All's Well That Ends Well eText - Act I

This eText contains embedded glossary terms and other notes added by our community of educators. Simply mouseover or tap on the yellow highlighted words within the text to see the annotations.
Turn Off

Act I

Act I, Scene 1

ACT I.

SCENE 1. Rousillon. A room in the COUNTESS'S palace.

[Enter BERTRAM, the COUNTESS OF ROUSILLON, HELENA, and LAFEU, all
in black.]

COUNTESS.
In delivering my son from me, I bury a second husband.

BERTRAM.
And I in going, madam, weep o'er my father's death anew;
but I must attend his majesty's command, to whom I am now in
ward, evermore in subjection.

LAFEU.
You shall find of the king a husband, madam;--you, sir, a father:
he that so generally is at all times good, must of necessity hold
his virtue to you; whose worthiness would stir it up where it
wanted, rather than lack it where there is such abundance.

COUNTESS.
What hope is there of his majesty's amendment?

LAFEU.
He hath abandoned his physicians, madam; under whose practices he
hath persecuted time with hope; and finds no other advantage in
the process but only the losing of hope by time.

COUNTESS.
This young gentlewoman had a father--O, that 'had!' how
sad a passage 'tis!--whose skill was almost as great as his
honesty; had it stretched so far, would have made nature
immortal, and death should have play for lack of work. Would, for
the king's sake, he were living! I think it would be the death of
the king's disease.

LAFEU.
How called you the man you speak of, madam?

COUNTESS.
He was famous, sir, in his profession, and it was his great right
to be so--Gerard de Narbon.

LAFEU.
He was excellent indeed, madam; the king very lately spoke
of him admiringly and mourningly; he was skilful enough to have
liv'd still, if knowledge could be set up against mortality.

BERTRAM.
What is it, my good lord, the king languishes of?

LAFEU.
A fistula, my lord.

BERTRAM.
I heard not of it before.

LAFEU.
I would it were not notorious.--Was this gentlewoman the
daughter of Gerard de Narbon?

COUNTESS.
His sole child, my lord, and bequeathed to my overlooking. I have
those hopes of her good that her education promises; her
dispositions she inherits, which makes fair gifts fairer; for
where an unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, there
commendations go with pity,--they are virtues and traitors too:
in her they are the better for their simpleness; she derives her
honesty, and achieves her goodness.

LAFEU.
Your commendations, madam, get from her tears.

COUNTESS.
'Tis the best brine a maiden can season her praise in. The
remembrance of her father never approaches her heart but the
tyranny of her sorrows takes all livelihood from her cheek. No
more of this, Helena,--go to, no more, lest it be rather thought
you affect a sorrow than to have.

HELENA.
I do affect a sorrow indeed; but I have it too.

LAFEU.
Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead; excessive grief
the enemy to the living.

COUNTESS.
If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it soon
mortal.

BERTRAM.
Madam, I desire your holy wishes.

LAFEU.
How understand we that?

COUNTESS.
Be thou blest, Bertram, and succeed thy father
In manners, as in shape! thy blood and virtue
Contend for empire in thee, and thy goodness
Share with thy birthright! Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use; and keep thy friend
Under thy own life's key: be check'd for silence,
But never tax'd for speech. What heaven more will,
That thee may furnish and my prayers pluck down,
Fall on thy head! Farewell.--My lord,
'Tis an unseason'd courtier; good my lord,
Advise him.

LAFEU.
He cannot want the best
That shall attend his love.

COUNTESS.
Heaven bless him!--Farewell, Bertram.

[Exit COUNTESS.]

BERTRAM.
The best wishes that can be forg'd in your thoughts [To HELENA.]
be servants to you! Be comfortable to my mother, your mistress,
and make much of her.

LAFEU.
Farewell, pretty lady: you must hold the credit of your father.

[Exeunt BERTRAM and LAFEU.]

HELENA.
O, were that all!--I think not on my father;
And these great tears grace his remembrance more
Than those I shed for him. What was he like?
I have forgot him; my imagination
Carries no favour in't but Bertram's.
I am undone: there is no living, none,
If Bertram be away. It were all one
That I should love a bright particular star,
And think to wed it, he is so above me:
In his bright radiance and collateral light
Must I be comforted, not in his sphere.
The ambition in my love thus plagues itself:
The hind that would be mated by the lion
Must die for love. 'Twas pretty, though a plague,
To see him every hour; to sit and draw
His arched brows, his hawking eye, his curls,
In our heart's table,--heart too capable
Of every line and trick of his sweet favour:
But now he's gone, and my idolatrous fancy
Must sanctify his relics. Who comes here?
One that goes with him: I love him for his sake;
And yet I know him a notorious liar,
Think him a great way fool, solely a coward;
Yet these fix'd evils sit so fit in him
That they take place when virtue's steely bones
Looks bleak i' the cold wind: withal, full oft we see
Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.

[Enter PAROLLES.]

PAROLLES.
Save you, fair queen!

HELENA.
And you, monarch!

PAROLLES.
No.

HELENA.
And no.

PAROLLES.
Are you meditating on virginity?

HELENA.
Ay. You have some stain of soldier in you: let me ask you a
question. Man is enemy to virginity; how may we barricado it
against him?

PAROLLES.
Keep him out.

HELENA.
But he assails; and our virginity, though valiant in the
defence, yet is weak: unfold to us some warlike resistance.

PAROLLES.
There is none: man, setting down before you, will undermine you
and blow you up.

HELENA.
Bless our poor virginity from underminers and blowers-up!--Is
there no military policy how virgins might blow up men?

PAROLLES.
Virginity being blown down, man will quicklier be blown up:
marry, in blowing him down again, with the breach yourselves
made, you lose your city. It is not politic in the commonwealth
of nature to preserve virginity. Loss of virginity is rational
increase; and there was never virgin got till virginity was first
lost. That you were made of is metal to make virgins. Virginity
by being once lost may be ten times found; by being ever kept, it
is ever lost: 'tis too cold a companion; away with it!

HELENA.
I will stand for 't a little, though therefore I die a virgin.

PAROLLES.
There's little can be said in't; 'tis against the rule of
nature. To speak on the part of virginity is to accuse your
mothers; which is most infallible disobedience. He that hangs
himself is a virgin: virginity murders itself; and should be
buried in highways, out of all sanctified limit, as a desperate
offendress against nature. Virginity breeds mites, much like a
cheese; consumes itself to the very paring, and so dies with
feeding his own stomach. Besides, virginity is peevish, proud,
idle, made of self-love, which is the most inhibited sin in the
canon. Keep it not; you cannot choose but lose by't: out with't!
within ten years it will make itself ten, which is a goodly
increase; and the principal itself not much the worse: away with
it!

HELENA.
How might one do, sir, to lose it to her own liking?

PAROLLES.
Let me see: marry, ill to like him that ne'er it likes. 'Tis a
commodity will lose the gloss with lying; the longer kept, the
less worth: off with't while 'tis vendible; answer the time of
request. Virginity, like an old courtier, wears her cap out of
fashion; richly suited, but unsuitable: just like the brooch and
the toothpick, which wear not now. Your date is better in your
pie and your porridge than in your cheek. And your virginity,
your old virginity, is like one of our French withered pears; it
looks ill, it eats drily; marry, 'tis a wither'd pear; it was
formerly better; marry, yet 'tis a wither'd pear. Will you
anything with it?

HELENA.
Not my virginity yet.
There shall your master have a thousand loves,
A mother, and a mistress, and a friend,
A phoenix, captain, and an enemy,
A guide, a goddess, and a sovereign,
A counsellor, a traitress, and a dear:
His humble ambition, proud humility,
His jarring concord, and his discord dulcet,
His faith, his sweet disaster; with a world
Of pretty, fond, adoptious christendoms,
That blinking Cupid gossips. Now shall he--
I know not what he shall:--God send him well!--
The court's a learning-place;--and he is one,--

PAROLLES.
What one, i' faith?

HELENA.
That I wish well.--'Tis pity--

PAROLLES.
What's pity?

HELENA.
That wishing well had not a body in't
Which might be felt; that we, the poorer born,
Whose baser stars do shut us up in wishes,
Might with effects of them follow our friends
And show what we alone must think; which never
Returns us thanks.

[Enter a PAGE.]

PAGE.
Monsieur Parolles, my lord calls for you.

[Exit PAGE.]

PAROLLES.
Little Helen, farewell: if I can remember thee, I will
think of thee at court.

HELENA.
Monsieur Parolles, you were born under a charitable star.

PAROLLES.
Under Mars, I.

HELENA.
I especially think, under Mars.

PAROLLES.
Why under Mars?

HELENA.
The wars hath so kept you under that you must needs be born
under Mars.

PAROLLES.
When he was predominant.

HELENA.
When he was retrograde, I think, rather.

PAROLLES.
Why think you so?

HELENA.
You go so much backward when you fight.

PAROLLES.
That's for advantage.

HELENA.
So is running away, when fear proposes the safety: but the
composition that your valour and fear makes in you is a virtue of
a good wing, and I like the wear well.

PAROLLES.
I am so full of business I cannot answer thee acutely. I
will return perfect courtier; in the which my instruction shall
serve to naturalize thee, so thou wilt be capable of a courtier's
counsel, and understand what advice shall thrust upon thee; else
thou diest in thine unthankfulness, and thine ignorance makes
thee away: farewell. When thou hast leisure, say thy prayers;
when thou hast none, remember thy friends: get thee a good
husband, and use him as he uses thee: so, farewell.

[Exit.]

HELENA.
Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven: the fated sky
Gives us free scope; only doth backward pull
Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull.
What power is it which mounts my love so high,--
That makes me see, and cannot feed mine eye?
The mightiest space in fortune nature brings
To join like likes, and kiss like native things.
Impossible be strange attempts to those
That weigh their pains in sense, and do suppose
What hath been cannot be: who ever strove
To show her merit that did miss her love?
The king's disease,--my project may deceive me,
But my intents are fix'd, and will not leave me.

[Exit.]

Act I, Scene 2

SCENE 2. Paris. A room in the King's palace.

[Flourish of cornets. Enter the KING OF FRANCE, with letters;
Lords and others attending.]

KING.
The Florentines and Senoys are by the ears;
Have fought with equal fortune, and continue
A braving war.

FIRST LORD.
So 'tis reported, sir.

KING.
Nay, 'tis most credible; we here receive it,
A certainty, vouch'd from our cousin Austria,
With caution, that the Florentine will move us
For speedy aid; wherein our dearest friend
Prejudicates the business, and would seem
To have us make denial.

FIRST LORD.
His love and wisdom,
Approv'd so to your majesty, may plead
For amplest credence.

KING.
He hath arm'd our answer,
And Florence is denied before he comes:
Yet, for our gentlemen that mean to see
The Tuscan service, freely have they leave
To stand on either part.

SECOND LORD.
It well may serve
A nursery to our gentry, who are sick
For breathing and exploit.

KING.
What's he comes here?

[Enter BERTRAM, LAFEU, and PAROLLES.]

FIRST LORD.
It is the Count Rousillon, my good lord,
Young Bertram.

KING.
Youth, thou bear'st thy father's face;
Frank nature, rather curious than in haste,
Hath well compos'd thee. Thy father's moral parts
Mayst thou inherit too! Welcome to Paris.

BERTRAM.
My thanks and duty are your majesty's.

KING.
I would I had that corporal soundness now,
As when thy father and myself in friendship
First tried our soldiership! He did look far
Into the service of the time, and was
Discipled of the bravest: he lasted long;
But on us both did haggish age steal on,
And wore us out of act. It much repairs me
To talk of your good father. In his youth
He had the wit which I can well observe
To-day in our young lords; but they may jest
Till their own scorn return to them unnoted,
Ere they can hide their levity in honour
So like a courtier: contempt nor bitterness
Were in his pride or sharpness; if they were,
His equal had awak'd them; and his honour,
Clock to itself, knew the true minute when
Exception bid him speak, and at this time
His tongue obey'd his hand: who were below him
He us'd as creatures of another place;
And bow'd his eminent top to their low ranks,
Making them proud of his humility,
In their poor praise he humbled. Such a man
Might be a copy to these younger times;
Which, follow'd well, would demonstrate them now
But goers backward.

BERTRAM.
His good remembrance, sir,
Lies richer in your thoughts than on his tomb;
So in approof lives not his epitaph
As in your royal speech.

KING.
Would I were with him! He would always say,--
Methinks I hear him now; his plausive words
He scatter'd not in ears, but grafted them
To grow there, and to bear,--'Let me not live,'--
This his good melancholy oft began,
On the catastrophe and heel of pastime,
When it was out,--'Let me not live' quoth he,
'After my flame lacks oil, to be the snuff
Of younger spirits, whose apprehensive senses
All but new things disdain; whose judgments are
Mere fathers of their garments; whose constancies
Expire before their fashions:'--This he wish'd:
I, after him, do after him wish too,
Since I nor wax nor honey can bring home,
I quickly were dissolved from my hive,
To give some labourers room.

SECOND LORD.
You're lov'd, sir;
They that least lend it you shall lack you first.

KING.
I fill a place, I know't.--How long is't, Count,
Since the physician at your father's died?
He was much fam'd.

BERTRAM.
Some six months since, my lord.

KING.
If he were living, I would try him yet;--
Lend me an arm;--the rest have worn me out
With several applications:--nature and sickness
Debate it at their leisure. Welcome, count;
My son's no dearer.

BERTRAM.
Thank your majesty.

[Exeunt. Flourish.]

Act I, Scene 3

SCENE 3. Rousillon. A Room in the Palace.

[Enter COUNTESS, STEWARD, and CLOWN.]

COUNTESS.
I will now hear: what say you of this gentlewoman?

STEWARD.
Madam, the care I have had to even your content, I wish
might be found in the calendar of my past endeavours; for then we
wound our modesty, and make foul the clearness of our deservings,
when of ourselves we publish them.

COUNTESS.
What does this knave here? Get you gone, sirrah: the
complaints I have heard of you I do not all believe; 'tis my
slowness that I do not; for I know you lack not folly to commit
them, and have ability enough to make such knaveries yours.

CLOWN.
'Tis not unknown to you, madam, I am a poor fellow.

COUNTESS.
Well, sir.

CLOWN.
No, madam, 'tis not so well that I am poor, though many of
the rich are damned: but if I may have your ladyship's good will
to go to the world, Isbel the woman and I will do as we may.

COUNTESS.
Wilt thou needs be a beggar?

CLOWN.
I do beg your good will in this case.

COUNTESS.
In what case?

CLOWN.
In Isbel's case and mine own. Service is no heritage: and I
think I shall never have the blessing of God till I have issue of
my body; for they say bairns are blessings.

COUNTESS.
Tell me thy reason why thou wilt marry.

CLOWN.
My poor body, madam, requires it: I am driven on by the
flesh; and he must needs go that the devil drives.

COUNTESS.
Is this all your worship's reason?

CLOWN.
Faith, madam, I have other holy reasons, such as they are.

COUNTESS.
May the world know them?

CLOWN.
I have been, madam, a wicked creature, as you and all flesh
and blood are; and, indeed, I do marry that I may repent.

COUNTESS.
Thy marriage, sooner than thy wickedness.

CLOWN.
I am out of friends, madam, and I hope to have friends for
my wife's sake.

COUNTESS.
Such friends are thine enemies, knave.

CLOWN.
Y'are shallow, madam, in great friends: for the knaves come
to do that for me which I am a-weary of. He that ears my land
spares my team, and gives me leave to in the crop: if I be his
cuckold, he's my drudge: he that comforts my wife is the
cherisher of my flesh and blood; he that cherishes my flesh and
blood loves my flesh and blood; he that loves my flesh and blood
is my friend; ergo, he that kisses my wife is my friend. If men
could be contented to be what they are, there were no fear in
marriage; for young Charbon the puritan and old Poysam the
papist, howsome'er their hearts are severed in religion, their
heads are both one; they may joll horns together like any deer
i' the herd.

COUNTESS.
Wilt thou ever be a foul-mouth'd and calumnious knave?

CLOWN.
A prophet I, madam; and I speak the truth the next way:
For I the ballad will repeat,
Which men full true shall find;
Your marriage comes by destiny,
Your cuckoo sings by kind.

COUNTESS.
Get you gone, sir; I'll talk with you more anon.

STEWARD.
May it please you, madam, that he bid Helen come to you; of her I
am to speak.

COUNTESS.
Sirrah, tell my gentlewoman I would speak with her; Helen I mean.

CLOWN.
[Sings.]
Was this fair face the cause, quoth she
Why the Grecians sacked Troy?
Fond done, done fond,
Was this King Priam's joy?
With that she sighed as she stood,
With that she sighed as she stood,
And gave this sentence then:--
Among nine bad if one be good,
Among nine bad if one be good,
There's yet one good in ten.

COUNTESS.
What, one good in ten? you corrupt the song, sirrah.

CLOWN.
One good woman in ten, madam, which is a purifying o' the
song: would God would serve the world so all the year! we'd find
no fault with the tithe-woman, if I were the parson: one in ten,
quoth 'a! an we might have a good woman born before every blazing
star, or at an earthquake, 'twould mend the lottery well: a man
may draw his heart out ere he pluck one.

COUNTESS.
You'll be gone, sir knave, and do as I command you!

CLOWN.
That man should be at woman's command, and yet no hurt done!--
Though honesty be no puritan, yet it will do no hurt; it will
wear the surplice of humility over the black gown of a big
heart.--I am going, forsooth:the business is for Helen to come
hither.

[Exit.]

COUNTESS.
Well, now.

STEWARD.
I know, madam, you love your gentlewoman entirely.

COUNTESS.
Faith I do: her father bequeathed her to me; and she herself,
without other advantage, may lawfully make title to as much love
as she finds: there is more owing her than is paid; and more
shall be paid her than she'll demand.

STEWARD.
Madam, I was very late more near her than I think she wished me:
alone she was, and did communicate to herself her own words to
her own ears; she thought, I dare vow for her, they touched not
any stranger sense. Her matter was, she loved your son: Fortune,
she said, was no goddess, that had put such difference betwixt
their two estates; Love no god, that would not extend his might
only where qualities were level; Diana no queen of virgins, that
would suffer her poor knight surprise, without rescue in the
first assault, or ransom afterward. This she delivered in the
most bitter touch of sorrow that e'er I heard virgin exclaim in;
which I held my duty speedily to acquaint you withal; sithence,
in the loss that may happen, it concerns you something to know
it.

COUNTESS.
You have discharged this honestly; keep it to yourself; many
likelihoods informed me of this before, which hung so
tottering in the balance that I could neither believe nor
misdoubt. Pray you leave me: stall this in your bosom; and I
thank you for your honest care: I will speak with you further
anon.

[Exit STEWARD.]

Even so it was with me when I was young:
If ever we are nature's, these are ours; this thorn
Doth to our rose of youth rightly belong;
Our blood to us, this to our blood is born;
It is the show and seal of nature's truth,
Where love's strong passion is impress'd in youth:
By our remembrances of days foregone,
Such were our faults:--or then we thought them none.

[Enter HELENA.]

Her eye is sick on't;--I observe her now.

HELENA.
What is your pleasure, madam?

COUNTESS.
You know, Helen,
I am a mother to you.

HELENA.
Mine honourable mistress.

COUNTESS.
Nay, a mother.
Why not a mother? When I said a mother,
Methought you saw a serpent: what's in mother,
That you start at it? I say I am your mother;
And put you in the catalogue of those
That were enwombed mine. 'Tis often seen
Adoption strives with nature; and choice breeds
A native slip to us from foreign seeds:
You ne'er oppress'd me with a mother's groan,
Yet I express to you a mother's care:--
God's mercy, maiden! does it curd thy blood
To say I am thy mother? What's the matter,
That this distemper'd messenger of wet,
The many-colour'd iris, rounds thine eye?
Why,--that you are my daughter?

HELENA.
That I am not.

COUNTESS.
I say, I am your mother.

HELENA.
Pardon, madam;
The Count Rousillon cannot be my brother:
I am from humble, he from honour'd name;
No note upon my parents, his all noble;
My master, my dear lord he is; and I
His servant live, and will his vassal die:
He must not be my brother.

COUNTESS.
Nor I your mother?

HELENA.
You are my mother, madam; would you were,--
So that my lord your son were not my brother,--
Indeed my mother!--or were you both our mothers,
I care no more for than I do for heaven,
So I were not his sister. Can't no other,
But, I your daughter, he must be my brother?

COUNTESS.
Yes, Helen, you might be my daughter-in-law:
God shield you mean it not! daughter and mother
So strive upon your pulse. What! pale again?
My fear hath catch'd your fondness: now I see
The mystery of your loneliness, and find
Your salt tears' head. Now to all sense 'tis gross
You love my son; invention is asham'd,
Against the proclamation of thy passion,
To say thou dost not: therefore tell me true;
But tell me then, 'tis so;--for, look, thy cheeks
Confess it, one to the other; and thine eyes
See it so grossly shown in thy behaviours,
That in their kind they speak it; only sin
And hellish obstinacy tie thy tongue,
That truth should be suspected. Speak, is't so?
If it be so, you have wound a goodly clue;
If it be not, forswear't: howe'er, I charge thee,
As heaven shall work in me for thine avail,
To tell me truly.

HELENA.
Good madam, pardon me!

COUNTESS.
Do you love my son?

HELENA.
Your pardon, noble mistress!

COUNTESS.
Love you my son?

HELENA.
Do not you love him, madam?

COUNTESS.
Go not about; my love hath in't a bond
Whereof the world takes note: come, come, disclose
The state of your affection; for your passions
Have to the full appeach'd.

HELENA.
Then I confess,
Here on my knee, before high heaven and you,
That before you, and next unto high heaven,
I love your son:--
My friends were poor, but honest; so's my love:
Be not offended; for it hurts not him
That he is lov'd of me: I follow him not
By any token of presumptuous suit;
Nor would I have him till I do deserve him;
Yet never know how that desert should be.
I know I love in vain, strive against hope;
Yet in this captious and intenible sieve
I still pour in the waters of my love,
And lack not to lose still: thus, Indian-like,
Religious in mine error, I adore
The sun, that looks upon his worshipper,
But knows of him no more. My dearest madam,
Let not your hate encounter with my love,
For loving where you do; but if yourself,
Whose aged honour cites a virtuous youth,
Did ever, in so true a flame of liking,
Wish chastely, and love dearly, that your Dian
Was both herself and love; O, then, give pity
To her whose state is such that cannot choose
But lend and give where she is sure to lose;
That seeks not to find that her search implies,
But, riddle-like, lives sweetly where she dies!

COUNTESS.
Had you not lately an intent,--speak truly,--
To go to Paris?

HELENA.
Madam, I had.

COUNTESS.
Wherefore? tell true.

HELENA.
I will tell truth; by grace itself I swear.
You know my father left me some prescriptions
Of rare and prov'd effects, such as his reading
And manifest experience had collected
For general sovereignty; and that he will'd me
In heedfullest reservation to bestow them,
As notes whose faculties inclusive were
More than they were in note: amongst the rest
There is a remedy, approv'd, set down,
To cure the desperate languishings whereof
The king is render'd lost.

COUNTESS.
This was your motive
For Paris, was it? speak.

HELENA.
My lord your son made me to think of this;
Else Paris, and the medicine, and the king,
Had from the conversation of my thoughts
Haply been absent then.

COUNTESS.
But think you, Helen,
If you should tender your supposed aid,
He would receive it? He and his physicians
Are of a mind; he, that they cannot help him;
They, that they cannot help: how shall they credit
A poor unlearned virgin, when the schools,
Embowell'd of their doctrine, have let off
The danger to itself?

HELENA.
There's something in't
More than my father's skill, which was the greatest
Of his profession, that his good receipt
Shall, for my legacy, be sanctified
By th' luckiest stars in heaven: and, would your honour
But give me leave to try success, I'd venture
The well-lost life of mine on his grace's cure.
By such a day and hour.

COUNTESS.
Dost thou believe't?

HELENA.
Ay, madam, knowingly.

COUNTESS.
Why, Helen, thou shalt have my leave, and love,
Means, and attendants, and my loving greetings
To those of mine in court: I'll stay at home,
And pray God's blessing into thy attempt:
Be gone to-morrow; and be sure of this,
What I can help thee to thou shalt not miss.

[Exeunt.]