Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Shakespeare
Editors: Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
Not Peer Reviewed

All's Well That Ends Well (Modern)

Enter Countess, Steward, and Clown.
Countess I will now hear: what say you of this 330gentlewoman?
Steward Madam, the care I have had to even your conttent, I wish might be found in the calendar of my past endeavors, for then we wound our modesty and make foul the clearness of our deservings when of ourselves 335we publish them.
Countess What does this knave here? -- [To Clown] 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 340to make such knaveries yours.
Clown 'Tis not unknown to you, madam, I am a poor fellow.
Countess Well, sir?
Clown No, madam, 345'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?
350Clown 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 o'my body, for they say bairns are 355blessings.
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.
360Countess 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 365and 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.
370Countess 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 375drudge. 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, 380there were no fear in marriage, for young Charbon the puritan, and old Poisson the papist, howsome'er their hearts are severed in religion, their heads are both one. They may jowl horns together like any deer i'th' herd.
Countess Wilt thou ever be a foulmouthed and 385calumnious 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.
390Countess 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 [To Clown] Sirrah, tell my gentlewoman I would speak with her, Helen I mean.
"Was this fair face the cause," quoth she,
"Why the Grecians sackèd Troy?
Fond done, done fond,
Was this King Priam's joy?"
With that she sighèd as she stood,
With that she sighèd as she stood,
And gave this sentence then:
"Among nine bad, if one be 400good,
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 405purifying o'th'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, quotha? And we might have a good woman born but o'er every blazing star or at an earthquake, 'twould mend the lottery well! A 410man may draw his heart out ere a pluck one.
Countess You'll begone, 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 415it 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.
Countess Well, now.
420Steward 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 425more owing her than is paid, and more shall be paid her than she'll demand.
Steward Madam, I was very late more near her thanI think she wished me. Alone she was, and did communicate to herself her own words to her 430own 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 435only where qualities were level; Dian no queen of virgins, that would suffer her poor knight surprised without rescue in the first assault or ransom afterward: This she delivered in the most bitter touch of sorrow that e'erI heard virgin exclaim in, which I held 440my 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 445before, 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.
Enter Helen.
Countess E'en 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;
455It is the show and seal of nature's truth,
Where love's strong passion is impressed in youth
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.
460Helen What is your pleasure, madam?
Countess You know, Helen, I am a mother to you.
Mine honorable mistress.
Nay, a mother,
Why not a mother? When I said "a mother"
465Methought 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 enwombèd mine. 'Tis often seen
Adoption strives with nature, and choice breeds
470A native slip to us from foreign seeds.
You ne'er oppressed 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? [Helen weeps.] What's the matter,
475That this distempered messenger of wet
The many-colored Iris, rounds thine eye?
-- Why, that you are my daughter?
That I am not.
I say I am your mother.
Pardon, madam,
The Count Roussillon cannot be my brother.
I am from humble, he from honored name;
No note upon my parents, his all noble,
My master, my dear lord he is, and I
485His servant live, and will his vassal die.
He must not be my brother!
Nor I your mother?
Helen You are my mother, madam! Would you were,
So that my lord your son were not my brother --
490Indeed 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.
495God shield you mean it not, "daughter" and "mother"
So strive upon your pulse. What, pale again?
My fear hath catched your fondness! Now I see
The mystery of your loneliness and find
Your salt tears' head. Now to all sense 'tis gross:
500You love my son. Invention is ashamed
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 t'one to th' other, and thine eyes
505See it so grossly shown in thy behaviors
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:
510If it be not, forswear't. Howe'er, I charge thee,
As heaven shall work in me for thine avail,
To tell me truly.
Good madam, pardon me!
Do you love my son?
Your pardon, noble mistress!
Love you my son?
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
520The state of your affection, for your passions
Have to the full appeached.
Then I confess
Here on my knee, before high heaven and you,
That, before you and next unto high heaven,
I love your 525son.
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,
530Nor 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
535And 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
540For loving where you do, but if yourself,
Whose agèd honor 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, oh then give pity
545To 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,
550To go to Paris?
Madam, I had.
Wherefore? Tell true.
Helen I will tell truth, by grace itself I swear!
You know my father left me some prescriptions
555Of rare and proved effects, such as his reading
And manifest experience had collected
For general sovereignty, and that he willed me
In heedfull'st reservation to bestow them
As notes, whose faculties inclusive were,
560More than they were in note. Amongst the rest,
There is a remedy, approved, set down
To cure the desperate languishings whereof
The King is rendered lost.
Countess This was your motive for Paris, was it? Speak!
565Helen 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
Happily been absent then.
But think you, Helen,
570If you should tender your supposèd 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 unlearnèd virgin, when the schools,
575Emboweled of their doctrine, have left off
The danger to itself?
There's something in't,
More than my father's skill, which was the great'st
Of his profession, that his good receipt
580Shall for my legacy be sanctified
By th'luckiest stars in heaven, and would your honor
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, an hour.
Dost thou believe't?
Helen 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
590And pray God's blessing into thy attempt.
Begone tomorrow, and be sure of this:
What I can help thee to, thou shalt not miss.