Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 372
Context: Bertram, son of the Countess of Rousillon, has rudely rejected Helena as a wife. Forced to marry her by the king's command, he sends her home unkissed and himself renounces his nation to serve the Duke of Florence. In subsequent battles the young count distinguishes himself, but the pining Helena, whose true love will not allow her to remain idle, follows him on a pilgrimage to St. Jaques le Grand. She allows word to be sent both to her husband and to his mother that she has died on the journey. The countess, when she receives this news, is grief-stricken; "If she had partaken of my flesh, and cost me the dearest groans of a mother, I could not have owed her a more rooted love." Lavache, a clown in the Rousillon household, attempts to relieve her sorrow with saucy and impertinent dialogue, by describing bawdily the fool and his bauble, and by averring that–though he serve the Prince of Darkness and though he love a good fire–he has no desire to serve at the Devil's court. But his tricks now begin to jade. Such humor is inappropriate to the occasion, and the fool is peremptorily dismissed by the countess. But, not to be denied, a few lines later the fool reenters to announce the arrival home of the count, her son, with a velvet patch (scar) on his face. He is attended by–and here Lavache gets his final sarcastic gibes at the pomposity and flamboyancy of the aristocrats–". . . a dozen of 'em, with delicate fine hats, and most courteous feathers, which bow the head and nod at every man." His speech about the "great fire" is as follows:
I am a woodland fellow sir, that always loved a great fire; and the master I speak of ever keeps a good fire. But sure he is the prince of the world, let his nobility remain in's court. I am for the house with the narrow gate, which I take to be too little for pomp to enter. Some that humble themselves may, but the many will be too chill and tender, and they'll be for the flowery way that leads to the broad gate and the great fire.
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