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All's Well That Ends Well
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Navigate this workAll's Well That Ends Well
Act 1, scene 1
Bertram, having become a ward of the court upon his father’s death, departs from Rossillion. Helen, whose own physician-father has recently died, knows that her hidden love for Bertram can never be requited because of their difference in social rank, but decides that the King’s disease may offer her a chance to “show her merit.”Enter young Bertram Count of Rossillion, his mother
⌜the Countess,⌝ and Helen, Lord Lafew, all in black.
COUNTESS 0001 In delivering my son from me, I bury a second
BERTRAM 0003 And I in going, madam, weep o’er my
0004 father’s death anew; but I must attend his Majesty’s
0005 5 command, to whom I am now in ward, evermore
0006 in subjection.
LAFEW 0007 You shall find of the King a husband, madam;
0008 you, sir, a father. He that so generally is at all times
0009 good must of necessity hold his virtue to you,
0010 10 whose worthiness would stir it up where it wanted
0011 rather than lack it where there is such abundance.
COUNTESS 0012 What hope is there of his Majesty’s
LAFEW 0014 He hath abandoned his physicians, madam,
0015 15 under whose practices he hath persecuted time
0016 with hope, and finds no other advantage in the
0017 process but only the losing of hope by time.
COUNTESS 0018 This young gentlewoman had a father—O,
0019 that “had,” how sad a passage ’tis!—whose skill
0020 20 was almost as great as his honesty; had it stretched
0021 so far, would have made nature immortal, and
0022 death should have play for lack of work. Would for
p. 90023 the King’s sake he were living! I think it would be
0024 the death of the King’s disease.
LAFEW 0025 25How called you the man you speak of,
COUNTESS 0027 He was famous, sir, in his profession, and it
0028 was his great right to be so: Gerard de Narbon.
LAFEW 0029 He was excellent indeed, madam. The King
0030 30 very lately spoke of him admiringly, and mourningly.
0031 He was skillful enough to have lived still, if
0032 knowledge could be set up against mortality.
BERTRAM 0033 What is it, my good lord, the King languishes
LAFEW 0035 35A fistula, my lord.
BERTRAM 0036 I heard not of it before.
LAFEW 0037 I would it were not notorious.—Was this gentlewoman
0038 the daughter of Gerard de Narbon?
COUNTESS 0039 His sole child, my lord, and bequeathed to
0040 40 my overlooking. I have those hopes of her good
0041 that her education promises. Her dispositions she
0042 inherits, which makes fair gifts fairer; for where an
0043 unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, there
0044 commendations go with pity—they are virtues and
0045 45 traitors too. In her they are the better for their simpleness.
0046 She derives her honesty and achieves her
LAFEW 0048 Your commendations, madam, get from her
COUNTESS 0050 50’Tis the best brine a maiden can season her
0051 praise in. The remembrance of her father never
0052 approaches her heart but the tyranny of her sorrows
0053 takes all livelihood from her cheek.—No
0054 more of this, Helena. Go to. No more, lest it be
0055 55 rather thought you affect a sorrow than to have—
HELEN 0056 I do affect a sorrow indeed, but I have it too.
LAFEW 0057 Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead,
0058 excessive grief the enemy to the living.
p. 11COUNTESS 0059 If the living be enemy to the grief, the
0060 60 excess makes it soon mortal.
BERTRAM 0061 Madam, I desire your holy wishes.
LAFEW 0062 How understand we that?
0063 Be thou blessed, Bertram, and succeed thy father
0064 In manners as in shape. Thy blood and virtue
0065 65 Contend for empire in thee, and thy goodness
0066 Share with thy birthright. Love all, trust a few,
0067 Do wrong to none. Be able for thine enemy
0068 Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
0069 Under thy own life’s key Be checked for silence,
0070 70 But never taxed for speech. What heaven more will,
0071 That thee may furnish and my prayers pluck down,
0072 Fall on thy head. ⌜To Lafew.⌝ Farewell, my lord.
0073 ’Tis an unseasoned courtier. Good my lord,
0074 Advise him.
LAFEW 0075 75 He cannot want the best that shall
0076 Attend his love.
COUNTESS 0077 Heaven bless him.—Farewell, Bertram.
BERTRAM 0078 The best wishes that can be forged in your
0079 thoughts be servants to you.⌜Countess exits.⌝
0080 80 ⌜To Helen.⌝ Be comfortable to my mother, your
0081 mistress, and make much of her.
LAFEW 0082 Farewell, pretty lady. You must hold the credit
0083 of your father. ⌜Bertram and Lafew exit.⌝
0084 O, were that all! I think not on my father,
0085 85 And these great tears grace his remembrance more
0086 Than those I shed for him. What was he like?
0087 I have forgot him. My imagination
0088 Carries no favor in ’t but Bertram’s.
0089 I am undone. There is no living, none,
0090 90 If Bertram be away. ’Twere all one
0091 That I should love a bright particular star
0092 And think to wed it, he is so above me.
p. 130093 In his bright radiance and collateral light
0094 Must I be comforted, not in his sphere.
0095 95 Th’ ambition in my love thus plagues itself:
0096 The hind that would be mated by the lion
0097 Must die for love. ’Twas pretty, though a plague,
0098 To see him every hour, to sit and draw
0099 His archèd brows, his hawking eye, his curls
0100 100 In our heart’s table—heart too capable
0101 Of every line and trick of his sweet favor.
0102 But now he’s gone, and my idolatrous fancy
0103 Must sanctify his relics. Who comes here?
0104 One that goes with him. I love him for his sake,
0105 105 And yet I know him a notorious liar,
0106 Think him a great way fool, solely a coward.
0107 Yet these fixed evils sit so fit in him
0108 That they take place when virtue’s steely bones
0109 Looks bleak i’ th’ cold wind. Withal, full oft we see
0110 110 Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.
PAROLLES 0111 Save you, fair queen.
HELEN 0112 And you, monarch.
PAROLLES 0113 No.
HELEN 0114 And no.
PAROLLES 0115 115Are you meditating on virginity?
HELEN 0116 Ay. You have some stain of soldier in you; let
0117 me ask you a question. Man is enemy to virginity.
0118 How may we barricado it against him?
PAROLLES 0119 Keep him out.
HELEN 0120 120But he assails, and our virginity, though
0121 valiant in the defense, yet is weak. Unfold to us
0122 some warlike resistance.
PAROLLES 0123 There is none. Man setting down before you
0124 will undermine you and blow you up.
HELEN 0125 125Bless our poor virginity from underminers and
0126 blowers-up! Is there no military policy how virgins
0127 might blow up men?
p. 15PAROLLES 0128 Virginity being blown down, man will
0129 quicklier be blown up. Marry, in blowing him
0130 130 down again, with the breach yourselves made you
0131 lose your city. It is not politic in the commonwealth
0132 of nature to preserve virginity. Loss of virginity
0133 is rational increase, and there was never
0134 virgin ⌜got⌝ till virginity was first lost. That you
0135 135 were made of is metal to make virgins. Virginity by
0136 being once lost may be ten times found; by being
0137 ever kept, it is ever lost. ’Tis too cold a companion.
0138 Away with ’t.
HELEN 0139 I will stand for ’t a little, though therefore I
0140 140 die a virgin.
PAROLLES 0141 There’s little can be said in ’t. ’Tis against the
0142 rule of nature. To speak on the part of virginity is
0143 to accuse your mothers, which is most infallible
0144 disobedience. He that hangs himself is a virgin;
0145 145 virginity murders itself and should be buried in
0146 highways out of all sanctified limit as a desperate
0147 offendress against nature. Virginity breeds mites,
0148 much like a cheese, consumes itself to the very
0149 paring, and so dies with feeding his own stomach.
0150 150 Besides, virginity is peevish, proud, idle, made of
0151 self-love, which is the most inhibited sin in the
0152 canon. Keep it not; you cannot choose but lose by
0153 ’t. Out with ’t! Within ten year it will make itself
0154 two, which is a goodly increase, and the principal
0155 155 itself not much the worse. Away with ’t!
HELEN 0156 How might one do, sir, to lose it to her own
PAROLLES 0158 Let me see. Marry, ill, to like him that ne’er
0159 it likes. ’Tis a commodity will lose the gloss with
0160 160 lying; the longer kept, the less worth. Off with ’t
0161 while ’tis vendible; answer the time of request. Virginity,
0162 like an old courtier, wears her cap out of
0163 fashion, richly suited but unsuitable, just like the
p. 170164 brooch and the toothpick, which wear not now.
0165 165 Your date is better in your pie and your porridge
0166 than in your cheek. And your virginity, your old
0167 virginity, is like one of our French withered pears:
0168 it looks ill, it eats dryly; marry, ’tis a withered pear.
0169 It was formerly better, marry, yet ’tis a withered
0170 170 pear. Will you anything with it?
HELEN 0171 Not my virginity, yet—
0172 There shall your master have a thousand loves,
0173 A mother, and a mistress, and a friend,
0174 A phoenix, captain, and an enemy,
0175 175 A guide, a goddess, and a sovereign,
0176 A counselor, a traitress, and a dear;
0177 His humble ambition, proud humility,
0178 His jarring concord, and his discord dulcet,
0179 His faith, his sweet disaster, with a world
0180 180 Of pretty, fond adoptious christendoms
0181 That blinking Cupid gossips. Now shall he—
0182 I know not what he shall. God send him well.
0183 The court’s a learning place, and he is one—
PAROLLES 0184 What one, i’ faith?
HELEN 0185 185That I wish well. ’Tis pity—
PAROLLES 0186 What’s pity?
0187 That wishing well had not a body in ’t
0188 Which might be felt, that we, the poorer born,
0189 Whose baser stars do shut us up in wishes,
0190 190 Might with effects of them follow our friends
0191 And show what we alone must think, which never
0192 Returns us thanks.
PAGE 0193 Monsieur Parolles, my lord calls for you.
PAROLLES 0194 Little Helen, farewell. If I can remember
0195 195 thee, I will think of thee at court.
HELEN 0196 Monsieur Parolles, you were born under a
0197 charitable star.
p. 19PAROLLES 0198 Under Mars, I.
HELEN 0199 I especially think under Mars.
PAROLLES 0200 200Why under Mars?
HELEN 0201 The wars hath so kept you under that you
0202 must needs be born under Mars.
PAROLLES 0203 When he was predominant.
HELEN 0204 When he was retrograde, I think rather.
PAROLLES 0205 205Why think you so?
HELEN 0206 You go so much backward when you fight.
PAROLLES 0207 That’s for advantage.
HELEN 0208 So is running away, when fear proposes the
0209 safety. But the composition that your valor and
0210 210 fear makes in you is a virtue of a good wing, and I
0211 like the wear well.
PAROLLES 0212 I am so full of businesses I cannot answer
0213 thee acutely. I will return perfect courtier, in the
0214 which my instruction shall serve to naturalize
0215 215 thee, so thou wilt be capable of a courtier’s counsel
0216 and understand what advice shall thrust upon
0217 thee, else thou diest in thine unthankfulness, and
0218 thine ignorance makes thee away. Farewell. When
0219 thou hast leisure, say thy prayers; when thou hast
0220 220 none, remember thy friends. Get thee a good husband,
0221 and use him as he uses thee. So, farewell.
⌜Parolles and Page exit.⌝
0222 Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie
0223 Which we ascribe to heaven. The fated sky
0224 Gives us free scope, only doth backward pull
0225 225 Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull.
0226 What power is it which mounts my love so high,
0227 That makes me see, and cannot feed mine eye?
0228 The mightiest space in fortune nature brings
0229 To join like likes and kiss like native things.
0230 230 Impossible be strange attempts to those
0231 That weigh their pains in sense and do suppose
p. 210232 What hath been cannot be. Who ever strove
0233 To show her merit that did miss her love?
0234 The King’s disease—my project may deceive me,
0235 235 But my intents are fixed and will not leave me.