All’s Well That Ends Well, by William Shakespeare


Scene I. Florence. The Duke’s palace.

Flourish. Enter the Duke of Florence attended; the two Frenchmen, with a troop of soldiers.

Duke So that from point to point now have you heard
The fundamental reasons of this war,
Whose great decision hath much blood let forth
And more thirsts after.

First Lord Holy seems the quarrel
Upon your grace’s part; black and fearful
On the opposer.

Duke Therefore we marvel much our cousin France
Would in so just a business shut his bosom
Against our borrowing prayers.

Second Lord Good my lord,
The reasons of our state I cannot yield,
But like a common and an outward man,
That the great figure of a council frames
By self-unable motion: therefore dare not
Say what I think of it, since I have found
Myself in my incertain grounds to fail
As often as I guess’d.

Duke Be it his pleasure.

First Lord But I am sure the younger of our nature,
That surfeit on their ease, will day by day
Come here for physic.

Duke Welcome shall they be;
And all the honours that can fly from us
Shall on them settle. You know your places well;
When better fall, for your avails they fell:
To-morrow to the field.

Flourish. Exeunt

Scene II. Rousillon. The Count’s palace.

Enter Countess and Clown

Countess It hath happened all as I would have had it, save that he comes not along with her.

Clown By my troth, I take my young lord to be a very melancholy man.

Countess By what observance, I pray you?

Clown Why, he will look upon his boot and sing; mend the ruff and sing; ask questions and sing; pick his teeth and sing. I know a man that had this trick of melancholy sold a goodly manor for a song.

Countess Let me see what he writes, and when he means to come.

Opening a letter

Clown I have no mind to Isbel since I was at court: our old ling and our Isbels o’ the country are nothing like your old ling and your Isbels o’ the court: the brains of my Cupid’s knocked out, and I begin to love, as an old man loves money, with no stomach.

Countess What have we here?

Clown E’en that you have there.


Countess [Reads] I have sent you a daughter-in-law: she hath recovered the king, and undone me. I have wedded her, not bedded her; and sworn to make the ‘not’ eternal. You shall hear I am run away: know it before the report come. If there be breadth enough in the world, I will hold a long distance. My duty to you. Your unfortunate son, Bertram.

This is not well, rash and unbridled boy.
To fly the favours of so good a king;
To pluck his indignation on thy head
By the misprising of a maid too virtuous
For the contempt of empire.

Re-enter Clown

Clown O madam, yonder is heavy news within between two soldiers and my young lady!

Countess What is the matter?

Clown Nay, there is some comfort in the news, some comfort; your son will not be killed so soon as I thought he would.

Countess Why should he be killed?

Clown So say I, madam, if he run away, as I hear he does: the danger is in standing to’t; that’s the loss of men, though it be the getting of children. Here they come will tell you more: for my part, I only hear your son was run away.


Enter Helena, and two Gentlemen

First Gentleman Save you, good madam.

Helena Madam, my lord is gone, for ever gone.

Second Gentleman Do not say so.

Countess Think upon patience. Pray you, gentlemen,
I have felt so many quirks of joy and grief,
That the first face of neither, on the start,
Can woman me unto’t: where is my son, I pray you?

Second Gentleman Madam, he’s gone to serve the duke of Florence:
We met him thitherward; for thence we came,
And, after some dispatch in hand at court,
Thither we bend again.

Helena Look on his letter, madam; here’s my passport.

[Reads] When thou canst get the ring upon my finger which never shall come off, and show me a child begotten of thy body that I am father to, then call me husband: but in such a ‘then’ I write a ‘never.’

This is a dreadful sentence.

Countess Brought you this letter, gentlemen?

First Gentleman Ay, madam;
And for the contents’ sake are sorry for our pain.

Countess I prithee, lady, have a better cheer;
If thou engrossest all the griefs are thine,
Thou robb’st me of a moiety: he was my son;
But I do wash his name out of my blood,
And thou art all my child. Towards Florence is he?

Second Gentleman Ay, madam.

Countess   And to be a soldier?

Second Gentleman Such is his noble purpose; and believe ’t,
The duke will lay upon him all the honour
That good convenience claims.

Countess Return you thither?

First Gentleman Ay, madam, with the swiftest wing of speed.

Helena [Reads] Till I have no wife I have nothing in France.
’Tis bitter.

Countess   Find you that there?

Helena Ay, madam.

First Gentleman ’Tis but the boldness of his hand, haply, which his heart was not consenting to.

Countess Nothing in France, until he have no wife!
There’s nothing here that is too good for him
But only she; and she deserves a lord
That twenty such rude boys might tend upon
And call her hourly mistress. Who was with him?

First Gentleman A servant only, and a gentleman
Which I have sometime known.

Countess Parolles, was it not?

First Gentleman Ay, my good lady, he.

Countess A very tainted fellow, and full of wickedness.
My son corrupts a well-derived nature
With his inducement.

First Gentleman Indeed, good lady,
The fellow has a deal of that too much,
Which holds him much to have.

Countess You’re welcome, gentlemen.
I will entreat you, when you see my son,
To tell him that his sword can never win
The honour that he loses: more I’ll entreat you
Written to bear along.

Second Gentleman We serve you, madam,
In that and all your worthiest affairs.

Countess Not so, but as we change our courtesies.
Will you draw near!

Exeunt Countess and Gentlemen

Helena ‘Till I have no wife, I have nothing in France.’
Nothing in France, until he has no wife!
Thou shalt have none, Rousillon, none in France;
Then hast thou all again. Poor lord! is’t I
That chase thee from thy country and expose
Those tender limbs of thine to the event
Of the none-sparing war? and is it I
That drive thee from the sportive court, where thou
Wast shot at with fair eyes, to be the mark
Of smoky muskets? O you leaden messengers,
That ride upon the violent speed of fire,
Fly with false aim; move the still-peering air,
That sings with piercing; do not touch my lord.
Whoever shoots at him, I set him there;
Whoever charges on his forward breast,
I am the caitiff that do hold him to’t;
And, though I kill him not, I am the cause
His death was so effected: better ’twere
I met the ravin lion when he roar’d
With sharp constraint of hunger; better ’twere
That all the miseries which nature owes
Were mine at once. No, come thou home, Rousillon,
Whence honour but of danger wins a scar,
As oft it loses all: I will be gone;
My being here it is that holds thee hence:
Shall I stay here to do’t? no, no, although
The air of paradise did fan the house
And angels officed all: I will be gone,
That pitiful rumour may report my flight,
To consolate thine ear. Come, night; end, day!
For with the dark, poor thief, I’ll steal away.


Scene III. Florence. Before the Duke’s palace.

Flourish. Enter the Duke of Florence, Bertram, Parolles, Soldiers, Drum, and Trumpets

Duke The general of our horse thou art; and we,
Great in our hope, lay our best love and credence
Upon thy promising fortune.

Bertram Sir, it is
A charge too heavy for my strength, but yet
We’ll strive to bear it for your worthy sake
To the extreme edge of hazard.

Duke Then go thou forth;
And fortune play upon thy prosperous helm,
As thy auspicious mistress!

Bertram This very day,
Great Mars, I put myself into thy file:
Make me but like my thoughts, and I shall prove
A lover of thy drum, hater of love.


Scene IV. Rousillon. The Count’s palace.

Enter Countess and Steward

Countess Alas! and would you take the letter of her?
Might you not know she would do as she has done,
By sending me a letter? Read it again.

Steward [Reads] I am Saint Jaques’ pilgrim, thither gone:
Ambitious love hath so in me offended,
That barefoot plod I the cold ground upon,
With sainted vow my faults to have amended.
Write, write, that from the bloody course of war
My dearest master, your dear son, may hie:
Bless him at home in peace, whilst I from far
His name with zealous fervor sanctify:
His taken labours bid him me forgive;
I, his despiteful Juno, sent him forth
From courtly friends, with camping foes to live,
Where death and danger dogs the heels of worth:
He is too good and fair for death and me:
Whom I myself embrace, to set him free.

Countess Ah, what sharp stings are in her mildest words!
Rinaldo, you did never lack advice so much,
As letting her pass so: had I spoke with her,
I could have well diverted her intents,
Which thus she hath prevented.

Steward Pardon me, madam:
If I had given you this at over-night,
She might have been o’erta’en; and yet she writes,
Pursuit would be but vain.

Countess What angel shall
Bless this unworthy husband? he cannot thrive,
Unless her prayers, whom heaven delights to hear
And loves to grant, reprieve him from the wrath
Of greatest justice. Write, write, Rinaldo,
To this unworthy husband of his wife;
Let every word weigh heavy of her worth
That he does weigh too light: my greatest grief.
Though little he do feel it, set down sharply.
Dispatch the most convenient messenger:
When haply he shall hear that she is gone,
He will return; and hope I may that she,
Hearing so much, will speed her foot again,
Led hither by pure love: which of them both
Is dearest to me. I have no skill in sense
To make distinction: provide this messenger:
My heart is heavy and mine age is weak;
Grief would have tears, and sorrow bids me speak.


Scene V. Florence. Without the walls. A tucket afar off.

Enter an old Widow of Florence, Diana, Violenta, and Mariana, with other Citizens

Widow Nay, come; for if they do approach the city, we shall lose all the sight.

Diana They say the French count has done most honourable service.

Widow It is reported that he has taken their greatest commander; and that with his own hand he slew the duke’s brother.


We have lost our labour; they are gone a contrary way: hark! you may know by their trumpets.

Mariana Come, let’s return again, and suffice ourselves with the report of it. Well, Diana, take heed of this French earl: the honour of a maid is her name; and no legacy is so rich as honesty.

Widow I have told my neighbour how you have been solicited by a gentleman his companion.

Mariana I know that knave; hang him! one Parolles: a filthy officer he is in those suggestions for the young earl. Beware of them, Diana; their promises, enticements, oaths, tokens, and all these engines of lust, are not the things they go under: many a maid hath been seduced by them; and the misery is, example, that so terrible shows in the wreck of maidenhood, cannot for all that dissuade succession, but that they are limed with the twigs that threaten them. I hope I need not to advise you further; but I hope your own grace will keep you where you are, though there were no further danger known but the modesty which is so lost.

Diana You shall not need to fear me.

Widow I hope so.

Enter Helena, disguised like a Pilgrim

Look, here comes a pilgrim: I know she will lie at my house; thither they send one another: I’ll question her. God save you, pilgrim! whither are you bound?

Helena To Saint Jaques le Grand.
Where do the palmers lodge, I do beseech you?

Widow At the Saint Francis here beside the port.

Helena Is this the way?

Widow Ay, marry, is’t.

A march afar

Hark you! they come this way.
If you will tarry, holy pilgrim,
But till the troops come by,
I will conduct you where you shall be lodged;
The rather, for I think I know your hostess
As ample as myself.

Helena Is it yourself?

Widow If you shall please so, pilgrim.

Helena I thank you, and will stay upon your leisure.

Widow You came, I think, from France?

Helena I did so.

Widow Here you shall see a countryman of yours
That has done worthy service.

Helena His name, I pray you.

Diana The Count Rousillon: know you such a one?

Helena But by the ear, that hears most nobly of him:
His face I know not.

Diana Whatsome’er he is,
He’s bravely taken here. He stole from France,
As ’tis reported, for the king had married him
Against his liking: think you it is so?

Helena Ay, surely, mere the truth: I know his lady.

Diana There is a gentleman that serves the count
Reports but coarsely of her.

Helena What’s his name?

Diana Monsieur Parolles.

Helena   O, I believe with him,
In argument of praise, or to the worth
Of the great count himself, she is too mean
To have her name repeated: all her deserving
Is a reserved honesty, and that
I have not heard examined.

Diana Alas, poor lady!
’Tis a hard bondage to become the wife
Of a detesting lord.

Widow I warrant, good creature, wheresoe’er she is,
Her heart weighs sadly: this young maid might do her
A shrewd turn, if she pleased.

Helena How do you mean?
May be the amorous count solicits her
In the unlawful purpose.

Widow He does indeed;
And brokes with all that can in such a suit
Corrupt the tender honour of a maid:
But she is arm’d for him and keeps her guard
In honestest defence.

Mariana The gods forbid else!

Widow So, now they come:

Drum and Colours

Enter Bertram, Parolles, and the whole army

That is Antonio, the duke’s eldest son;
That, Escalus.

Helena   Which is the Frenchman?

Diana He;
That with the plume: ’tis a most gallant fellow.
I would he loved his wife: if he were honester
He were much goodlier: is’t not a handsome gentleman?

Helena I like him well.

Diana ’Tis pity he is not honest: yond’s that same knave
That leads him to these places: were I his lady,
I would Poison that vile rascal.

Helena Which is he?

Diana That jack-an-apes with scarfs: why is he melancholy?

Helena Perchance he’s hurt i’ the battle.

Parolles Lose our drum! well.

Mariana He’s shrewdly vexed at something: look, he has spied us.

Widow Marry, hang you!

Mariana And your courtesy, for a ring-carrier!

Exeunt Bertram, Parolles, and army

Widow The troop is past. Come, pilgrim, I will bring you
Where you shall host: of enjoin’d penitents
There’s four or five, to great Saint Jaques bound,
Already at my house.

Helena I humbly thank you:
Please it this matron and this gentle maid
To eat with us to-night, the charge and thanking
Shall be for me; and, to requite you further,
I will bestow some precepts of this virgin
Worthy the note.

Both   We’ll take your offer kindly.


Scene VI. Camp before Florence.

Enter Bertram and the two French Lords

Second Lord Nay, good my lord, put him to’t; let him have his way.

First Lord If your lordship find him not a hilding, hold me no more in your respect.

Second Lord On my life, my lord, a bubble.

Bertram Do you think I am so far deceived in him?

Second Lord Believe it, my lord, in mine own direct knowledge, without any malice, but to speak of him as my kinsman, he’s a most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise-breaker, the owner of no one good quality worthy your lordship’s entertainment.

First Lord It were fit you knew him; lest, reposing too far in his virtue, which he hath not, he might at some great and trusty business in a main danger fail you.

Bertram I would I knew in what particular action to try him.

First Lord None better than to let him fetch off his drum, which you hear him so confidently undertake to do.

Second Lord I, with a troop of Florentines, will suddenly surprise him; such I will have, whom I am sure he knows not from the enemy: we will bind and hoodwink him so, that he shall suppose no other but that he is carried into the leaguer of the adversaries, when we bring him to our own tents. Be but your lordship present at his examination: if he do not, for the promise of his life and in the highest compulsion of base fear, offer to betray you and deliver all the intelligence in his power against you, and that with the divine forfeit of his soul upon oath, never trust my judgment in any thing.

First Lord O, for the love of laughter, let him fetch his drum; he says he has a stratagem for’t: when your lordship sees the bottom of his success in’t, and to what metal this counterfeit lump of ore will be melted, if you give him not John Drum’s entertainment, your inclining cannot be removed. Here he comes.

Enter Parolles

Second Lord [Aside to Bertram] O, for the love of laughter, hinder not the honour of his design: let him fetch off his drum in any hand.

Bertram How now, monsieur! this drum sticks sorely in your disposition.

First Lord A pox on’t, let it go; ’tis but a drum.

Parolles ‘But a drum’! is’t ‘but a drum’? A drum so lost! There was excellent command — to charge in with our horse upon our own wings, and to rend our own soldiers!

First Lord That was not to be blamed in the command of the service: it was a disaster of war that Caesar himself could not have prevented, if he had been there to command.

Bertram Well, we cannot greatly condemn our success: some dishonour we had in the loss of that drum; but it is not to be recovered.

Parolles It might have been recovered.

Bertram It might; but it is not now.

Parolles It is to be recovered: but that the merit of service is seldom attributed to the true and exact performer, I would have that drum or another, or ’hic jacet.’

Bertram Why, if you have a stomach, to’t, monsieur: if you think your mystery in stratagem can bring this instrument of honour again into his native quarter, be magnanimous in the enterprise and go on; I will grace the attempt for a worthy exploit: if you speed well in it, the duke shall both speak of it. and extend to you what further becomes his greatness, even to the utmost syllable of your worthiness.

Parolles By the hand of a soldier, I will undertake it.

Bertram But you must not now slumber in it.

Parolles I’ll about it this evening: and I will presently pen down my dilemmas, encourage myself in my certainty, put myself into my mortal preparation; and by midnight look to hear further from me.

Bertram May I be bold to acquaint his grace you are gone about it?

Parolles I know not what the success will be, my lord; but the attempt I vow.

Bertram I know thou’rt valiant; and, to the possibility of thy soldiership, will subscribe for thee. Farewell.

Parolles I love not many words.


Second Lord No more than a fish loves water. Is not this a strange fellow, my lord, that so confidently seems to undertake this business, which he knows is not to be done; damns himself to do and dares better be damned than to do’t?

First Lord You do not know him, my lord, as we do: certain it is that he will steal himself into a man’s favour and for a week escape a great deal of discoveries; but when you find him out, you have him ever after.

Bertram Why, do you think he will make no deed at all of this that so seriously he does address himself unto?

Second Lord None in the world; but return with an invention and clap upon you two or three probable lies: but we have almost embossed him; you shall see his fall to-night; for indeed he is not for your lordship’s respect.

First Lord We’ll make you some sport with the fox ere we case him. He was first smoked by the old lord Lafeu: when his disguise and he is parted, tell me what a sprat you shall find him; which you shall see this very night.

Second Lord I must go look my twigs: he shall be caught.

Bertram Your brother he shall go along with me.

Second Lord As’t please your lordship: I’ll leave you.


Bertram Now will I lead you to the house, and show you
The lass I spoke of.

First Lord But you say she’s honest.

Bertram That’s all the fault: I spoke with her but once
And found her wondrous cold; but I sent to her,
By this same coxcomb that we have i’ the wind,
Tokens and letters which she did re-send;
And this is all I have done. She’s a fair creature:
Will you go see her?

First Lord With all my heart, my lord.


Scene VII. Florence. The Widow’s house.

Enter Helena and Widow

Helena If you misdoubt me that I am not she,
I know not how I shall assure you further,
But I shall lose the grounds I work upon.

Widow Though my estate be fallen, I was well born,
Nothing acquainted with these businesses;
And would not put my reputation now
In any staining act.

Helena Nor would I wish you.
First, give me trust, the count he is my husband,
And what to your sworn counsel I have spoken
Is so from word to word; and then you cannot,
By the good aid that I of you shall borrow,
Err in bestowing it.

Widow I should believe you:
For you have show’d me that which well approves
You’re great in fortune.

Helena Take this purse of gold,
And let me buy your friendly help thus far,
Which I will over-pay and pay again
When I have found it. The count he wooes your daughter,
Lays down his wanton siege before her beauty,
Resolved to carry her: let her in fine consent,
As we’ll direct her how ’tis best to bear it.
Now his important blood will nought deny
That she’ll demand: a ring the county wears,
That downward hath succeeded in his house
From son to son, some four or five descents
Since the first father wore it: this ring he holds
In most rich choice; yet in his idle fire,
To buy his will, it would not seem too dear,
Howe’er repented after.

Widow Now I see
The bottom of your purpose.

Helena You see it lawful, then: it is no more,
But that your daughter, ere she seems as won,
Desires this ring; appoints him an encounter;
In fine, delivers me to fill the time,
Herself most chastely absent: after this,
To marry her, I’ll add three thousand crowns
To what is passed already.

Widow I have yielded:
Instruct my daughter how she shall persever,
That time and place with this deceit so lawful
May prove coherent. Every night he comes
With musics of all sorts and songs composed
To her unworthiness: it nothing steads us
To chide him from our eaves; for he persists
As if his life lay on’t.

Helena Why then to-night
Let us assay our plot; which, if it speed,
Is wicked meaning in a lawful deed
And lawful meaning in a lawful act,
Where both not sin, and yet a sinful fact:
But let’s about it.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59