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ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

by William Shakespeare

SCENE 3. Rousillon. A Room in the Palace.

[Enter COUNTESS, STEWARD, and CLOWN.]

COUNTESS.
I will now hear: what say you of this gentlewoman?

STEWARD.
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.

COUNTESS.
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.

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

COUNTESS.
Well, sir.

CLOWN.
No, madam, 'tis not so well that I am poor, though many of
the rich are damned: 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.

COUNTESS.
Wilt thou needs be a beggar?

CLOWN.
I do beg your good will in this case.

COUNTESS.
In what case?

CLOWN.
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 of
my body; for they say bairns are blessings.

COUNTESS.
Tell me thy reason why thou wilt marry.

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

COUNTESS.
Is this all your worship's reason?

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

COUNTESS.
May the world know them?

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

COUNTESS.
Thy marriage, sooner than thy wickedness.

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

COUNTESS.
Such friends are thine enemies, knave.

CLOWN.
Y'are shallow, madam, in great friends: for the knaves come
to do that for me which I am a-weary 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 severed in religion, their
heads are both one; they may joll horns together like any deer
i' the herd.

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

CLOWN.
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.

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

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

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

CLOWN.
[Sings.]
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.

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

CLOWN.
One good woman in ten, madam, which is a purifying o' the
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 he pluck one.

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

CLOWN.
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.

[Exit.]

COUNTESS.
Well, now.

STEWARD.
I know, madam, you love your gentlewoman entirely.

COUNTESS.
Faith I do: her father bequeathed 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.

STEWARD.
Madam, I was very late more near her than I think she wished me:
alone she was, and did communicate to herself her own words to
her own ears; she thought, I dare vow for her, they touched 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 surprise, without rescue in the
first assault, or ransom afterward. This she delivered 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.

COUNTESS.
You have discharged this honestly; keep it to yourself; many
likelihoods informed me of this before, which hung so
tottering 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
anon.

[Exit STEWARD.]

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.

[Enter HELENA.]

Her eye is sick on't;--I observe her now.

HELENA.
What is your pleasure, madam?

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

HELENA.
Mine honourable mistress.

COUNTESS.
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 distemper'd messenger of wet,
The many-colour'd iris, rounds thine eye?
Why,--that you are my daughter?

HELENA.
That I am not.

COUNTESS.
I say, I am your mother.

HELENA.
Pardon, madam;
The Count Rousillon cannot be my brother:
I am from humble, he from honour'd 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.

COUNTESS.
Nor I your mother?

HELENA.
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?

COUNTESS.
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 mystery 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, one to the 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 clue;
If it be not, forswear't: howe'er, I charge thee,
As heaven shall work in me for thine avail,
To tell me truly.

HELENA.
Good madam, pardon me!

COUNTESS.
Do you love my son?

HELENA.
Your pardon, noble mistress!

COUNTESS.
Love you my son?

HELENA.
Do not you love him, madam?

COUNTESS.
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.

HELENA.
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!

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

HELENA.
Madam, I had.

COUNTESS.
Wherefore? tell true.

HELENA.
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 heedfullest 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.

COUNTESS.
This was your motive
For Paris, was it? speak.

HELENA.
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.

COUNTESS.
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?

HELENA.
There's something in't
More than my father's skill, which was the greatest
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.

COUNTESS.
Dost thou believe't?

HELENA.
Ay, madam, knowingly.

COUNTESS.
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.

[Exeunt.]

 


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