List iconAll’s Well That Ends WellList icon

All’s Well That Ends Well
Act 2, scene 1

Synopsis:

Contents

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

Include links to:

Images
Glosses
Audio
Video
Essays
Quill icon
Scene 1
Flourish cornets. Enter the King, attended, with divers
young Lords, taking leave for the Florentine war;
Bertram Count Rossillion, and Parolles.


KING 
 Farewell, young lords. These warlike principles
 Do not throw from you.—And you, my lords,
 farewell.
 Share the advice betwixt you. If both gain all,
5 The gift doth stretch itself as ’tis received
 And is enough for both.
FIRST LORD  ’Tis our hope, sir,
 After well-entered soldiers, to return
 And find your Grace in health.
KING 
10 No, no, it cannot be. And yet my heart
 Will not confess he owes the malady
 That doth my life besiege. Farewell, young lords.
 Whether I live or die, be you the sons
 Of worthy Frenchmen. Let higher Italy—
15 Those bated that inherit but the fall
 Of the last monarchy—see that you come
 Not to woo honor but to wed it. When
 The bravest questant shrinks, find what you seek,
 That fame may cry you loud. I say farewell.
47

49
All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 2. SC. 1

FIRST LORD 
20 Health at your bidding serve your Majesty!
KING 
 Those girls of Italy, take heed of them.
 They say our French lack language to deny
 If they demand. Beware of being captives
 Before you serve.
LORDS 25 Our hearts receive your warnings.
KING Farewell.—Come hither to me.
The King speaks to Attendants, while Bertram,
Parolles, and other Lords come forward.

FIRST LORD, to Bertram 
 O my sweet lord, that you will stay behind us!
PAROLLES 
 ’Tis not his fault, the spark.
SECOND LORD  O, ’tis brave wars.
PAROLLES 
30 Most admirable. I have seen those wars.
BERTRAM 
 I am commanded here and kept a coil
 With “Too young,” and “The next year,” and “’Tis
 too early.”
PAROLLES 
 An thy mind stand to ’t, boy, steal away bravely.
BERTRAM 
35 I shall stay here the forehorse to a smock,
 Creaking my shoes on the plain masonry
 Till honor be bought up, and no sword worn
 But one to dance with. By heaven, I’ll steal away!
FIRST LORD 
 There’s honor in the theft.
PAROLLES 40 Commit it, count.
SECOND LORD 
 I am your accessory. And so, farewell.
BERTRAM I grow to you, and our parting is a tortured
 body.

51
All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 2. SC. 1

FIRST LORD Farewell, captain.
SECOND LORD 45Sweet Monsieur Parolles.
PAROLLES Noble heroes, my sword and yours are kin.
 Good sparks and lustrous, a word, good metals.
 You shall find in the regiment of the Spinii one
 Captain Spurio with his cicatrice, an emblem of
50 war, here on his sinister cheek. It was this very
 sword entrenched it. Say to him I live, and observe
 his reports for me.
FIRST LORD We shall, noble captain.
PAROLLES Mars dote on you for his novices.
Lords exit.
55 To Bertram. What will you do?
BERTRAM Stay the King.
PAROLLES Use a more spacious ceremony to the noble
 lords. You have restrained yourself within the list
 of too cold an adieu. Be more expressive to them,
60 for they wear themselves in the cap of the time;
 there do muster true gait; eat, speak, and move
 under the influence of the most received star, and,
 though the devil lead the measure, such are to be
 followed. After them, and take a more dilated
65 farewell.
BERTRAM And I will do so.
PAROLLES Worthy fellows, and like to prove most
 sinewy swordmen.Bertram and Parolles exit.

Enter Lafew, to the King.

LAFEW, kneeling 
 Pardon, my lord, for me and for my tidings.
KING 70I’ll fee thee to stand up.
LAFEW, standing 
 Then here’s a man stands that has brought his
 pardon.
 I would you had kneeled, my lord, to ask me mercy,
 And that at my bidding you could so stand up.

53
All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 2. SC. 1

KING 
75 I would I had, so I had broke thy pate
 And asked thee mercy for ’t.
LAFEW  Good faith, across.
 But, my good lord, ’tis thus: will you be cured
 Of your infirmity?
KING 80 No.
LAFEW  O, will you eat
 No grapes, my royal fox? Yes, but you will
 My noble grapes, an if my royal fox
 Could reach them. I have seen a medicine
85 That’s able to breathe life into a stone,
 Quicken a rock, and make you dance canary
 With sprightly fire and motion, whose simple touch
 Is powerful to araise King Pippen, nay,
 To give great Charlemagne a pen in ’s hand
90 And write to her a love line.
KING  What “her” is this?
LAFEW 
 Why, Doctor She. My lord, there’s one arrived,
 If you will see her. Now, by my faith and honor,
 If seriously I may convey my thoughts
95 In this my light deliverance, I have spoke
 With one that in her sex, her years, profession,
 Wisdom, and constancy hath amazed me more
 Than I dare blame my weakness. Will you see her—
 For that is her demand—and know her business?
100 That done, laugh well at me.
KING  Now, good Lafew,
 Bring in the admiration, that we with thee
 May spend our wonder too, or take off thine
 By wond’ring how thou took’st it.
LAFEW 105 Nay, I’ll fit you,
 And not be all day neither.
He goes to bring in Helen.
KING 
 Thus he his special nothing ever prologues.

55
All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 2. SC. 1

Enter Helen.

LAFEW, to Helen Nay, come your ways.
KING This haste hath wings indeed.
LAFEW 110Nay, come your ways.
 This is his Majesty. Say your mind to him.
 A traitor you do look like, but such traitors
 His Majesty seldom fears. I am Cressid’s uncle
 That dare leave two together. Fare you well.
He exits.
KING 
115 Now, fair one, does your business follow us?
HELEN Ay, my good lord,
 Gerard de Narbon was my father,
 In what he did profess well found.
KING  I knew him.
HELEN 
120 The rather will I spare my praises towards him.
 Knowing him is enough. On ’s bed of death
 Many receipts he gave me, chiefly one
 Which, as the dearest issue of his practice,
 And of his old experience th’ only darling,
125 He bade me store up as a triple eye,
 Safer than mine own two, more dear. I have so,
 And hearing your high Majesty is touched
 With that malignant cause wherein the honor
 Of my dear father’s gift stands chief in power,
130 I come to tender it and my appliance
 With all bound humbleness.
KING  We thank you, maiden,
 But may not be so credulous of cure,
 When our most learnèd doctors leave us and
135 The congregated college have concluded
 That laboring art can never ransom nature
 From her inaidible estate. I say we must not
 So stain our judgment or corrupt our hope

57
All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 2. SC. 1

 To prostitute our past-cure malady
140 To empirics, or to dissever so
 Our great self and our credit to esteem
 A senseless help when help past sense we deem.
HELEN 
 My duty, then, shall pay me for my pains.
 I will no more enforce mine office on you,
145 Humbly entreating from your royal thoughts
 A modest one to bear me back again.
KING 
 I cannot give thee less, to be called grateful.
 Thou thought’st to help me, and such thanks I give
 As one near death to those that wish him live.
150 But what at full I know, thou know’st no part,
 I knowing all my peril, thou no art.
HELEN 
 What I can do can do no hurt to try
 Since you set up your rest ’gainst remedy.
 He that of greatest works is finisher
155 Oft does them by the weakest minister.
 So holy writ in babes hath judgment shown
 When judges have been babes. Great floods have flown
 From simple sources, and great seas have dried
 When miracles have by the great’st been denied.
160 Oft expectation fails, and most oft there
 Where most it promises, and oft it hits
 Where hope is coldest and despair most shifts.
KING 
 I must not hear thee. Fare thee well, kind maid.
 Thy pains, not used, must by thyself be paid.
165 Proffers not took reap thanks for their reward.
HELEN 
 Inspirèd merit so by breath is barred.
 It is not so with Him that all things knows
 As ’tis with us that square our guess by shows;
 But most it is presumption in us when

59
All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 2. SC. 1

170 The help of heaven we count the act of men.
 Dear sir, to my endeavors give consent.
 Of heaven, not me, make an experiment.
 I am not an impostor that proclaim
 Myself against the level of mine aim,
175 But know I think and think I know most sure
 My art is not past power nor you past cure.
KING 
 Art thou so confident? Within what space
 Hop’st thou my cure?
HELEN  The greatest grace lending grace,
180 Ere twice the horses of the sun shall bring
 Their fiery torcher his diurnal ring;
 Ere twice in murk and occidental damp
 Moist Hesperus hath quenched her sleepy lamp;
 Or four and twenty times the pilot’s glass
185 Hath told the thievish minutes, how they pass,
 What is infirm from your sound parts shall fly,
 Health shall live free, and sickness freely die.
KING 
 Upon thy certainty and confidence
 What dar’st thou venture?
HELEN 190 Tax of impudence,
 A strumpet’s boldness, a divulgèd shame;
 Traduced by odious ballads, my maiden’s name
 Seared otherwise; nay, worse of worst, extended
 With vilest torture let my life be ended.
KING 
195 Methinks in thee some blessèd spirit doth speak
 His powerful sound within an organ weak,
 And what impossibility would slay
 In common sense, sense saves another way.
 Thy life is dear, for all that life can rate
200 Worth name of life in thee hath estimate:
 Youth, beauty, wisdom, courage, all
 That happiness and prime can happy call.

61
All’s Well That Ends Well
ACT 2. SC. 1

 Thou this to hazard needs must intimate
 Skill infinite or monstrous desperate.
205 Sweet practicer, thy physic I will try,
 That ministers thine own death if I die.
HELEN 
 If I break time or flinch in property
 Of what I spoke, unpitied let me die,
 And well deserved. Not helping, death’s my fee.
210 But if I help, what do you promise me?
KING 
 Make thy demand.
HELEN  But will you make it even?
KING 
 Ay, by my scepter and my hopes of heaven.
HELEN 
 Then shalt thou give me with thy kingly hand
215 What husband in thy power I will command.
 Exempted be from me the arrogance
 To choose from forth the royal blood of France,
 My low and humble name to propagate
 With any branch or image of thy state;
220 But such a one, thy vassal, whom I know
 Is free for me to ask, thee to bestow.
KING 
 Here is my hand. The premises observed,
 Thy will by my performance shall be served.
 So make the choice of thy own time, for I,
225 Thy resolved patient, on thee still rely.
 More should I question thee, and more I must,
 Though more to know could not be more to trust:
 From whence thou cam’st, how tended on; but rest
 Unquestioned welcome and undoubted blessed.—
230 Give me some help here, ho!—If thou proceed
 As high as word, my deed shall match thy deed.
Flourish. They exit, the King assisted.