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ALL 'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
The present text is based upon that of the First Folio, no earlier edition having been found. This lack of an early quarto is the more to be regretted, since the corruptions of the existing text are unusually frequent and hopeless.
There is no certain external evidence of date. In Meres's list there occurs the title Love's Labour's Won, which on the whole fits this play better than it fits any other. The only serious rival is The Taining of the Shrew, in which, though Petruchio wins Katherine as the result of his labors, the labors are hardly to be called love's. On the other hand, Helena's efforts and success stand in sufficiently clear contrast to the ineffectiveness of the King and his lords in Love's Labour 's Lost to give point to the parallelism in title. This identification would place the play before 1598; and there are parts of the play, notably the rimed passages, which suggest Shakespeare's earliest manner in comedy. As against this, there is much which points to a later date. The subtlety of the psychology, especially in the heroine, the frequency of passages of condensed expression, and the general sombreness of tone, all tend to associate the play with the productions of the early years of the seventeenth century. Such resemblances, however, as that between the Countess's advice to Bertram (1. i. 73–79) and Polonius's maxims to Laertes, and that between the devices resorted to by Helena and by Mariana in Measure for Measure, however interesting, are of little force in arguing questions of date. In view of these two sets of considerations, it is plausibly conjectured that Shakespeare may have written an early play with the title or sub-title of Love's Labour's Won, and have re-cast it in his maturity. It is to be observed that this implies a much more thorough re-writing than Love's Labour's Lost, for example, was subjected to; so that, on this hypothesis, the play as we have it belongs rather to the period about 1602 than to the early nineties of the sixteenth century.
The source of the main plot is the ninth Novel of the third Day of Boccaccio's Decameron, a story which was most probably known to Shakespeare in the translation by Painter in his Palace of Pleasure (1566). The chief features of this tale are indicated in the argument prefixed by Painter: "Giletta, a Phisicians doughter of Narbon, healed the Frenche Kyng of a Fistula, for reward wherof she demaunded Beltramo Count of Rossiglione to husband. The Counte beyng maried againste his will, for despite fled to Florence and loved an other. Giletta his wife, by pollicie founde meanes to lye with her husbande, in place of his lover; and was begotten with child of twoo soonnes: whiche knowen to her husbande, he received her againe, and afterwardes she lived in great honor and felicitie.” To the characters involved here Shakespeare added the Countess, Lafeu, the clown, the steward, and Parolles ; but the most essential change made by i him was in the interpretation of the character of the heroine. The Countess and Lafeu, delightful and individual as they are in themselves, are dramatically important mainly for the effect produced on us by their warm appreciation Helena. To render sympathetic a character playing such a rôle as Helena's was exceedingly difficult, and it is achieved by Shakespeare by an insistence on her poverty (Boccaccio makes her rich), her humility, and the pathos of a passion more fatal than wilful. Parolles, besides affording occasion for the low comedy scenes at the French court and in the Florentine camp – all of which are of Shakespeare's invention — helps to define the character of Bertram. The weakness of the hero implied in this undiscriminating association with a worthless braggart, and his boggling and lying in the elaborate dénouement created by Shakespeare in v. ii., result in a degradation of his character which, if meant to throw our sympathy by contrast on Helena, comes perilously near overshooting the mark.
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
[DRAMATIS PERSONÆ KING OF FRANCE.
COUNTESS OF ROUSILLON, mother to Bertram.
HELENA, a gentlewoman protected by the Countess. PABOLLES, a follower of Bertram.
An old Widow of Florence. Two French Lords.
DIANA, daughter to the Widow. Steward,
servants to the Countess of Rou- VIOLENTA LAVACHE, a Clown, } sillon.
MARLANTA, } neighbours and friends to the Widow.
SCENE: Rousillon; Paris; Florence; Marseilles.)
Laf. A fistula, my lord.
Ber. I heard not of it before. SCENE I. (Rousillon. The Count's pałace.) Laf. I would it were not notorious. Was Enter young BERTRAM, Count of Rousillon,
this gentlewoman the daughter of Gerard de
Narbon ? mother (the COUNTESS OF ROUSILLON), HELENA, and LORD LAFEU, all in black.
Count. His sole child, my lord, and be
queathed to my overlooking. I have those Count. In drivering my son from me, I bury hopes of her good that her education pro- ( 45 a second husband.
mises. Her dispositions she inherits, which Ber. And I in going, madam, weep o'er my makes fair gifts fairer; for where an unclean father's tath anew; but I must attend his mind carries
virtuous qualities, there commenMajesty's command, to whom I am now in dations go with pity: they are virtues and ward, evemore in subjection.
traitors too. In her they are the better for (59 Laf. Ku shall find of the King a husband, their simpleness: she derives her honesty and madam ; you, sir, a father. He that so gen- achieves her goodness. erally is it all times good must of necessity Laf. Your commendations, madam, get from hold his irtue to you, whose worthiness would her tears. stir it up where it wanted rather than lack it Count. 'Tis the best brine a maiden can seawhere thee is such abundance.
son her praise in. The remembrance of her Count. What hope is there of his Majesty's father never approaches her heart but the amendment ?
tyranny of her sorrows takes all livelihood from Laf. He hath abandon'd his physicians, her cheek. No more of this, Helena ; go to, no madam, unier whose practices he hath perse- more, lest it be rather thought you affect a sorcuted time with hope, and finds no other advan- row than to have tage in the process but only the losing of hope Hel. I do affect a sorrow indeed, but I have by time.
it too. Count. This young gentlewoman had a Laf. Moderate lamentation is the right of father, -0, that had”! how sad a passage the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the 't is! — whose skill was almost as great as his living. honesty; had it stretch'd so far, would have Count. If the living be enemy to the grief, made nature immortal, and death should have the excess makes it soon mortal." play for lack of work. Would, for the King's Ber. Madam, I desire your holy wishes. sake, he were living! I think it would be the Laf. How understand we that? death of the King's disease.
Count. Be thou blest, Bertram, and succeed Laf. How call'd you the man you speak of, thy father madam ?
In manners, as in shape! Thy blood and virCount. He was famous, sir, in his profession,
tue and it was his great right to be so, -"Gerard de Contend for empire in thee, and thy goodness Narbon.
Share with thy birthright! Love all, trust a Laf. He was excellent indeed, madam. The
few, King very lately spoke of him admiringly and Do wrong to none. Be able for thine enemy mourningly. He was skilful enough to have Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend 15 liv'd still, if knowledge could be set up against Under thy own life's key. Be check'd for mortality.
silence, Ber. What is it, my good lord, the King lan- But never tax'd for speech. What Heaven guishes of ?
That thee may furnish and my prayers pluck
down, Fall on thy head! Farewell! My lord, 'T is an unseason'd courtier; good my lord, 80 Advise him.
Laf. He cannot want the best That shall attend his love. Count. Heaven bless him! Farewell, Bertram,
(Exit.] Ber. (To Helena.] The best wishes that can be forg'd in your thoughts be servants to you ! Be comfortable to my mother, your mistress, and make much of her.
Laf. Farewell, pretty lady. You must hold the credit of your father.
[Exeunt Bertram and Lafeu.] Hel. 0, were that all! I think not on my
father, And these great tears grace his remembrance 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. 'T were 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. 'T was pretty, though a
idolatrous fancy Must sanctify his reliques. Who comes here?
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 fix'd evils sit so fit in him, That they take place, when virtue's steely
bones Looks bleak i' the cold wind. Withal, full oft Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.
Par. Save you, fair queen!
Hel. 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 ?
Par. Keep him out.
Hel. But he assails; and our virginity, though valiant, in the defence yet is weak. Unfold to us some warlike resistance.
Par. There is none. Man, sitting down before you, will undermine you and blow you up.
Hel. Bless our poor virginity from underminers and blowers up! Is there no military policy, how virgins might blow up men?
Par. Virginity being blown down, man will quicklier be blown up. Marry, in blowing him down again, with the breach yourselves 13 made, you lose your city. It is not politie in the commonwealth of nature to preserve Firgir. ity. Loss of virginity is rational increase, and there was never virgin got till virginity was first lost. That you were made of is metal (130 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!
Hel. I will stand for 't a little, though therefore I die a virgin.
Par. There's little can be said in 't; 't is 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. [153 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 1:3 own stomach. 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 tv/o, which is a goodly increase, and the principal itself (160 not much the worse. Away with 't!
Hèl. How might one do, sir, to lose it to her own liking ?
Par. Let me see. Marry, ill, to like him that ne'er it likes. 'Tis a commodity will lose the gloss with lying ; the longer kejt, the less worth. Off with 't while 'tis vendibe; answer the time of request. Virginity, lke an old courtier, wears her cap out of fashon; richly suited, but unsuitable, - just lke the 1:8 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, your old virginity, is like one of our French wither'd pears, it looks ill, it eats drily ; [195 marry, 't is a wither'd pear; it was formerly better; marry, yet 't is a wither'd pear. Will you anything with it?
Hel. Not my virginity yet!
Par. What one, i' faith ?
Hel. That wishing well had not a body in 't, 196 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 Returns as thanks.
Enter Page. Page. Monsieur Parolles, my lord calls for you.
[Exit.) Par. Little Helen, farewell. If I can remember thee, I will think of thee at court.
Hel. Monsieur Parolles, you were born under a charitable star. Par. Under Mars, I. Hel. I especially think, under Mars. Par. Why under Mars?
Hel. The wars hath so kept you under that you must needs be born under Mars. Par. When he was predominant.
Hel. When he was retrograde, I think, rather. Par. Why think you so ?
Hel. You go so much backward when you fight. 'Par. That's for advantage.
Hel. 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.
Par. 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 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 (220 makes thee away. Farewell! When 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.) 230 Hel. Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, Which we ascribe to heaven. The fated sky 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 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 To show her merit, that did miss her love ? The King's disease - my project may deceive But my intents are fix'd and will not leave me.
(Erit. (SCENE II. Paris. The King's palace.] Flourish of cornets. Enter the KING OF FRANCE, with letters (LORDS) and divers attendants. King. The Florentines and Senoys are by
Have fought with equal fortune, and continue A braving war. 1. Lord.
So 't is reported, sir. King. Nay, 't is most credible. We here re
ceive it A certainty, vouch'd from our cousin Austria, s With caution that the Florentine will move us.' For speedy aid ; wherein our dearest friend Prejudicates the business, and would seem To have us make denial. 1. Lord.
His love and wisdom, Approv'd so to your Majesty, may plead For amplest credence. Kiny.
He hath arm'd our answer,
It well may serve
What's he comes here? Enter BERTRAM, LAFEU, and PAROLLES. 1. Lord. It is the Count Rousillon, my good
lord, Young Bertram.
King. Youth, thou bear'st thy father's face. Frank nature, rather curious than in haste, 20 Hath well compos'd thee. Thy father's moral
parts Mayst thou inherit too! Welcome to Paris. Ber. My thanks and duty are your Majesty's.
King. I would I had that corporal soundness As when thy father and myself in friendship 25 First tried our soldiershipi He did look far Into the service of the time, and was Discipled of the bravest. He lasted long; But on us both did haggish age steal on And wore us out of act. It much repairs me 30 To talk of your good father. In his youth He had the wit which I can well observe To-day in our young lords ; but they may jest Till their own scorn return to them unnoted Ere they can hide their levity in honour So like a courtier. Contempt nor bitterness Were in his pride or sharpness; if they were, His equal had awak'd them, and his honour, Clock to itself, knew the true minute when Exception bid him speak, and at this time His tongue obey'd his hand. Who were below
him He us'd as creatures of another place, And bow'd his eminent top to their low ranks, Making them proud of his humility, In their poor praise he humbled. Such a man 45 Might be a copy to these younger times; Which, followed well, would demonstrate them But goers backward. Ber.
His good remembrance, sir, Lies richer in your thoughts than on his tomb. So in approof lives not his epitaph As in your royal speech. King. Would I were with him! He would
always say —
Methinks I hear him now! His plausive words
he, “ After my flame lacks oil, to be the snuff Of younger spirits, whose apprehensive senses All but new things disdain ; whose judgements Mere fathers of their garments; whose con
stancies Expire before their fashions." This he wish'd; I after him do after him wish too, Since I nor wax nor honey can bring home, I quickly were dissolved from my hive, To give some labourers room. 2. Lord.
You 're loved, sir ; They that least lend it you shall lack you
Ber. Some six months since, my lord.
King. If he were living, I would try him yet. Lend me an arm ; the rest have worn me out With several applications. Nature and sickness Debate it at their leisure. Welcome, Count; 75 My son 's no dearer. Ber.
Thank your Majesty.
(Exeunt. "Flourish. [SCENE III. Rousillon. The Count's palace.]
Enter COUNTESS, STEWARD, and Clown.
Count. I will now hear. What say you of this gentlewoman?
Stew. Madam, the care I have had to even your content, I wish might be found in the calendar of my past endeavours; for then we wound our modesty and make foul the clearness of our deservings, when of ourselves we publish them.
Count. What does this knave here? Get you gone, sirrah. The complaints I have heard of you I do not all believe. T is my slowness that I do not, for I know you lack not folly to commit them, and have ability enough to make such knaveries yours.
Clo. 'Tis not unknown to you, madam, I am a poor fellow Count. Well, sir.
Clo. No, madam, 't is not so well that I am poor, though many of the rich are damn'd ; but, if I may have your ladyship's good will to go to the world, Isbel the woman and I will do as we may.
Count. 'Wilt thou needs be a beggar ?
Clo. In Isbel's case and mine own. Service is no heritage ; and I think I shall never have the blessing of God till I have issue o' my body; for they say barnes are blessings.
Count. Tell me thy reason why thou wilt marry.
Clo. My poor body, madam, requires it. I am driven on by the Hesh; and he must needs go that the devil drives.
Count. Is this all your worship's reason ?
Clo. Faith, madam, I have other holy reasons, such as they are.
Count. May the world know them?
Clo. I have been, madam, a wicked creature, as you and all flesh and blood are ; and, indeed, I do marry that I may repent.
Count. Thy marriage, sooner than thy wickedness.
Clo. I am out o friends, madam ; and I hope to have friends for my wife's sake.
Count. Such friends are thine enemies, knave.
Clo. Y' are shallow, madam, in great friends; for the knaves come to do that for me which I am aweary of. He that eats my land spares my team and gives me leave to in the crop. If I be his cuckold, he's my drudge. He that comforts my wife is the cherisher of my flesh and
he that cherishes my flesh and blood [sa loves my flesh and blood; he that loves my flesh and blood is my friend; ergo, he that kisses my wife is my friend. If men could be contented to be what they are, there were no fear in marriage; for young Charbon the s puritan and old Poysam the papist, howsome'er their hearts are sever'd in religion, their heads are both one; they may joyl horns to gether, like any deer i' the herd. He
Count. Wilt thou ever be a foul-mouth'd and calumnious knave ?
Clo. A prophet I, madam ; and I speak the truth the next way : “For I the ballad will repeat,
Which men full true shall find :
Your cuckoo sings by kind.”
Stew. May it please you, madam, that he bid Helen come to you. Of her I am to speak.
Count. Sirrah, tell my gentlewoman I would speak with her; Helen, I mean.
Why the Grecians sacked Troy?
Was this King Priam's joy?
And gave this sentence then ;
There's yet one good in ten." Count. What, one good in ten? You corrupt the song, sirrah.
Clo. One good woman in ten, madam ; which is a purifying of the song. Would God would serve the world so all the year! We'd find