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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    Not Peer Reviewed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 Countess, Steward, and Clown.
    I will now hear: what say you of this 330gentlewoman?
    Madam, the care I have had to even your content, 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.
    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.
    'Tis not unknown to you, madam, I am a poor fellow.
    Well, sir?
    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.
    Wilt thou needs be a beggar?
    I do beg your good will in this case.
    In what case?
    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.
    Tell me thy reason why thou wilt marry?
    My poor body, madam, requires it. I am driven on by the flesh, and he must needs go that the devil drives.
    Is this all your worship's reason?
    Faith, madam, I have other holy reasons, such as they are.
    May the world know them?
    I have been, madam, a wicked creature, as you 365and all flesh and blood are, and indeed I do marry that I may repent.
    Thy marriage sooner than thy wickedness.
    I am out o'friends, madam, and I hope to have friends for my wife's sake.
    Such friends are thine enemies, knave.
    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.
    Wilt thou ever be a foulmouthed and 385calumnious knave?
    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.
    Get you gone, sir. I'll talk with you more anon.
    May it please you, madam, that he bid Helen come to you? Of her I am to speak.
    [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."
    What? One good in ten? You corrupt the song, sirrah.
    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.
    You'll begone, sir knave, and do as I command you!
    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.
    Well, now.
    I know, madam, you love your gentlewoman entirely.
    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.
    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.
    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.
    450Enter Helen.
    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.
    What is your pleasure, madam?
    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?
    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?
    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?
    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.
    Had you not lately an intent, speak truly,
    550To go to Paris?
    Madam, I had.
    Wherefore? Tell true.
    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.
    This was your motive for Paris, was it? Speak!
    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?
    Ay, madam, knowingly.
    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.