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About this text

  • Title: All's Well That Ends Well (Modern)
  • Editors: Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
  • ISBN: 978-1-55058-432-5

    Copyright Helen Ostovich and Andrew Griffin. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editors: Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
    Not Peer Reviewed

    All's Well That Ends Well (Modern)

    Enter young Bertram, Count Roussillon, his mother [the Countess], Helen, [and] Lord Lafeu, all in black.
    5In delivering my son from me, I bury a second husband.
    And I in going, madam, weep o'er my father's death anew, but I must attend his majesty's command, to whom I am now in ward, evermore 10in subjection.
    You shall find of the King a husband, madam; you, sir, a father. He, that so generally is at all times good, must of necessity hold his virtue to you, whose worthiness would stir it up where it wanted rather than lack 15it where there is such abundance.
    What hope is there of his majesty's amendment?
    He hath abandoned his physicians, madam, under whose practices he hath persecuted time with hope and finds no other advantage in the process, but only 20the losing of hope by time.
    This young gentlewoman had a father -- oh, that "had", how sad a passage 'tis! -- whose skill was almost as great as his honesty; had it stretched so far, would have made nature immortal and death should have play for 25lack of work. Would for the King's sake he were living! I think it would be the death of the King's disease.
    How called you the man you speak of, madam?
    He was famous, sir, in his profession, and it was his great right to be so: Gérard de Narbonne.
    He was excellent indeed, madam. The King very lately spoke of him admiringly, and mourningly. He was skilful enough to have lived still, if knowledge could be set up against mortality.
    What is it, my good lord, the King languishes 35of?
    A fistula, my lord.
    I heard not of it before.
    I would it were not notorious. -- Was this gentlewoman the daughter of
    Gérard de Narbonne?
    His sole child, my lord, and bequeathed to my overlooking. I have those hopes of her good that her education promises; her dispositions she inherits, which makes fair gifts fairer. For where an unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, there commendations go with 45pity: they are virtues and traitors too. In her, they are the better for their simpleness; she derives her honesty and achieves her goodness.
    Your commendations, madam, get from her tears.
    'Tis the best brine a maiden can season her praise in. The remembrance of her father never approaches her heart, but the tyranny of her sorrows takes all livelihood from her cheek. -- No more of this, Helen, go to, no more, lest it be rather thought you affect a sorrow than 55to have --
    I do affect a sorrow indeed, but I have it too.
    Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead; excessive grief, the enemy to the living.
    If the living be enemy to the grief, the 60excess makes it soon mortal.
    Madam, I desire your holy wishes.
    [To the Countess (?)]How understand we that?
    Be thou blessed, Bertram, and succeed thy father
    In manners as in shape. Thy blood and virtue
    65Contend for empire in thee, and thy goodness
    Share with thy birthright. Love all, trust a few,
    Do wrong to none. Be able for thine enemy
    Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
    Under thy own life's key. Be checked for silence,
    70But never taxed for speech. What heaven more will,
    That thee may furnish and my prayers pluck down,
    Fall on thy head. -- [To Lafeu] Farewell, my lord.
    'Tis an unseasoned courtier, good my lord.
    Advise him.
    He cannot want the best
    That shall attend his love.
    Heaven bless him.
    -- Farewell, Bertram.
    [Exit the Countess.]
    [To Helen] The best wishes that can be forged in your thoughts be servants to you. Be comfortable to my mother, your 80mistress, and make much of her.
    Farewell, pretty lady. You must hold the credit of your father.
    [Exeunt Bertram and Lafeu.]
    Oh, were that all! I think not on my father
    And these great tears grace his remembrance more
    85Than those I shed for him. What was he like?
    I have forgot him. My imagination
    Carries no favor in't but Bertram's.
    I am undone. There is no living, none,
    If Bertram be away. 'Twere all one,
    90That I should love a bright particular star
    And think to wed it, he is so above me.
    In his bright radiance and collateral light
    Must I be comforted, not in his sphere.
    Th'ambition in my love thus plagues itself.
    95The hind that would be mated by the lion
    Must die for love. 'Twas pretty, though a plague,
    To see him every hour, to sit and draw
    His archèd brows, his hawking eye, his curls
    In our heart's table -- heart too capable
    100Of every line and trick of his sweet favor.
    But now he's gone, and my idolatrous fancy
    Must sanctify his relics. Who comes here?
    Enter Paroles.
    One that goes with him. I love him for his sake.
    105And yet I know him a notorious liar,
    Think him a great way fool, solely a coward;
    Yet these fixed evils sit so fit in him
    That they take place when virtue's steely bones
    Looks bleak i'th'cold wind. Withal, full oft we see
    110Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.
    Save you, fair queen.
    And you, monarch.
    And no.
    Are you meditating on virginity?
    Ay. You have some stain of soldier in you. Let me ask you a question. Man is enemy to virginity. How may we barricado it against him?
    Keep him out.
    But he assails and our virginity, though valiant, in the defence yet is weak. Unfold to us some warlike resistance.
    There is none. Man, setting down before you, will undermine you and blow you up.
    Bless our poor virginity from underminers and blowers up! Is there no military policy how virgins might blow up men?
    Virginity being blown down, man will quicklier be blown up. Marry, in blowing him down 130again, with the breach yourselves made, you lose your city. It is not politic in the commonwealth of nature to preserve virginity. Loss of virginity is rational increase, and there was never virgin got till virginity was first lost. That you were made of is 135metal to make virgins. Virginity, by being once lost, may be ten times found; by being ever kept, it is ever lost. 'Tis too cold a companion. Away with't!
    I will stand for't a little, though therefore I die a virgin.
    There's little can be said in't; 'tis against the rule of nature. To speak on the part of virginity is to accuse your mothers, which is most infallible disobedience. He that hangs himself is a virgin: virginity murders itself, and should be buried in highways, 145out of all sanctified limit as a desperate offendress against nature. Virginity breeds mites, much like a cheese, consumes itself to the very paring, and so dies with feeding his own stomach. Besides, virginity is peevish, proud, idle, made of self-love, which 150is the most inhibited sin in the canon. Keep it not, you cannot choose but lose by't. Out with't! Within ten year it will make itself two, which is a goodly increase, and the principal itself not much the worse. Away with't!
    How might one do, sir, to lose it to her own liking?
    Let me see. Marry, ill, to like him that ne'er it likes. 'Tis a commodity will lose the gloss with lying. The longer kept, the less worth. Off with't while 'tis 160vendible. Answer the time of request. Virginity, like an old courtier, wears her cap out of fashion, richly suited, but unsuitable, just like the brooch and the toothpick, which wear not now. Your date is better in your pie and your porridge than in your cheek, and your 165virginity, your old virginity, is like one of our French withered pears. It looks ill, it eats dryly -- marry, 'tis a withered pear. It was formerly better, marry, yet 'tis a withered pear! Will you anything with it?
    Not my virginity yet.
    170There shall your master have a thousand loves:
    A mother, and a mistress, and a friend,
    A phoenix, captain, and an enemy,
    A guide, a goddess, and a sovereign,
    A counselor, a traitress, and a dear;
    175His humble ambition, proud humility;
    His jarring, concord; and his discord, dulcet;
    His faith, his sweet disaster; with a world
    Of pretty fond adoptious christendoms
    That blinking Cupid gossips. Now shall he --
    180I know not what he shall. God send him well!
    The court's a learning place, and he is one --
    What one, i'faith?
    That I wish well. 'Tis pity.
    What's pity?
    That wishing well had not a body in't,
    Which might be felt, that we, the poorer born,
    Whose baser stars do shut us up in wishes,
    Might with effects of them follow our friends
    And show what we alone must think, which never
    190Returns us thanks.
    Enter Page.
    Monsieur Paroles, my lord calls for you.
    Little Helen, farewell. If I can remember thee, I 195will think of thee at court.
    Monsieur Paroles, you were born under a charitable star.
    Under Mars, I.
    I especially think under Mars.
    Why 'under' Mars?
    The wars hath so kept you under that you must needs be born under Mars.
    When he was predominant.
    When he was retrograde, I think rather.
    Why think you so?
    You go so much backward when you fight.
    That's for advantage.
    So is running away when fear proposes the safety. 210But the composition that your valor and fear makes in you is a virtue of a good wing, and I like the wear well.
    I am so full of businesses, I cannot answer thee acutely. I will return perfect courtier, in the 215which my instruction shall serve to naturalize thee, so thou wilt be capable of a courtier's counsel and understand what advice shall thrust upon thee, else thou diest in thine unthankfulnes and thine ignorance makes thee away. Farewell. When thou hast leisure, say thy 220prayers: when thou hast none, remember thy friends. Get thee a good husband, and use him as he uses thee. So, farewell.
    Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
    Which we ascribe to heaven. The fated sky
    225Gives us free scope, only doth backward pull
    Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull.
    What power is it which mounts my love so high,
    That makes me see and cannot feed mine eye?
    The mightiest space in fortune, nature brings
    230To join like likes and kiss like native things.
    Impossible be strange attempts to those
    That weigh their pains in sense and do suppose
    What hath been cannot be. Who ever strove
    To show her merit that did miss her love? --
    235The king's disease! My project may deceive me,
    But my intents are fixed and will not leave me.