ACT I SCENE I

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All’s Well That Ends Well

ACT I SCENE I Rousillon. The COUNT’s palace.
[ Enter BERTRAM, the COUNTESS of Rousillon, HELENA, and LAFEU, 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 command, to
whom I am now in ward, evermore in subjection.
LAFEU You shall find of the king a husband, madam; you, 5
sir, a father: he that so generally is at all times
good must of necessity hold his virtue to you; 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? 10
LAFEU He hath abandoned his physicians, madam; under whose
practises 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 15
‘had’! how sad a passage ’tis!–whose skill 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 the
king’s sake, he were living! I think it would be 20
the death of the king’s disease.
LAFEU How 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.
LAFEU He was excellent indeed, madam: the king very 25
lately spoke of him admiringly and mourningly: he
was skilful enough to have lived still, if knowledge
could be set up against mortality.
BERTRAM What is it, my good lord, the king languishes of?
LAFEU A fistula, my lord. 30
BERTRAM I heard not of it before.
LAFEU I would it were not notorious. Was this gentlewoman
the daughter of Gerard de Narbon?
COUNTESS His sole child, my lord, and bequeathed to my
overlooking. I have those hopes of her good that 35
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
traitors too; in her they are the better for their 40
simpleness; she derives her honesty and achieves her goodness.
LAFEU Your commendations, madam, get from her tears.
COUNTESS ‘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 45
livelihood from her cheek. No more of this, Helena;
go to, no more; lest it be rather thought you affect
a sorrow than have it.
HELENA I do affect a sorrow indeed, but I have it too.
LAFEU Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, 50
excessive grief the enemy to the living.
COUNTESS If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess
makes it soon mortal.
BERTRAM Madam, I desire your holy wishes.
LAFEU How understand we that? 55
COUNTESS Be thou blest, Bertram, and succeed thy father
In manners, as in shape! thy blood and virtue
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 60
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life’s key: be cheque’d for silence,
But never tax’d for speech. What heaven more will,
That thee may furnish and my prayers pluck down,
Fall on thy head! Farewell, my lord; 65
‘Tis an unseason’d courtier; good my lord,
Advise him.
LAFEU He cannot want the best
That shall attend his love.
COUNTESS Heaven bless him! Farewell, Bertram. 70
[Exit]
BERTRAM [To HELENA] The best wishes that can be forged in
your thoughts be servants to you! Be comfortable
to my mother, your mistress, and make much of her.
LAFEU Farewell, pretty lady: you must hold the credit of
your father. 75
[Exeunt BERTRAM and LAFEU]
HELENA O, were that all! I think not on my father;
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 favour in’t but Bertram’s. 80
I am undone: there is no living, none,
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:
In his bright radiance and collateral light 85
Must I be comforted, not in his sphere.
The ambition in my love thus plagues itself:
The hind that would be mated by the lion
Must die for love. ‘Twas pretty, though plague,
To see him every hour; to sit and draw 90
His arched brows, his hawking eye, his curls,
In our heart’s table; heart too capable
Of every line and trick of his sweet favour:
But now he’s gone, and my idolatrous fancy
Must sanctify his reliques. Who comes here? 95
[Enter PAROLLES]
[Aside]
One that goes with him: I love him for his sake;
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 100
Look bleak i’ the cold wind: withal, full oft we see
Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.
PAROLLES Save you, fair queen!
HELENA And you, monarch!
PAROLLES No. 105
HELENA And no.
PAROLLES Are you meditating on virginity?
HELENA 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? 110
PAROLLES Keep him out.
HELENA But he assails; and our virginity, though valiant,
in the defence yet is weak: unfold to us some
warlike resistance.
PAROLLES There is none: man, sitting down before you, will 115
undermine you and blow you up.
HELENA Bless our poor virginity from underminers and
blowers up! Is there no military policy, how
virgins might blow up men?
PAROLLES Virginity being blown down, man will quicklier be 120
blown up: marry, in blowing him 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 125
virginity was first lost. That you 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!
HELENA I will stand for ‘t a little, though therefore I die a virgin. 130
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:
virginity murders itself and should be buried in 135
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.
Besides, virginity is peevish, proud, idle, made of 140
self-love, which is the most inhibited sin in the
canon. Keep it not; you cannot choose but loose
by’t: out with ‘t! within ten year it will make
itself ten, which is a goodly increase; and the
principal itself not much the worse: away with ‘t! 145
HELENA 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
lying; the longer kept, the less worth: off with ‘t
while ’tis vendible; answer the time of request. 150
Virginity, like an old courtier, wears her cap out
of fashion: richly suited, but unsuitable: just
like the brooch and the tooth-pick, which wear not
now. Your date is better in your pie and your
porridge than in your cheek; and your virginity, 155
your old virginity, is like one of our French
withered pears, it looks ill, it eats drily; marry,
’tis a withered pear; it was formerly better;
marry, yet ’tis a withered pear: will you anything with it?
HELENA Not my virginity yet 160
There shall your master have a thousand loves,
A mother and a mistress and a friend,
A phoenix, captain and an enemy,
A guide, a goddess, and a sovereign,
A counsellor, a traitress, and a dear; 165
His humble ambition, proud humility,
His jarring concord, and his discord dulcet,
His faith, his sweet disaster; with a world
Of pretty, fond, adoptious christendoms,
That blinking Cupid gossips. Now shall he– 170
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?
HELENA That I wish well. ‘Tis pity–
PAROLLES What’s pity? 175
HELENA 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,
Might with effects of them follow our friends,
And show what we alone must think, which never 180
Return us thanks.
[Enter Page]
Page Monsieur Parolles, my lord calls for you.
[Exit]
PAROLLES Little Helen, farewell; if I can remember thee, I
will think of thee at court.
HELENA Monsieur Parolles, you were born under a charitable star. 185
PAROLLES Under Mars, I.
HELENA I especially think, under Mars.
PAROLLES Why under Mars?
HELENA The wars have so kept you under that you must needs
be born under Mars. 190
PAROLLES When he was predominant.
HELENA When he was retrograde, I think, rather.
PAROLLES Why think you so?
HELENA You go so much backward when you fight.
PAROLLES That’s for advantage. 195
HELENA So is running away, when fear proposes the safety;
but the composition that your valour and 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 200
which, my instruction shall serve to naturalize
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 205
thou hast leisure, say thy prayers; when thou hast
none, remember thy friends; get thee a good husband,
and use him as he uses thee; so, farewell.
[Exit]
HELENA Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven: the fated sky 210
Gives us free scope, only doth backward pull
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 215
To join like likes and kiss like native things.
Impossible be strange attempts to those
That weigh their pains in sense and do suppose
What hath been cannot be: who ever strove
So show her merit, that did miss her love? 220
The king’s disease–my project may deceive me,
But my intents are fix’d and will not leave me.
[Exit]

Next: All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 1, Scene 2