All's Well That Ends Well

by William Shakespeare

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

ACT I - Scene III

Rousillon. The COUNT'S palace


I will now hear; what say you of this gentlewoman?

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.

What does this knave here? Get you gone, sirrah. The
complaints I have heard of you I do not all believe; 'tis 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.

'Tis not unknown to you, madam, I am a poor fellow.

Well, sir.

No, madam, 'tis 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.

Wilt thou needs be a beggar?

I do beg your good will in this case.

In what case?

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 bames are blessings.

Tell me thy reason why thou wilt marry.

My poor body, madam, requires it. I am driven on by the
flesh; and he must needs go that the devil drives.

Is this all your worship's reason?

Faith, madam, I have other holy reasons, such as they are.

May the world know them?

I have been, madam, a wicked creature, as you and all flesh
and blood are; and, indeed, I do marry that I may repent.

Thy marriage, sooner than thy wickedness.

I am out o' friends, madam, and I hope to have friends for
my wife's sake.

Such friends are thine enemies, knave.

Y'are shallow, madam-in great friends; for the knaves come
to do that for me which I am aweary of. He that ears 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 blood; he that cherishes my flesh and
blood 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 puritan and old Poysam the
papist, howsome'er their hearts are sever'd in religion, their
heads are both one; they may jowl horns together like any deer
i' th' herd.

Wilt thou ever be a foul-mouth'd and calumnious knave?

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 marriage comes by destiny,
Your cuckoo sings by kind.

Get you gone, sir; I'll talk with you more anon.

May it please you, madam, that he bid Helen come to you.
Of her I am to speak.

Sirrah, tell my gentlewoman I would speak with her; Helen
I mean.



'Was this fair face the cause' quoth she
'Why the Grecians sacked Troy?
Fond done, done fond,
Was this King Priam's joy?'
With that she sighed as she stood,
With that she sighed as she stood,
And gave this sentence then:
'Among nine bad if one be good,
Among nine bad if one be good,
There's yet one good in ten.'

What, one good in ten? You corrupt the song, sirrah.

One good woman in ten, madam, which is a purifying o' th'
song. Would God would serve the world so all the year! We'd find
no fault with the tithe-woman, if I were the parson. One in ten,
quoth 'a! An we might have a good woman born before every blazing
star, or at an earthquake, 'twould mend the lottery well: a man
may draw his heart out ere 'a pluck one.

You'll be gone, sir knave, and do as I command you.

That man should be at woman's command, and yet no hurt done!
Though honesty be no puritan, yet it will do no hurt; it will
wear the surplice of humility over the black gown of a big heart.
I am going, forsooth. The business is for Helen to come hither.


Well, now.

I know, madam, you love your gentlewoman entirely.
COUNTESS. Faith I do. Her father bequeath'd her to me; and she
herself, without other advantage, may lawfully make title to as
much love as she finds. There is more owing her than is paid; and
more shall be paid her than she'll demand.

Madam, I was very late more near her than I think she
wish'd me. Alone she was, and did communicate to herself her own
words to her own ears; she thought, I dare vow for her, they
touch'd not any stranger sense. Her matter was, she loved your
son. Fortune, she said, was no goddess, that had put such
difference betwixt their two estates; Love no god, that would not
extend his might only where qualities were level; Diana no queen
of virgins, that would suffer her poor knight surpris'd without
rescue in the first assault, or ransom afterward. This she
deliver'd in the most bitter touch of sorrow that e'er I heard
virgin exclaim in; which I held my duty speedily to acquaint you
withal; sithence, in the loss that may happen, it concerns you
something to know it.

You have discharg'd this honestly; keep it to yourself.
Many likelihoods inform'd me of this before, which hung so
tott'ring in the balance that I could neither believe nor
misdoubt. Pray you leave me. Stall this in your bosom; and I
thank you for your honest care. I will speak with you further



Even so it was with me when I was young.
If ever we are nature's, these are ours; this thorn
Doth to our rose of youth rightly belong;
Our blood to us, this to our blood is born.
It is the show and seal of nature's truth,
Where love's strong passion is impress'd in youth.
By our remembrances of days foregone,
Such were our faults, or then we thought them none.
Her eye is sick on't; I observe her now.

What is your pleasure, madam?

You know, Helen,
I am a mother to you.

Mine honourable mistress.

Nay, a mother.
Why not a mother? When I said 'a mother,'
Methought you saw a serpent. What's in 'mother'
That you start at it? I say I am your mother,
And put you in the catalogue of those
That were enwombed mine. 'Tis often seen
Adoption strives with nature, and choice breeds
A native slip to us from foreign seeds.
You ne'er oppress'd me with a mother's groan,
Yet I express to you a mother's care.
God's mercy, maiden! does it curd thy blood
To say I am thy mother? What's the matter,
That this distempered messenger of wet,
The many-colour'd Iris, rounds thine eye?
Why, that you are my daughter?

That I am not.

I say I am your mother.

Pardon, madam.
The Count Rousillon cannot be my brother:
I am from humble, he from honoured name;
No note upon my parents, his all noble.
My master, my dear lord he is; and I
His servant live, and will his vassal die.
He must not be my brother.

Nor I your mother?

You are my mother, madam; would you were-
So that my lord your son were not my brother-
Indeed my mother! Or were you both our mothers,
I care no more for than I do for heaven,
So I were not his sister. Can't no other,
But, I your daughter, he must be my brother?

Yes, Helen, you might be my daughter-in-law.
God shield you mean it not! 'daughter' and 'mother'
So strive upon your pulse. What! pale again?
My fear hath catch'd your fondness. Now I see
The myst'ry of your loneliness, and find
Your salt tears' head. Now to all sense 'tis gross
You love my son; invention is asham'd,
Against the proclamation of thy passion,
To say thou dost not. Therefore tell me true;
But tell me then, 'tis so; for, look, thy cheeks
Confess it, th' one to th' other; and thine eyes
See it so grossly shown in thy behaviours
That in their kind they speak it; only sin
And hellish obstinacy tie thy tongue,
That truth should be suspected. Speak, is't so?
If it be so, you have wound a goodly clew;
If it be not, forswear't; howe'er, I charge thee,
As heaven shall work in me for thine avail,
To tell me truly.

Good madam, pardon me.

Do you love my son?

Your pardon, noble mistress.

Love you my son?

Do not you love him, madam?

Go not about; my love hath in't a bond
Whereof the world takes note. Come, come, disclose
The state of your affection; for your passions
Have to the full appeach'd.

Then I confess,
Here on my knee, before high heaven and you,
That before you, and next unto high heaven,
I love your son.
My friends were poor, but honest; so's my love.
Be not offended, for it hurts not him
That he is lov'd of me; I follow him not
By any token of presumptuous suit,
Nor would I have him till I do deserve him;
Yet never know how that desert should be.
I know I love in vain, strive against hope;
Yet in this captious and intenible sieve
I still pour in the waters of my love,
And lack not to lose still. Thus, Indian-like,
Religious in mine error, I adore
The sun that looks upon his worshipper
But knows of him no more. My dearest madam,
Let not your hate encounter with my love,
For loving where you do; but if yourself,
Whose aged honour cites a virtuous youth,
Did ever in so true a flame of liking
Wish chastely and love dearly that your Dian
Was both herself and Love; O, then, give pity
To her whose state is such that cannot choose
But lend and give where she is sure to lose;
That seeks not to find that her search implies,
But, riddle-like, lives sweetly where she dies!

Had you not lately an intent-speak truly-
To go to Paris?

Madam, I had.

Wherefore? Tell true.

I will tell truth; by grace itself I swear.
You know my father left me some prescriptions
Of rare and prov'd effects, such as his reading
And manifest experience had collected
For general sovereignty; and that he will'd me
In heedfull'st reservation to bestow them,
As notes whose faculties inclusive were
More than they were in note. Amongst the rest
There is a remedy, approv'd, set down,
To cure the desperate languishings whereof
The King is render'd lost.

This was your motive
For Paris, was it? Speak.

My lord your son made me to think of this,
Else Paris, and the medicine, and the King,
Had from the conversation of my thoughts
Haply been absent then.

But think you, Helen,
If you should tender your supposed aid,
He would receive it? He and his physicians
Are of a mind: he, that they cannot help him;
They, that they cannot help. How shall they credit
A poor unlearned virgin, when the schools,
Embowell'd of their doctrine, have let off
The danger to itself?

There's something in't
More than my father's skill, which was the great'st
Of his profession, that his good receipt
Shall for my legacy be sanctified
By th' luckiest stars in heaven; and, would your honour
But give me leave to try success, I'd venture
The well-lost life of mine on his Grace's cure.
By such a day and hour.

Dost thou believe't?

Ay, madam, knowingly.

Why, Helen, thou shalt have my leave and love,
Means and attendants, and my loving greetings
To those of mine in court. I'll stay at home,
And pray God's blessing into thy attempt.
Be gone to-morrow; and be sure of this,
What I can help thee to thou shalt not miss.


Return to the All's Well That Ends Well Summary Return to the William Shakespeare Library

Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson