All's Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare

All's Well That Ends Well

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subjects: Plays: Classic & Pre-20th Century

Description

Helena, a ward of the Countess of Rousillion, falls in love with the Countess’s son, Bertram. Daughter of a famous doctor, and a skilled physician in her own right, Helena cures the King of France—who feared he was dying—and he grants her Bertram’s hand as a reward. Bertram, however, offended by the inequality of the marriage, sets off for war, swearing he will not live with his wife until she can present him with a son, and with his own ring—two tasks which he believes impossible. However with the aid of a bed trick, Helena fulfils his tasks, Bertram realises the error of his ways, and they are reconciled.


96 pages, with a reading time of ~3.0 hours (24,234 words), and first published in 1605. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Excerpt

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, 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?

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 ‘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 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 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.

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 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 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 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, 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?

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 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; ‘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.

[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.

[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. 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 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 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…