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All's Well That Ends Well

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Act I, Scene 3

Rousillon. The COUNT’s 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 325
    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: 330
    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. 335
  • 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. 340
  • Clown. I do beg your good will in this case.
  • Clown. In Isbel's case and mine own. Service is no
    heritage: and I think I shall never have the 345
    blessing of God till I have issue o' my body; for
    they say barnes 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. 350
  • Countess. Is this all your worship's reason?
  • Clown. Faith, madam, I have other holy reasons such as they
  • Clown. I have been, madam, a wicked creature, as you and 355
    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 o' friends, madam; and I hope to have
    friends for my wife's sake. 360
  • Countess. Such friends are thine enemies, knave.
  • Clown. You're 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 365
    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 370
    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 jowl
    horns together, like any deer i' the herd. 375
  • Countess. Wilt thou ever be a foul-mouthed and calumnious knave?
  • Clown. A prophet I, madam; and I speak the truth the next
    For I the ballad will repeat,
    Which men full true shall find; 380
    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. 385
  • Countess. Sirrah, tell my gentlewoman I would speak with her;
    Helen, I mean.
  • Clown. Was this fair face the cause, quoth she,
    Why the Grecians sacked Troy?
    Fond done, done fond, 390
    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, 395
    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 400
    the year! we'ld 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 but one every blazing
    star, or at an earthquake, 'twould mend the lottery
    well: a man may draw his heart out, ere a' pluck 405
  • 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 410
    humility over the black gown of a big heart. I am
    going, forsooth: the business is for Helen to come hither.


  • Steward. I know, madam, you love your gentlewoman entirely. 415
  • 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. 420
  • 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: 425
    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; Dian no queen of virgins, that
    would suffer her poor knight surprised, without 430
    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 435
    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, 440
    leave me: stall this in your bosom; and I thank you
    for your honest care: I will speak with you further anon.
    [Exit Steward]
    [Enter HELENA]
    Even so it was with me when I was young: 445
    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: 450
    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.
  • Helena. What is your pleasure, madam?
  • Countess. You know, Helen, 455
    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,' 460
    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: 465
    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, 470
    The many-colour'd Iris, rounds thine eye?
    Why? that you are my daughter?
  • Helena. Pardon, madam; 475
    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: 480
    He must not be my brother.
  • 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, 485
    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 490
    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 ashamed, 495
    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 behaviors 500
    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, 505
    As heaven shall work in me for thine avail,
    Tell me truly.
  • Helena. Good madam, pardon me!
  • Helena. Your pardon, noble mistress! 510
  • 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 515
    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. 520
    My friends were poor, but honest; so's my love:
    Be not offended; for it hurts not him
    That he is loved of me: I follow him not
    By any token of presumptuous suit;
    Nor would I have him till I do deserve him; 525
    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, 530
    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, 535
    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 540
    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? 545
  • Helena. I will tell truth; by grace itself I swear.
    You know my father left me some prescriptions
    Of rare and proved effects, such as his reading 550
    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, 555
    There is a remedy, approved, set down,
    To cure the desperate languishings whereof
    The king is render'd lost.
  • Countess. This was your motive
    For Paris, was it? speak. 560
  • 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, 565
    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, 570
    Embowell'd of their doctrine, have left 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 575
    Shall for my legacy be sanctified
    By the luckiest stars in heaven: and, would your honour
    But give me leave to try success, I'ld venture
    The well-lost life of mine on his grace's cure
    By such a day and hour. 580
  • 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 585
    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.