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All's Well That Ends Well

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Act II, Scene 1

Paris. The KING’s palace.


[Flourish of cornets. Enter the KING, attended] [p]with divers young Lords taking leave for the [p]Florentine war; BERTRAM, and PAROLLES]

  • King of France. Farewell, young lords; these warlike principles
    Do not throw from you: and you, my lords, farewell:
    Share the advice betwixt you; if both gain, all 595
    The gift doth stretch itself as 'tis received,
    And is enough for both.
  • First Lord. 'Tis our hope, sir,
    After well enter'd soldiers, to return
    And find your grace in health. 600
  • King of France. No, no, it cannot be; and yet my heart
    Will not confess he owes the malady
    That doth my life besiege. Farewell, young lords;
    Whether I live or die, be you the sons
    Of worthy Frenchmen: let higher Italy,— 605
    Those bated that inherit but the fall
    Of the last monarchy,—see that you come
    Not to woo honour, but to wed it; when
    The bravest questant shrinks, find what you seek,
    That fame may cry you loud: I say, farewell. 610
  • Second Lord. Health, at your bidding, serve your majesty!
  • King of France. Those girls of Italy, take heed of them:
    They say, our French lack language to deny,
    If they demand: beware of being captives,
    Before you serve. 615
  • Both. Our hearts receive your warnings.

[Exit, attended]

  • First Lord. O, my sweet lord, that you will stay behind us!
  • Parolles. 'Tis not his fault, the spark. 620
  • Parolles. Most admirable: I have seen those wars.
  • Bertram. I am commanded here, and kept a coil with
    'Too young' and 'the next year' and 'tis too early.'
  • Parolles. An thy mind stand to't, boy, steal away bravely. 625
  • Bertram. I shall stay here the forehorse to a smock,
    Creaking my shoes on the plain masonry,
    Till honour be bought up and no sword worn
    But one to dance with! By heaven, I'll steal away.
  • Bertram. I grow to you, and our parting is a tortured body.
  • Parolles. Noble heroes, my sword and yours are kin. Good
    sparks and lustrous, a word, good metals: you shall
    find in the regiment of the Spinii one Captain
    Spurio, with his cicatrice, an emblem of war, here
    on his sinister cheek; it was this very sword 640
    entrenched it: say to him, I live; and observe his
    reports for me.

[Exeunt Lords]

  • Parolles. Mars dote on you for his novices! what will ye do? 645

[Re-enter KING. BERTRAM and PAROLLES retire]

  • Parolles. [To BERTRAM] Use a more spacious ceremony to the
    noble lords; you have restrained yourself within the
    list of too cold an adieu: be more expressive to 650
    them: for they wear themselves in the cap of the
    time, there do muster true gait, eat, speak, and
    move under the influence of the most received star;
    and though the devil lead the measure, such are to
    be followed: after them, and take a more dilated farewell. 655
  • Parolles. Worthy fellows; and like to prove most sinewy sword-men.


[Enter LAFEU]

  • Lafeu. [Kneeling] Pardon, my lord, for me and for my tidings. 660
  • Lafeu. Then here's a man stands, that has brought his pardon.
    I would you had kneel'd, my lord, to ask me mercy,
    And that at my bidding you could so stand up.
  • King of France. I would I had; so I had broke thy pate, 665
    And ask'd thee mercy for't.
  • Lafeu. Good faith, across: but, my good lord 'tis thus;
    Will you be cured of your infirmity?
  • Lafeu. O, will you eat no grapes, my royal fox? 670
    Yes, but you will my noble grapes, an if
    My royal fox could reach them: I have seen a medicine
    That's able to breathe life into a stone,
    Quicken a rock, and make you dance canary
    With spritely fire and motion; whose simple touch, 675
    Is powerful to araise King Pepin, nay,
    To give great Charlemain a pen in's hand,
    And write to her a love-line.
  • Lafeu. Why, Doctor She: my lord, there's one arrived, 680
    If you will see her: now, by my faith and honour,
    If seriously I may convey my thoughts
    In this my light deliverance, I have spoke
    With one that, in her sex, her years, profession,
    Wisdom and constancy, hath amazed me more 685
    Than I dare blame my weakness: will you see her
    For that is her demand, and know her business?
    That done, laugh well at me.
  • King of France. Now, good Lafeu,
    Bring in the admiration; that we with thee 690
    May spend our wonder too, or take off thine
    By wondering how thou took'st it.
  • Lafeu. Nay, I'll fit you,
    And not be all day neither.


[Re-enter LAFEU, with HELENA]

  • Lafeu. Nay, come your ways.
  • Lafeu. Nay, come your ways: 700
    This is his majesty; say your mind to him:
    A traitor you do look like; but such traitors
    His majesty seldom fears: I am Cressid's uncle,
    That dare leave two together; fare you well.


  • Helena. Ay, my good lord.
    Gerard de Narbon was my father;
    In what he did profess, well found.
  • Helena. The rather will I spare my praises towards him:
    Knowing him is enough. On's bed of death
    Many receipts he gave me: chiefly one.
    Which, as the dearest issue of his practise,
    And of his old experience the oily darling, 715
    He bade me store up, as a triple eye,
    Safer than mine own two, more dear; I have so;
    And hearing your high majesty is touch'd
    With that malignant cause wherein the honour
    Of my dear father's gift stands chief in power, 720
    I come to tender it and my appliance
    With all bound humbleness.
  • King of France. We thank you, maiden;
    But may not be so credulous of cure,
    When our most learned doctors leave us and 725
    The congregated college have concluded
    That labouring art can never ransom nature
    From her inaidible estate; I say we must not
    So stain our judgment, or corrupt our hope,
    To prostitute our past-cure malady 730
    To empirics, or to dissever so
    Our great self and our credit, to esteem
    A senseless help when help past sense we deem.
  • Helena. My duty then shall pay me for my pains:
    I will no more enforce mine office on you. 735
    Humbly entreating from your royal thoughts
    A modest one, to bear me back a again.
  • King of France. I cannot give thee less, to be call'd grateful:
    Thou thought'st to help me; and such thanks I give
    As one near death to those that wish him live: 740
    But what at full I know, thou know'st no part,
    I knowing all my peril, thou no art.
  • Helena. What I can do can do no hurt to try,
    Since you set up your rest 'gainst remedy.
    He that of greatest works is finisher 745
    Oft does them by the weakest minister:
    So holy writ in babes hath judgment shown,
    When judges have been babes; great floods have flown
    From simple sources, and great seas have dried
    When miracles have by the greatest been denied. 750
    Oft expectation fails and most oft there
    Where most it promises, and oft it hits
    Where hope is coldest and despair most fits.
  • King of France. I must not hear thee; fare thee well, kind maid;
    Thy pains not used must by thyself be paid: 755
    Proffers not took reap thanks for their reward.
  • Helena. Inspired merit so by breath is barr'd:
    It is not so with Him that all things knows
    As 'tis with us that square our guess by shows;
    But most it is presumption in us when 760
    The help of heaven we count the act of men.
    Dear sir, to my endeavours give consent;
    Of heaven, not me, make an experiment.
    I am not an impostor that proclaim
    Myself against the level of mine aim; 765
    But know I think and think I know most sure
    My art is not past power nor you past cure.
  • King of France. Are thou so confident? within what space
    Hopest thou my cure?
  • Helena. The great'st grace lending grace 770
    Ere twice the horses of the sun shall bring
    Their fiery torcher his diurnal ring,
    Ere twice in murk and occidental damp
    Moist Hesperus hath quench'd his sleepy lamp,
    Or four and twenty times the pilot's glass 775
    Hath told the thievish minutes how they pass,
    What is infirm from your sound parts shall fly,
    Health shall live free and sickness freely die.
  • King of France. Upon thy certainty and confidence
    What darest thou venture? 780
  • Helena. Tax of impudence,
    A strumpet's boldness, a divulged shame
    Traduced by odious ballads: my maiden's name
    Sear'd otherwise; nay, worse—if worse—extended
    With vilest torture let my life be ended. 785
  • King of France. Methinks in thee some blessed spirit doth speak
    His powerful sound within an organ weak:
    And what impossibility would slay
    In common sense, sense saves another way.
    Thy life is dear; for all that life can rate 790
    Worth name of life in thee hath estimate,
    Youth, beauty, wisdom, courage, all
    That happiness and prime can happy call:
    Thou this to hazard needs must intimate
    Skill infinite or monstrous desperate. 795
    Sweet practiser, thy physic I will try,
    That ministers thine own death if I die.
  • Helena. If I break time, or flinch in property
    Of what I spoke, unpitied let me die,
    And well deserved: not helping, death's my fee; 800
    But, if I help, what do you promise me?
  • Helena. But will you make it even?
  • Helena. Then shalt thou give me with thy kingly hand 805
    What husband in thy power I will command:
    Exempted be from me the arrogance
    To choose from forth the royal blood of France,
    My low and humble name to propagate
    With any branch or image of thy state; 810
    But such a one, thy vassal, whom I know
    Is free for me to ask, thee to bestow.
  • King of France. Here is my hand; the premises observed,
    Thy will by my performance shall be served:
    So make the choice of thy own time, for I, 815
    Thy resolved patient, on thee still rely.
    More should I question thee, and more I must,
    Though more to know could not be more to trust,
    From whence thou camest, how tended on: but rest
    Unquestion'd welcome and undoubted blest. 820
    Give me some help here, ho! If thou proceed
    As high as word, my deed shall match thy meed.

[Flourish. Exeunt]