List iconAll’s Well That Ends WellList icon

All’s Well That Ends Well
Act 1, scene 1

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Characters in the Play

Entire Play

In All’s Well That Ends Well, a woman is given in marriage to the man she longs for, but, because she…

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…

Act 1, scene 2

The King of France refuses to take sides in the war between Siena and Florence, giving his courtiers permission to…

Act 1, scene 3

Bertram’s mother, the Countess of Rossillion, learns of Helen’s love for Bertram and forces Helen to confess this secret. When…

Act 2, scene 1

The King bids farewell to the French courtiers going off to war, having commanded Bertram to remain behind. Helen arrives…

Act 2, scene 2

The Countess sends the Fool to the court with a letter for Helen.

Act 2, scene 3

Having cured the King, Helen is given several courtiers from whom to choose a husband as her reward. When she…

Act 2, scene 4

Parolles brings Helen word that Bertram is leaving for Tuscany and that she is to get permission from the King…

Act 2, scene 5

Bertram is warned that Parolles is an untrustworthy coward. Bertram gives Helen a letter and instructs her to go immediately…

Act 3, scene 1

The Duke of Florence greets French courtiers who have come to fight on his side.

Act 3, scene 2

The Fool returns to Rossillion with a letter from Bertram that tells the Countess of his plan to run away…

Act 3, scene 3

Bertram is put in command of the Duke of Florence’s cavalry.

Act 3, scene 4

The Countess is given the letter left for her by Helen, in which Helen sets out her intention to make…

Act 3, scene 5

Helen, on her pilgrimage, meets Diana, whom Bertram has been attempting to seduce.

Act 3, scene 6

The French lords in Florence decide that Parolles’ unhappiness about the loss of the troop’s drum can be used as…

Act 3, scene 7

Helen enlists Diana’s mother in contriving to meet Bertram’s conditions. Diana will agree to sleep with Bertram on the condition…

Act 4, scene 1

Parolles is captured and blindfolded by a French lord and soldiers pretending to be the enemy who can speak to…

Act 4, scene 2

Diana agrees to lie with Bertram after he reluctantly gives her his ancestral ring.

Act 4, scene 3

News comes to the Duke of Florence’s court that Bertram’s wife has died while on pilgrimage. When Bertram enters, he…

Act 4, scene 4

Helen sets out with Diana and Diana’s mother to seek the King of France in Marseilles.

Act 4, scene 5

The Countess, who has learned of Helen’s death, receives word that the King of France is approaching Rossillion and then…

Act 5, scene 1

Helen finds herself unable to petition the King because he has already departed for Rossillion.

Act 5, scene 2

Parolles arrives at Rossillion and persuades Lafew to take him into his service.

Act 5, scene 3

The King forgives Bertram and agrees to a marriage between Bertram and Lafew’s daughter. Bertram gives Lafew a ring, which…

Act 5, epilogue

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Scene 1
Enter young Bertram Count of Rossillion, his mother
the Countess, and Helen, Lord Lafew, 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
5 command, to whom I am now in ward, evermore
 in subjection.
LAFEW 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,
10 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?
LAFEW He hath abandoned his physicians, madam,
15 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
20 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
7

9
All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 1. SC. 1

 the King’s sake he were living! I think it would be
 the death of the King’s disease.
LAFEW 25How 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.
LAFEW He was excellent indeed, madam. The King
30 very lately spoke of him admiringly, and mourningly.
 He was skillful enough to have lived still, if
 knowledge could be set up against mortality.
BERTRAM What is it, my good lord, the King languishes
 of?
LAFEW 35A fistula, my lord.
BERTRAM I heard not of it before.
LAFEW I would it were not notorious.—Was this gentlewoman
 the daughter of Gerard de Narbon?
COUNTESS His sole child, my lord, and bequeathed to
40 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
45 traitors too. In her they are the better for their simpleness.
 She derives her honesty and achieves her
 goodness.
LAFEW Your commendations, madam, get from her
 tears.
COUNTESS 50’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
55 rather thought you affect a sorrow than to have—
HELEN I do affect a sorrow indeed, but I have it too.
LAFEW Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead,
 excessive grief the enemy to the living.

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All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 1. SC. 1

COUNTESS If the living be enemy to the grief, the
60 excess makes it soon mortal.
BERTRAM Madam, I desire your holy wishes.
LAFEW How understand we that?
COUNTESS 
 Be thou blessed, Bertram, and succeed thy father
 In manners as in shape. Thy blood and virtue
65 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 checked for silence,
70 But never taxed for speech. What heaven more will,
 That thee may furnish and my prayers pluck down,
 Fall on thy head. To Lafew. Farewell, my lord.
 ’Tis an unseasoned courtier. Good my lord,
 Advise him.
LAFEW 75 He cannot want the best that shall
 Attend his love.
COUNTESS Heaven bless him.—Farewell, Bertram.
BERTRAM The best wishes that can be forged in your
 thoughts be servants to you.Countess exits.
80 To Helen. Be comfortable to my mother, your
 mistress, and make much of her.
LAFEW Farewell, pretty lady. You must hold the credit
 of your father. Bertram and Lafew exit.
HELEN 
 O, were that all! I think not on my father,
85 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 favor in ’t but Bertram’s.
 I am undone. There is no living, none,
90 If Bertram be away. ’Twere all one
 That I should love a bright particular star
 And think to wed it, he is so above me.

13
All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 1. SC. 1

 In his bright radiance and collateral light
 Must I be comforted, not in his sphere.
95 Th’ 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 archèd brows, his hawking eye, his curls
100 In our heart’s table—heart too capable
 Of every line and trick of his sweet favor.
 But now he’s gone, and my idolatrous fancy
 Must sanctify his relics. Who comes here?

Enter Parolles.

 One that goes with him. I love him for his sake,
105 And yet I know him a notorious liar,
 Think him a great way fool, solely a coward.
 Yet these fixed evils sit so fit in him
 That they take place when virtue’s steely bones
 Looks bleak i’ th’ cold wind. Withal, full oft we see
110 Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.
PAROLLES Save you, fair queen.
HELEN And you, monarch.
PAROLLES No.
HELEN And no.
PAROLLES 115Are you meditating on virginity?
HELEN 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.
HELEN 120But he assails, and our virginity, though
 valiant in the defense, 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.
HELEN 125Bless our poor virginity from underminers and
 blowers-up! Is there no military policy how virgins
 might blow up men?

15
All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 1. SC. 1

PAROLLES Virginity being blown down, man will
 quicklier be blown up. Marry, in blowing him
130 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
135 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 ’t.
HELEN I will stand for ’t a little, though therefore I
140 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;
145 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.
150 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 year it will make itself
 two, which is a goodly increase, and the principal
155 itself not much the worse. Away with ’t!
HELEN 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
160 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

17
All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 1. SC. 1

 brooch and the toothpick, which wear not now.
165 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 dryly; marry, ’tis a withered pear.
 It was formerly better, marry, yet ’tis a withered
170 pear. Will you anything with it?
HELEN 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,
175 A guide, a goddess, and a sovereign,
 A counselor, 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
180 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?
HELEN 185That I wish well. ’Tis pity—
PAROLLES What’s pity?
HELEN 
 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,
190 Might with effects of them follow our friends
 And show what we alone must think, which never
 Returns us thanks.

Enter Page.

PAGE Monsieur Parolles, my lord calls for you.
PAROLLES Little Helen, farewell. If I can remember
195 thee, I will think of thee at court.
HELEN Monsieur Parolles, you were born under a
 charitable star.

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All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 1. SC. 1

PAROLLES Under Mars, I.
HELEN I especially think under Mars.
PAROLLES 200Why under Mars?
HELEN The wars hath so kept you under that you
 must needs be born under Mars.
PAROLLES When he was predominant.
HELEN When he was retrograde, I think rather.
PAROLLES 205Why think you so?
HELEN You go so much backward when you fight.
PAROLLES That’s for advantage.
HELEN So is running away, when fear proposes the
 safety. But the composition that your valor and
210 fear makes in you is a virtue of a good wing, and I
 like the wear well.
PAROLLES I am so full of businesses I cannot answer
 thee acutely. I will return perfect courtier, in the
 which my instruction shall serve to naturalize
215 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
220 none, remember thy friends. Get thee a good husband,
 and use him as he uses thee. So, farewell.
Parolles and Page exit.
HELEN 
 Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie
 Which we ascribe to heaven. The fated sky
 Gives us free scope, only doth backward pull
225 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.
230 Impossible be strange attempts to those
 That weigh their pains in sense and do suppose

21
All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 1. SC. 2

 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,
235 But my intents are fixed and will not leave me.
She exits.