All’s Well that Ends Well

Abridged All’s Well that Ends Well/#1/Background/Act 1, Scene 1.1

We learn that the Count of Rossillion has just died,
Rossillion being a region in the south of France. We also learn that Gerard de
Narbon, the late count’s attending physician, had died about six months ago.  The late Count of Rossillion left a
relatively young heir, a son named Bertram.
Lafew, a French lord and a confidant of the late count’s and of France’s
king, provides comfort to the Countess, the count’s widow, and to Bertram,
telling them “You shall find of the king a husband, madam; you, sir, a
father.”  Referring to the king, Lafew
says “He hath abandoned his physicians, madam.”
Gerard de Narbon had a daughter named Helen, and she too is relatively
young.  And she has a serious crush on
the young count.  Speaking of Helen, the
Countess tells Lafew “This young gentlewoman had a father whose skill was
almost as great as his honesty.  He was
famous sir: Gerard de Narbon.”  Supporting
the Countess, Lafew says “He was excellent indeed, madam.  The king very lately spoke of him admiringly,
and mourningly.”  Bertram asks Lafew
“What is it the king languishes of?”
Lafew answers “A fistula, my lord.”
Lafew asks about Helen. The Countess says “she was his sole child, my
lord, and bequeathed to my overlooking.”
She then adds “her dispositions she inherits, which makes fair gifts
fairer.  In her, her virtues are better
for their simpleness.  From them, she
derives her honesty and achieves her goodness.” Lafew responds “Your
commendations, madam, get from her tears.
Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, excessive grief the enemy
to the living.”  Helen’s tears come not
only from the thought of the death of her father.

Abridged All’s Well that Ends Well/#2/Infatuation/Act 1, Scene 1.2

Bertram lets us know that “I must attend his Majesty’s
command, to whom I am now under his guardianship until I reach legal age.”  He asks the Countess, “Madam, I desire your
holy wishes.”  She says “Succeed thy father
in manners as in shape.  Love all, trust
a few, do wrong to none. Keep thy friend under thy own life’s key.  Be checked for silence, but never reprimanded
for speech.”  The Countess then says
“Farewell, Bertram.”  She exits.  Helen enters.
Bertram and Lafew exit, Lafew saying to Helen “Farewell, pretty
lady.  You must hold the credit of your
father.”  Helen is in love.  Helen says “I think not on my father.  What was he like?  I have forgot him.  My imagination carriers no favor in ‘t but
Bertram’s.  I am undone.  There is no living, none, if Bertram be
away.  ‘Twere as if I should love a
bright particular star and think to wed it, he is so above me. The ambition in
my love thus plagues itself.  But now
he’s gone, and my idolatrous fancy must sanctify his relics.  Who comes here?”

Abridged All’s Well that Ends Well/#3/Humor/Act 1, Scene 1.3

Parolles, a friend of Bertram’s, enters, but Helen
continues with her monologue, saying “I love him for his sake, and yet I know
him a notorious liar, think him a great way fool, solely a coward.”  Parolles asks her “Are you meditating on
virginity?”  She responds “Man is enemy
to virginity.  How may we fortify
ourselves with barricades against him?
Our virginity, though valiant in the defense, is weak.  Unfold to us some warlike resistance.”  Parolles answers quickly “There is none.  Virginity by being once lost may be ten times
found; by being ever kept, it is ever lost.
‘Tis too cold a companion.
There’s little can be said for it.
To speak on the part of virginity is to accuse your mothers, which is
most infallible disobedience.  Keep it
not; you cannot choose but lose by ‘t.”
Helen asks “How might one lose it to her own liking?”  Parolles says “Let me see.  ‘Tis a commodity will lose the gloss
remaining unused; the longer kept, the less worth.  Will you anything with it?”  She says “Not my virginity.  Your master shall have a thousand loves, a
mother, a mistress, a friend, a captain, a guide, a sovereign, a
counselor.  The court’s a learning place.
He is one I wish well.  ‘Tis pity —-.”  Parolles interrupts, saying “What’s
pity?”   She responds “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 outwardly show what we alone must think,
which never returns our thanks.”
Parolles says “Get thee a good husband, and use him as he uses thee. So,
farewell.”  He exits.  She says “Our remedies oft in ourselves do
lie which we ascribe to heaven.  The
king’s disease!  My project may deceive
me, but my intents are fixed and will not leave me.”

Abridged All’s Well that Ends Well/#4/Honor/Act 1, Scene 2

Meanwhile, in Paris, the king says “The Florentines and
Senoys continue a braving war.  Our
cousin Austria will move us for speedy aid for the Florentines, but Florence is
denied before he comes.  Our gentlemen
that mean to see the Tuscan service freely have leave to stand on either
part.  Who comes here?”  The First Lord says “It is the Count
Rossillion, young Bertram.”  The king
addresses Bertram, saying “Youth, thou bear’st thy father’s face.  Thy father’s moral parts mayst thou inherit
too.”  Bertram responds “My thanks and
duty are your Majesty’s.”  The king
wistfully reflects on Bertram’s father, saying “I wish I had that corporal
soundness now as when thy father and myself in friendship first tried our
soldiership.  He lasted long, but on us
both did haggish age steal on and wore us into inactivity.  It much repairs me to talk of your good
father.  In his youth he had the wit
which I can well observe today in our young lads.  There was no contempt in his pride, and if
there were, honor knew the minute when exception bid him speak, and his tongue
obeyed his hand.  He bowed to those below
him and their low ranks, making them proud of his humility.”  Bertram responds “His good remembrance, sir,
lies richer in your thoughts than on his tomb.”
The king continues, saying “Would I were with him!  He would say “Let me not live after my flame
lacks oil.  This he wished.  Since I neither wax nor honey can bring home,
I wish I quickly were set free from my hive to give some laborers room.”  The Second Lord says “You’re loved,
sir.”  The king replies “I fill a place,
I know ‘t.  How long is ‘t, count, since
the physician at your father’s side died?”
Bertram replies “Some six months since, my lord.”  The king says “If he were living, I would try
him yet.  The rest have worn me out with
several applications.  Welcome,
count.  My son’s no dearer.”  Bertram says “Thank your Majesty.”

Abridged All’s Well that Ends Well/#5/Love/Act 1, Scene 3.1

Meanwhile, back in Rossillion, the Steward says to the
Countess “I know, madam, you love your gentlewoman entirely.”  The Countess replies “Faith, I do.  Her father bequeathed her to me.  There is more owing her than is paid, and
more shall be paid her than she’ll demand.”
The Steward apologetically says to her “Madam, I was recently more near
her than I think she wished me.  Her
matter was she loved your son.  Fortune,
she said, was no goddess, that had put such difference betwixt their two
ranks.  I held my duty speedily to
acquaint you withal.”  The Countess
responds “You have discharged this honestly.
Keep it to yourself.”  The Steward
exits.  Helen enters, saying to herself
“This thorn doth to our rose of youth rightly belong.  It is the show and seal of nature’s truth,
where love’s strong passion is impressed in youth.”  Helen says to the Countess “What is your
pleasure, madam?”  She says “You know,
Helen, I am a mother to you.”  Helen
counters “Mine honorable mistress.”  The
Countess comes back “Nay, a mother.  Why
not a mother?  When I said ‘a mother’
methought you saw a serpent.  What’s the
matter that this wet messenger rounds thine eye?  Why?
That you are my daughter?”  Helen
firmly responds “That I am not.”  The
Countess as firmly says “I say I am your mother.”  Helen calmly says “Pardon, madam.  The Count Rossillion cannot be my
brother.  He must not be my

Abridged All’s Well that Ends Well/#6/Love/Act 1, Scene 3.2

Having learned that Helen doesn’t want to acknowledge her
as her ‘mother’; Helen fearing that Bertram would then be considered her brother,
the Countess plans to force Helen to be more candid with her.  Helen says “You are my mother, madam.  Would you were.  But if I your daughter, he must be my
brother?”  The Countess asks “Do you love
my son?”  Helen comes back “Do not you
love him, madam?”  The Countess responds
“My love hath in ‘t a bond whereof the world takes note.  Come, come, disclose the state of your
affection.”  A kneeling Helen says simply
“I love your son.  Be not offended, for
it hurts not him that he is loved by me.
I know I love in vain.  My dearest
madam, let not your hate encounter with my love for loving where you do.”  A calm Countess asks “Had you not lately an
intent — speak truly — to go to Paris?”
Helen responds “Madam, I had.”
The Countess comes back “Wherefore?”
Helen stands, saying “You know my father left me some prescriptions of
rare and proved effects.  Amongst them is
a remedy, approved, to cure the desperate languishings whereof the king is
rendered lost.”  The Countess cries “This
was your motive for Paris, was it?”
Helen comes back with “My lord your son made me to think of this.”  The Countess says “How shall his physicians
credit a poor unlearned young woman?”
Helen begs “There’s something in ’t more than my father’s skill.  Give me leave to try success.”  The Countess says “Why, Helen, thou shalt
have my leave and love. I’ll stay at home and pray God’s blessing into thy

Abridged All’s Well that Ends Well/#7/Plead/Act 2, Scene 1.1

Meanwhile, in Paris, the king says to his young soldiers
“Farewell, young lords, be you the sons of worthy Frenchmen.  See that you come not to woo honor but to wed
it.  Those girls of Italy, take heed of
them.”  He’s speaking of the Tuscan
war.  Bertram says to Parolles “I am
commanded to remain here.  By heaven,
I’ll steal away!  The First Lord says
“There’s honor in the theft.”  The Second
Lord says “I am your accessory.”  The
lords exit.  Parolles asks Bertram “What
will you do?”  Bertram says “I will wait
upon the king.”  They exit.  Lafew enters and says to the king “My good
lord, will you be cured of your infirmity?”
The king responds bruskly “No.”
Lafew responds “I have seen a medicine that’s able to breathe life into
a stone and make you dance with sprightly fire and motion, and is powerful
enough to give great Charlemagne a pen in ‘s hand and write to her a love
line.”  The king says “What ‘her’ is
this?”  Lafew says “Why, Doctor She.  My lord, there’s one arrived if you will see
her.”  The king says “Now, good Lafew,
bring in the admiration.”  Lafew exits
and returns with Helen.  He then
exits.  The king says “Now, fair one,
does your business aim at me?”  Helen
says “Ay, my good lord, Gerard de Narbon was my father.”  The king says “I knew him.”  She says “On ‘s bed of death many remedies he
gave me, chiefly one which, as the dearest issue of his practice, he bade me
store up safer than mine own two eyes.  I
come to tender it and my service with all dutiful humbleness.”  The king diplomatically says “We thank you,
maiden, but our most learned doctors leave us, and the college of physicians
have concluded that laboring art can never ransom nature from her inaidible

Abridged All’s Well that Ends Well/#8/Perseverance/Act 2, Scene 1.2

Her proposal having been turned down, Helen says to the
king “My duty, then, shall pay me for my pains.
I humbly entreat your royal thoughts to carry back with me.”  The king says “I cannot give thee less.  Thou thought’st to help me, and thanks I give
as one near death to those that wish him live.”
Not to be denied, Helen says “What I can do can do no hurt to try since
you bet all ‘gainst remedy.  He that of
greatest works is finisher oft does them by the weakest minister.”  The king responds “I must not hear thee.  Fare thee well, kind maid.”  A determined Helen comes back saying “Dear
sir, to my endeavors give consent.  I am
not an impostor that proclaim myself against the level of mine aim, but know I
think and think I know most sure my art is not past power nor you past
cure.”  The king exclaims “Art thou so
confident?  Upon thy certainty and
confidence what dar’st thou venture?
Methinks in thee some blessed spirit doth speak His powerful sound
within an organ weak.  Sweet
practitioner, thy physic I will try, that ministers thine own death if I
die.”  Helen responds “Not helping,
death’s my fee. But if I help, what do you promise me?”  The king says “Make thy demand.”  Helen says “Then shalt thou give me with thy
kingly hand what husband in thy power I will command.”  The king says “Here is my hand.  The matters here are observed; thy will by my
performance shall be served.  If thou
proceed as high as thy promise, my deed shall match thy deed.”

Abridged All’s Well that Ends Well/#9/Reward/Act 2, Scene 3.1

Back in Rossillion, the Countess calls forward her Fool, saying
“Come on, sir.  I shall now put you to
the height of your breeding.”  The Fool
replies “I will show myself highly fed and lowly taught.”  The Countess gives him a paper, saying “Give
Helen this, and urge her to an immediate answer back.  Commend me to my kinsmen and my son.  This is not much.”  The Fool asks “Not much commendation to
them?”  Weary of the word-play, the
Countess says “Not much employment for you.”
The Fool quickly responds “Most fruitfully.  I am there before my legs.”  They exit.
Meanwhile, in Paris, Helen has cured the king.  Lafew says “They say miracles are past.”  The king, Helen and others enter.  The king says “Go, call before me all the
lords in court.”  To Helen he says “Sit,
my preserver, by thy patient’s side, and receive the confirmation of my
promised gift.”  Several court lords
enter.  The king says “Fair maid, send
forth thine eye.  Thy frank election make.  Thou hast power to choose, and they none to
forsake.”  Helen says “Gentlemen, heaven
hath through me restored the king to health.”
The men say “We understand it and thank heaven for you.”  Helen says “I am a simple maid, and therein
wealthiest that I protest I simply am a maid —–.”  The king interrupts her saying “Make choice
and see.  Who shuns thy love shuns all
his love in me.”  To Bertram, Helen says
“This is the man.”  The king says “Well
then, young Bertram, take her.  She’s thy
wife.”  Bertram exclaims “My wife, my
liege?  I hope to know why I should marry
her.”  The king says “Thou know’st she
has raised me from my sickly bed.”
Bertram responds “But follows it, my lord, to bring me down must answer
for your raising?  I know her well.  A poor physician’s daughter my wife?”

Abridged All’s Well that Ends Well/#10/Counsel/Act 2, Scene 3.2

Having heard Bertram rhetorically ask “A poor physician’s
daughter my wife?” the king offers the young Bertram wise counsel, saying “If
she be all that is virtuous, save what thou dislik’st — ‘A poor physician’s
daughter’ — thou dislik’st of virtue because of the name.  From lowest place whence virtuous things
proceed, the place is dignified by th’ doer’s deeds. Where great title of honor
swell us, and virtue none, it is an inflated honor.  Good alone is good, without a name; the
quality by what it is should be known, not by the title.  She is young, wise and fair, and these breed
honor.  Honors thrive rather from our
acts we them derive rather than foregoers.
If thou canst like this creature as a young woman, I can create the
rest.  Virtue and she are her own dower;
honor and wealth from me.”  Bertram snaps
back “I cannot love her, nor will strive to do ‘t.”  The king speaks, becoming more angry with
each comment.  “Thou wrong’st thyself if
thou shouldst strive to choose.  My
honor’s at stake, which to defeat I must produce my power.  Here, take her hand, proud, scornful
boy.  Check thy contempt; obey our will,
or I will throw thee from my care forever.
I will unbound both my revenge and hate upon thee in the name of justice
without all terms of pity.  Speak.  Thine answer.”  Meekly, Bertram says “Pardon, my gracious
lord, for I submit my fancy to your eyes.”
The king says “Take her by the hand, and tell her she is thine.”  Bertram replies “I take her hand.”  The king ends the session with “Good fortune
and the favor of the king smile upon this contract, whose ceremony shall be
performed tonight.”  They exit.  Lafew and Parolles stay behind.