Open Source Shakespeare

All's Well That Ends Well

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Act III, Scene 2

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 1400
    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 1405
    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 1410
    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. 1415


  • 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 1420
    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,
    This is not well, rash and unbridled boy. 1425
    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 1435
    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 1440
    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. 1445
  • 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, 1450
    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. 1455
  • Helena. Look on his letter, madam; here's my passport.
    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 1460
    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. 1465
  • 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? 1470
  • 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. 1475
  • 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? 1480
  • 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 1485
    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. 1490
  • 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. 1495
  • 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, 1500
    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. 1505
  • 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! 1510
    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 1515
    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, 1520
    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 1525
    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, 1530
    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 1535
    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.