Oft expectation fails, and most oft there
"Oft expectation fails, and most oft there
Where most it promises; and oft it hits
Where hope is coldest, and despair most fits."
Shakespeare's plot in this play involves a beautiful woman,
Helena, who is rejected by the man she loves and will use tricks
and cleverness to win his heart and hand in marriage. In this
scene, Helena has followed Bertram, her object of desire, to the
king's court in Paris. The king is suffering from a terminal
illness, but Helena (whose recently-deceased father was a court
physician) claims to have a cure, and seeks to treat him. The king
has doubts, of course - the thought of a woman being a doctor and
suggesting a cure was unheard of at this time. But Helena prevails
through the skillful use of rhetoric, and the remark quoted here
finally convinces the king to allow her to treat his illness, which
she does, successfully.