Shakespeare’s The Two Noble Kinsmen is based on Chaucer’s The Knights Tale. Shakespeare uses most of the characters that Chaucer uses in his play and the plot and story line is virtually identical. The main difference between Chaucer and Shakespeare’s version is that The Knights Tale possesses no subplot. The jailer and the jailer’s daughter do not exist. Also Aricite, Palamon and Emila pray to the gods in a different order. Palamon goes first, Emila goes after, and Arcite goes last in The Knights Tale and in The Two Noble Kinsmen Arcite goes first, then Palamon, then Emila. This difference in ordering makes sense when one notices that Shakespeare really wanted to Highlight the friendship of Palamon and Arcite more that Chaucer did. If he put Emila’s prayer in the midst of Palamon and Arcite’s prayer that would be separating them and highlighting that Emila is really in between their friendship.
I personally don’t think Fletcher and Shakespeare are plagiarists because he tweaked many things and they allowed the play to focus more upon the friendship of Arcite and Palamon than Chaucer’s tale did. He also added an important and entertaining subplot and it was adapted for a play, not for another book. I generally enjoyed the play and its climatic ending and I enjoyed it much more than Chaucer’s tale particularly because of its interesting subplot.
Reading Chaucer’s version has really helped me with my group’s adaptation of The Two Noble Kinsmen. We know that its ok to tweak concepts to fit modern times, but its ok to keep a lot of the original material because it wouldn’t be considered plagiarism especially because we’re adapting it for a different medium which is screen.