William Shakespeare's "All's Well that Ends Well" in the complete original text.
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All's Well that Ends Well

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Act I. Scene I.

Act I. Scene I.—Rousillon. A Room in the
COUNTESS'S Palace.

Enter BERTRAM, the COUNTESS of
ROUSILLON, HELENA, and LAFEU, all
in black.

Count. In delivering my son from me, I bury
a second husband.
Ber. 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.
Laf. 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.
Count. What hope is there of his majesty's
amendment?
Laf. He hath abandoned his physicians,
madam; under whose practices he hath per-
secuted time with hope, and finds no other
advantage in the process but only the losing of
hope by time.
Count. This young gentlewoman had a fa-
ther,—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 na-
ture 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.
Laf. How called you the man you speak of,
madam?
Count. He was famous, sir, in his profession,
and it was his great right to be so: Gerard de
Narbon.
Laf. 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.
Ber. What is it, my good lord, the king
languishes of?
Laf. A fistula, my lord.
Ber. I heard not of it before.
Laf. I would it were not notorious. Was
this gentlewoman the daughter of Gerard de
Narbon?
Count. His sole child, my lord; and be-
queathed 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 min-d carries vir-
tuous qualities, there commendations go with
pity; they are virtues and traitors too: in her
they are the better for their simplesness; she de-
rives her honesty and achieves her goodness.
Laf. Your commendations, madam, get from
her tears.
Count. 'Tis the best brine a maiden can sea-
son 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.
Hel. I do affect a sorrow indeed, but I have
it too.
Laf. Moderate lamentation is the right of
the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the living.
Hel. If the living be enemy to the grief, the
excess makes it soon mortal.
Ber. Madam, I desire your holy wishes.
Laf. How understand we that?
Count. 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 check'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.
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 forged in your thought 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. 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. It 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. 'Twas pretty, though a 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:
But now he's gone, and my idolatrous fancy
Must sanctify his reliques. Who comes here?
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
Look bleak in the cold wind: withal, full oft we
see
Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.

Enter PAROLLES.
Par. Save you, fair queen!
Hel. And you, monarch!
Par. No.
Hel. And no.
Par. Are you meditating on virginity?
Hel. Ay. You have some stain of soldier in
you; let me ask you a question. Man is enemy
to virginity; how may we barricade 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 war-like resistance.
Par. There is none: man, sitting down before
you, will undermine you and blow you up.
Hel. Bless our poor virginity from under-
miners 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 made,
you lose your city. It is not politic in the com-
monwealth of nature to preserve virginity. Loss
of virginity is rational increase, and there was
never virgin got till virginity was first lost.
That you were made of is metal 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 there-
fore I die a virgin.
Par. There's little can be said in 't; 'tis
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 murders itself, and
should be buried in highways, out of all sancti-
fied limit, as a desperate offendress against na-
ture. Virginity breeds mites, much like a cheese,
consumes itself to the very paring, and so dies
with feeding his 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 the year it will make itself two, which is
a goodly increase, and, the principal itself not
much the worse. Away with't!
Hel. 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 that will lose
the gloss with lying; the longer kept, the less
worth: off with't, while 'tis vendible; answer the
time of request. Virginity, like an old courtier,
wears her cap out of fashion; richly suited, but un-
suitable: just like the brooch and the toothpick,
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 withered pears; it looks ill, it eats
drily; marry, 'tis a withered pear; it was for-
merly better; marry, yet 'tis a withered pear.
Will you anything with it?
Hel. Not my virginity yet.
There shall your master have a thousand loves,
A mother, and a mistress, and a friend,
A phoenix, captain, and an enemy,
A guide, a goddess, and a sovereign,
A counsellor, a traitress, and a dear;
His humble ambition, proud humility,
His jarring concord, and his discord dulcet,
His faith, his sweet disaster; with a world
Of pretty, fond, adoptions Christendoms,
That blinking Cupid gossips. Now shall he—
I know not what he shall. God send him well!
The court's a learning-place, and he is one—
Par. What one, i' faith?
Hel. That I wish well. 'Tis pity-
Par. What's pity?
Hel. 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 with effects of them follow our friends,
And show what we alone must think, which
never
Returns us thanks.

Enter a Page.
Page. Monsieur Parolles, my lord calls for
you. [Exit.
Par. Little Helen, farewell: if I can remem-
ber thee, I will think of thee at court.
Hel. Monsieur Parches, you were born under
a charitable star.
Par. Under Mars, I.
Hel. I especially think, under Mars.
Par. Why under Mars?
Hel. The wars have 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 cour-
tier; 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 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.
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 me,
But my intents are fix'd and will not leave me.
[Exit.
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