I fell in love with him.
Extremely in love with him, infinitely in love with him;
he has a cousin, he’s smoking hot too;
but Palamon is the one in my heart, and there,
God, what a chokehold he has on me! Simply to hear him
singing in an evening is heaven!
Despite his songs being sad ones. No other man can speak
as beautifully as he does. When I come in
to bring him water in the morning, first,
he, a nobleman bows to me, then he greets me like so:
‘Good morning to you, beautiful, kind young woman. One day your kindness
will get you a very lucky man!’ Once he kissed me –
for the next ten days I loved my lips more than ever before.
Imagine if he did this every day! He is suffering so much,
and I suffer just as much to witness it.
What should I do to make him understand how much I love him?
I would gladly enjoy him. What if I, the Jailer’s Daughter,
set him free, what are the laws around that?
So much for the law or my dad! I’m going to do it,
And tonight, or tomorrow, he will love me.

Notes on Performance

This monologue is a gift from the gods. It is the true definition of *Big Shakespeare Feelings* Jailer’s Daughter already has the disrespect of not having a name, so I implore you to do her the justice of observing the state she’s in from a place of humanity and empathy. We can all remember what it’s like to have your first sexual awakening, and what it’s like to fall in love for the first time.
Think of how all-encompassing those life changing moments are and then imagining experiencing both of those at the same time. Yeah, it’s a lot. And then think about the first time you experienced unrequited love, maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. And then imagine experiencing that with the pure full body and soul ecstasy of falling in love and lust at once. That is what’s going on for The Jailer’s daughter here. She cops a lot of undue criticism for her actions, but when you look at the grim reality of her given circumstances and the bleakness of the future being forced upon her: her determination to change her reality is incredibly bold, brave and truly admirable for someone of such a young age. She’s fifteen! Living and working in a prison for – what one can safely assume – her entire fifteen years of life, you can imagine entails very limited contact with the outside world and with people her own age. You can imagine this sheltered and back breaking existence, coupled with the existence of being viewed as property to be given to another man by her father would form a low self-esteem, and warped understandings of how other humans, and their feelings work. So to see her exhibit the courage and fortitude to break free of this shows what an incredible, albeit tragic, character she is. Now, to the structure. Shakespeare and Fletcher have crafted a monologue with a very clear and monumental journey, with some seriously juicy gear changes throughout. The overall journey is from despondent questioning: Why should I love this gentleman? ‘Tis odd’s He never will affect me, I am base, my father the mean keeper of his prison, and he a prince to determined and decisive. Thus much for law of kindred! I will do it, and this night, or tomorrow, he shall love me. Remember to keep in mind how you’re going to show this overall journey she goes on and how this makes the scene before and the scene after makes sense. The scene before is her Dad attempting to sell her off to a literal random wooer he’s found, so she no longer is in his care. And the next time we see her is another soliloquy to the audience – high off the adrenalin of very much risking her life to break the love of her life out of jail. So think of how you set that up to take the audience on that journey with you. They will be on side! This monologue takes us on the journey between those two places.

Speaking of soliloquies – consider placing all of your different thoughts on different parts of the space. For those memories she’s recounting, pitch them out to the back of the playing space, just above the audiences heads. So they can see right into your eyes and see you reliving those moments that have embedded themselves deep in her soul. When she’s asking the questions, it’s so useful to place them on individual audience members and really ask them, she is genuinely trying to work through the problem she’s placed in the first line. And then comes the gear changes, milk them for all they’re worth. Particularly: What pushes are we wenches driven to when fifteen once has found us! First, I saw him. Use that “first” literally, let it take you from first to second gear. (If he please to bestow it so) as ever These eyes yet look’d on. Next, I pitied him;

There’s a natural build here that you can feel as you read it. Let that “Next” take you from second to third gear. With these gear changes, it helps to find them by literally moving your body and the section of the audience it’s facing. I think of dividing the audience into three sections and giving them a gear change each. To a young handsome man. Then, I lov’d him, Again, use that “then” and you’re off to the races. You can see how fast she has fallen from lust into love and the ride it is taking her on. And then the monologue takes you from not just how fast, but how deeply she has fallen in love.

[……..]Once he kiss’d me—
I lov’d my lips the better ten days after.
Would he would do so ev’ry day! He grieves much,
And me as much to see his misery.

Again, remember to root this in reality. The prolonged feeling one kiss gives, and the level the depth and which she feels the pain he feels. Play around with what feels right here: play with leaning in to the power of how intoxicating the sheer experience of Palamon is for her. And if this feels completely out of alignment with the action and character for you, no problem. Then play with
resisting the poetic language and try stating these lines as complete and pure fact. Still not it, try shooting for somewhere in the middle of this, or as far away from poetry and her state of being as possible and see where you land! And finally we have her find a massive solution to her problem. Mobilised action;

[….] Say I ventur’d
To set him free? What says the law then?
Thus much for law or kindred! I will do it,

Somewhere between “then?” and “Thus much” she finds the solution to her problem. When she asks that question, the audience needs to believably see her go through some sort of mental gymnastics to arrive at that – for lack of a better phrase – “F**k it, I’m doing this!” moment. It doesn’t matter what that realisation is, all that needs to happen is for you to actually think it, realise
it and let it drive you through the last two lines and then off the stage with the momentum of someone about to do something absolutely wild all in the name of love. All of these structural breakdowns of the monologue are here solely to aid you should you feel stuck. You will find a million other colours, thought changes, comedic moments, tragic moments and textures throughout. This article is by no means here to tell you how to interpret the character, but rather to help understand her choice of actions and the journey she goes on should you find yourself every thinking; ‘What the hell, why does she do that, or why is she saying that now?” Remember that your unique interpretation of this character will always be the best one, play with the millions of thought changes peppered throughout these thirty-two awesome lines of verse and feel the erraticism, energy, beauty and sheer force of the narrative.

About the Author

Emma O’Sullivan

Emma O’Sullivan is an actor, writer, juggler, frequent pasta maker and sometimes stilt walker. She graduated from WAAPA in 2016 with a BA Acting, and cut her teeth at the Hayman Theatre, Curtin University. Since graduating she has written and performed two solo shows at Perth, Newcastle and Sydney fringe and also with JackRabbit Theatre company. Originally from Perth, she is now based on the east coast and when you don’t see Em onstage you’ll find her practicing some *siq* new diabolo tricks and club juggling at park near you.

One response to “Jailers Daughter Monologue (Act 2, Scene 4)”

  1. Avatar Victoria Pero says:

    I enjoyed reading this so much. Wonderful details and so encouragingly written. VERY helpful to any young actor, teacher, coach or director!

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