All's Well That Ends Well
by William Shakespeare [Collins edition]
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by William Shakespeare


KING OF FRANCE. THE DUKE OF FLORENCE. BERTRAM, Count of Rousillon. LAFEU, an old Lord. PAROLLES, a follower of Bertram. Several young French Lords, that serve with Bertram in the Florentine War. Steward, Servant to the Countess of Rousillon. Clown, Servant to the Countess of Rousillon. A Page, Servant to the Countess of Rousillon. COUNTESS OF ROUSILLON, Mother to Bertram. HELENA, a Gentlewoman protected by the Countess. An old Widow of Florence. DIANA, daughter to the Widow. VIOLENTA, neighbour and friend to the Widow. MARIANA, neighbour and friend to the Widow.

Lords attending on the KING; Officers; Soldiers, &c., French and Florentine.

SCENE: Partly in France, and partly in Tuscany.


SCENE 1. Rousillon. A room in the COUNTESS'S palace.

[Enter BERTRAM, the COUNTESS OF ROUSILLON, HELENA, and LAFEU, all in black.]

COUNTESS. In delivering my son from me, I bury a second husband.

BERTRAM. 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 in subjection.

LAFEU. 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 it where there is such abundance.

COUNTESS. What hope is there of his majesty's amendment?

LAFEU. 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 the losing of hope by time.

COUNTESS. This young gentlewoman had a father—O, 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 lack of work. Would, for the king's sake, he were living! I think it would be the death of the king's disease.

LAFEU. How called you the man you speak of, madam?

COUNTESS. He was famous, sir, in his profession, and it was his great right to be so—Gerard de Narbon.

LAFEU. He was excellent indeed, madam; the king very lately spoke of him admiringly and mourningly; he was skilful enough to have liv'd still, if knowledge could be set up against mortality.

BERTRAM. What is it, my good lord, the king languishes of?

LAFEU. A fistula, my lord.

BERTRAM. I heard not of it before.

LAFEU. I would it were not notorious.—Was this gentlewoman the daughter of Gerard de Narbon?

COUNTESS. 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 pity,—they are virtues and traitors too: in her they are the better for their simpleness; she derives her honesty, and achieves her goodness.

LAFEU. Your commendations, madam, get from her tears.

COUNTESS. '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, Helena,—go to, no more, lest it be rather thought you affect a sorrow than to have.

HELENA. I do affect a sorrow indeed; but I have it too.

LAFEU. Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead; excessive grief the enemy to the living.

COUNTESS. If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it soon mortal.

BERTRAM. Madam, I desire your holy wishes.

LAFEU. How understand we that?

COUNTESS. Be thou blest, Bertram, and succeed thy father In manners, as in shape! thy blood and virtue Contend 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 check'd for silence, But never tax'd for speech. What heaven more will, That thee may furnish and my prayers pluck down, Fall on thy head! Farewell.—My lord, 'Tis an unseason'd courtier; good my lord, Advise him.

LAFEU. He cannot want the best That shall attend his love.

COUNTESS. Heaven bless him!—Farewell, Bertram.


BERTRAM. The best wishes that can be forg'd in your thoughts [To HELENA.] be servants to you! Be comfortable to my mother, your mistress, and make much of her.

LAFEU. Farewell, pretty lady: you must hold the credit of your father.

[Exeunt BERTRAM and LAFEU.]

HELENA. O, were that all!—I think not on my father; And these great tears grace his remembrance more Than those I shed for him. What was he like? I have forgot him; my imagination Carries no favour in't but Bertram's. I am undone: there is no living, none, If Bertram be away. It were all one That 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. The ambition in my love thus plagues itself: The 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 arched brows, his hawking eye, his curls, In our heart's table,—heart too capable Of every line and trick of his sweet favour: But now he's gone, and my idolatrous fancy Must sanctify his relics. Who comes here? One that goes with him: I love him for his sake; And yet I know him a notorious liar, Think him a great way fool, solely a coward; Yet these fix'd evils sit so fit in him That they take place when virtue's steely bones Looks bleak i' the cold wind: withal, full oft we see Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.


PAROLLES. Save you, fair queen!

HELENA. And you, monarch!


HELENA. And no.

PAROLLES. Are you meditating on virginity?

HELENA. 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?

PAROLLES. Keep him out.

HELENA. But he assails; and our virginity, though valiant in the defence, yet is weak: unfold to us some warlike resistance.

PAROLLES. There is none: man, setting down before you, will undermine you and blow you up.

HELENA. Bless our poor virginity from underminers and blowers-up!—Is there no military policy how virgins might blow up men?

PAROLLES. Virginity being blown down, man will quicklier be blown up: marry, in blowing him down again, 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 metal 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 it!

HELENA. I will stand for 't a little, though therefore I die a virgin.

PAROLLES. 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, out 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 is the most inhibited sin in the canon. Keep it not; you cannot choose but lose by't: out with't! within ten years it will make itself ten, which is a goodly increase; and the principal itself not much the worse: away with it!

HELENA. How might one do, sir, to lose it to her own liking?

PAROLLES. 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 vendible; 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 virginity, your old virginity, is like one of our French withered pears; it looks ill, it eats drily; marry, 'tis a wither'd pear; it was formerly better; marry, yet 'tis a wither'd pear. Will you anything with it?

HELENA. Not my virginity yet. There 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 counsellor, a traitress, and a dear: His 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— I know not what he shall:—God send him well!— The court's a learning-place;—and he is one,—

PAROLLES. What one, i' faith?

HELENA. That I wish well.—'Tis pity—

PAROLLES. What's pity?

HELENA. 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 Returns us thanks.

[Enter a PAGE.]

PAGE. Monsieur Parolles, my lord calls for you.

[Exit PAGE.]

PAROLLES. Little Helen, farewell: if I can remember thee, I will think of thee at court.

HELENA. Monsieur Parolles, you were born under a charitable star.

PAROLLES. Under Mars, I.

HELENA. I especially think, under Mars.

PAROLLES. Why under Mars?

HELENA. The wars hath so kept you under that you must needs be born under Mars.

PAROLLES. When he was predominant.

HELENA. When he was retrograde, I think, rather.

PAROLLES. Why think you so?

HELENA. You go so much backward when you fight.

PAROLLES. That's for advantage.

HELENA. So is running away, when fear proposes the safety: but the composition that your valour and fear makes in you is a virtue of a good wing, and I like the wear well.

PAROLLES. I am so full of business I cannot answer thee acutely. I will return perfect courtier; in the which 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 unthankfulness, and thine ignorance makes thee away: farewell. When thou hast leisure, say thy prayers; when thou hast none, remember thy friends: get thee a good husband, and use him as he uses thee: so, farewell.


HELENA. Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, Which we ascribe to heaven: the fated sky Gives 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 To 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? The king's disease,—my project may deceive me, But my intents are fix'd, and will not leave me.


SCENE 2. Paris. A room in the King's palace.

[Flourish of cornets. Enter the KING OF FRANCE, with letters; Lords and others attending.]

KING. The Florentines and Senoys are by the ears; Have fought with equal fortune, and continue A braving war.

FIRST LORD. So 'tis reported, sir.

KING. Nay, 'tis most credible; we here receive it, A certainty, vouch'd from our cousin Austria, With caution, that the Florentine will move us For speedy aid; wherein our dearest friend Prejudicates the business, and would seem To have us make denial.

FIRST LORD. His love and wisdom, Approv'd so to your majesty, may plead For amplest credence.

KING. He hath arm'd our answer, And Florence is denied before he comes: Yet, for our gentlemen that mean to see The Tuscan service, freely have they leave To stand on either part.

SECOND LORD. It well may serve A nursery to our gentry, who are sick For breathing and exploit.

KING. What's he comes here?


FIRST LORD. It is the Count Rousillon, my good lord, Young Bertram.

KING. Youth, thou bear'st thy father's face; Frank nature, rather curious than in haste, Hath well compos'd thee. Thy father's moral parts Mayst thou inherit too! Welcome to Paris.

BERTRAM. My thanks and duty are your majesty's.

KING. I would I had that corporal soundness now, As when thy father and myself in friendship First tried our soldiership! He did look far Into the service of the time, and was Discipled of the bravest: he lasted long; But on us both did haggish age steal on, And wore us out of act. It much repairs me To talk of your good father. In his youth He had the wit which I can well observe To-day in our young lords; but they may jest Till their own scorn return to them unnoted, Ere they can hide their levity in honour So like a courtier: contempt nor bitterness Were in his pride or sharpness; if they were, His equal had awak'd them; and his honour, Clock to itself, knew the true minute when Exception bid him speak, and at this time His tongue obey'd his hand: who were below him He us'd as creatures of another place; And bow'd his eminent top to their low ranks, Making them proud of his humility, In their poor praise he humbled. Such a man Might be a copy to these younger times; Which, follow'd well, would demonstrate them now But goers backward.

BERTRAM. His good remembrance, sir, Lies richer in your thoughts than on his tomb; So in approof lives not his epitaph As in your royal speech.

KING. Would I were with him! He would always say,— Methinks I hear him now; his plausive words He scatter'd not in ears, but grafted them To grow there, and to bear,—'Let me not live,'— This his good melancholy oft began, On the catastrophe and heel of pastime, When it was out,—'Let me not live' quoth he, 'After my flame lacks oil, to be the snuff Of younger spirits, whose apprehensive senses All but new things disdain; whose judgments are Mere fathers of their garments; whose constancies Expire before their fashions:'—This he wish'd: I, after him, do after him wish too, Since I nor wax nor honey can bring home, I quickly were dissolved from my hive, To give some labourers room.

SECOND LORD. You're lov'd, sir; They that least lend it you shall lack you first.

KING. I fill a place, I know't.—How long is't, Count, Since the physician at your father's died? He was much fam'd.

BERTRAM. Some six months since, my lord.

KING. If he were living, I would try him yet;— Lend me an arm;—the rest have worn me out With several applications:—nature and sickness Debate it at their leisure. Welcome, count; My son's no dearer.

BERTRAM. Thank your majesty.

[Exeunt. Flourish.]

SCENE 3. Rousillon. A Room in the Palace.


COUNTESS. I will now hear: what say you of this gentlewoman?

STEWARD. Madam, the care I have had to even your content, I wish might be found in the calendar of my past endeavours; for then we wound our modesty, and make foul the clearness of our deservings, when of ourselves we publish them.

COUNTESS. What does this knave here? 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 to make such knaveries yours.

CLOWN. 'Tis not unknown to you, madam, I am a poor fellow.

COUNTESS. Well, sir.

CLOWN. No, madam, '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?

CLOWN. 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 of my body; for they say bairns are blessings.

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.

COUNTESS. 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 and 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 of friends, madam, and I hope to have friends for my wife's sake.

COUNTESS. Such friends are thine enemies, knave.

CLOWN. Y'are shallow, madam, in great friends: for the knaves come to do that for me which I am a-weary 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 drudge: 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, there were no fear in marriage; for young Charbon the puritan and old Poysam the papist, howsome'er their hearts are severed in religion, their heads are both one; they may joll horns together like any deer i' the herd.

COUNTESS. Wilt thou ever be a foul-mouth'd and calumnious 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.

COUNTESS. 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. Sirrah, tell my gentlewoman I would speak with her; Helen I mean.

CLOWN. [Sings.] Was this fair face the cause, quoth she Why the Grecians sacked Troy? Fond done, done fond, Was this King Priam's joy? With that she sighed as she stood, With that she sighed as she stood, And gave this sentence then:— Among nine bad if one be good, 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 purifying o' the 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, quoth 'a! an we might have a good woman born before every blazing star, or at an earthquake, 'twould mend the lottery well: a man may draw his heart out ere he pluck one.

COUNTESS. You'll be gone, 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 it 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.

STEWARD. 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 more owing her than is paid; and more shall be paid her than she'll demand.

STEWARD. Madam, I was very late more near her than I think she wished me: alone she was, and did communicate to herself her own words to her own 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 only where qualities were level; Diana no queen of virgins, that would suffer her poor knight surprise, without rescue in the first assault, or ransom afterward. This she delivered in the most bitter touch of sorrow that e'er I heard virgin exclaim in; which I held my 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 before, 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.


Even 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; It is the show and seal of nature's truth, Where love's strong passion is impress'd in youth: By our remembrances of days foregone, Such were our faults:—or then we thought them none.

[Enter HELENA.]

Her eye is sick on't;—I observe her now.

HELENA. What is your pleasure, madam?

COUNTESS. You know, Helen, I am a mother to you.

HELENA. Mine honourable mistress.

COUNTESS. Nay, a mother. Why not a mother? When I said a mother, Methought 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 enwombed mine. 'Tis often seen Adoption strives with nature; and choice breeds A native slip to us from foreign seeds: You ne'er oppress'd 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? What's the matter, That this distemper'd messenger of wet, The many-colour'd iris, rounds thine eye? Why,—that you are my daughter?

HELENA. That I am not.

COUNTESS. I say, I am your mother.

HELENA. Pardon, madam; The Count Rousillon cannot be my brother: I am from humble, he from honour'd name; No note upon my parents, his all noble; My master, my dear lord he is; and I His servant live, and will his vassal die: He must not be my brother.

COUNTESS. Nor I your mother?

HELENA. You are my mother, madam; would you were,— So that my lord your son were not my brother,— Indeed 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: God shield you mean it not! daughter and mother So strive upon your pulse. What! pale again? My fear hath catch'd your fondness: now I see The mystery of your loneliness, and find Your salt tears' head. Now to all sense 'tis gross You love my son; invention is asham'd, 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, one to the other; and thine eyes See it so grossly shown in thy behaviours, 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 clue; If it be not, forswear't: howe'er, I charge thee, As heaven shall work in me for thine avail, To tell me truly.

HELENA. Good madam, pardon me!

COUNTESS. Do you love my son?

HELENA. Your pardon, noble mistress!

COUNTESS. Love you my son?

HELENA. 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 The state of your affection; for your passions Have to the full appeach'd.

HELENA. Then I confess, Here on my knee, before high heaven and you, That before you, and next unto high heaven, I love your son:— My friends were poor, but honest; so's my love: Be not offended; for it hurts not him That he is lov'd of me: I follow him not By any token of presumptuous suit; Nor 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, And 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, For loving where you do; but if yourself, Whose aged honour 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; O, then, give pity To 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,— To go to Paris?

HELENA. Madam, I had.

COUNTESS. Wherefore? tell true.

HELENA. I will tell truth; by grace itself I swear. You know my father left me some prescriptions Of rare and prov'd effects, such as his reading And manifest experience had collected For general sovereignty; and that he will'd me In heedfullest reservation to bestow them, As notes whose faculties inclusive were More than they were in note: amongst the rest There is a remedy, approv'd, set down, To cure the desperate languishings whereof The king is render'd lost.

COUNTESS. This was your motive For Paris, was it? speak.

HELENA. 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 Haply been absent then.

COUNTESS. But think you, Helen, If you should tender your supposed 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 unlearned virgin, when the schools, Embowell'd of their doctrine, have let off The danger to itself?

HELENA. There's something in't More than my father's skill, which was the greatest Of his profession, that his good receipt Shall, for my legacy, be sanctified By th' luckiest stars in heaven: and, would your honour 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 and hour.

COUNTESS. Dost thou believe't?

HELENA. 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, And pray God's blessing into thy attempt: Be gone to-morrow; and be sure of this, What I can help thee to thou shalt not miss.



SCENE 1. Paris. A room in the King's palace.

[Flourish. Enter the King, with young LORDS taking leave for the Florentine war; BERTRAM, PAROLLES, and Attendants.]

KING. Farewell, young lord; these war-like principles Do not throw from you:—and you, my lord, farewell;— Share the advice betwixt you; if both gain all, The gift doth stretch itself as 'tis received, And is enough for both.

FIRST LORD. It is our hope, sir, After well-enter'd soldiers, to return And find your grace in health.

KING. 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,— 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 aloud: I say farewell.

SECOND LORD. Health, at your bidding, serve your majesty!

KING. 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.

BOTH. Our hearts receive your warnings.

KING. Farewell.—Come hither to me.

[The king retires to a couch.]

FIRST LORD. O my sweet lord, that you will stay behind us!

PAROLLES. 'Tis not his fault; the spark—

SECOND LORD. O, 'tis brave wars!

PAROLLES. Most admirable: I have seen those wars.

BERTRAM. I am commanded here and kept a coil with, 'Too young' and next year' and ''tis too early.'

PAROLLES. An thy mind stand to it, boy, steal away bravely.

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.

FIRST LORD. There's honour in the theft.

PAROLLES. Commit it, count.

SECOND LORD. I am your accessary; and so farewell.

BERTRAM. I grow to you, and our parting is a tortured body.

FIRST LORD. Farewell, captain.

SECOND LORD. Sweet Monsieur Parolles!

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 entrenched it: say to him I live; and observe his reports for me.

FIRST LORD. We shall, noble captain.

PAROLLES. Mars dote on you for his novices!

[Exeunt LORDS.]

What will ye do?

BERTRAM. Stay; the king—

PAROLLES. 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 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.

BERTRAM. And I will do so.

PAROLLES. Worthy fellows; and like to prove most sinewy sword-men.


[Enter LAFEU.]

LAFEU. Pardon, my lord [kneeling], for me and for my tidings.

KING. I'll fee thee to stand up.

LAFEU. Then here's a man stands that has bought 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. I would I had; so I had broke thy pate, 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? yes, but you will My noble grapes, and 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 Is powerful to araise King Pipin, nay, To give great Charlemain a pen in his hand And write to her a love-line.

KING. What 'her' is that?

LAFEU. Why, doctor 'she': my lord, there's one arriv'd, 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 amaz'd me more 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. Now, good Lafeu, Bring in the admiration; that we with the 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.

[Exit LAFEU.]

KING. Thus he his special nothing ever prologues.

[Re-enter LAFEU with HELENA.]

LAFEU. Nay, come your ways.

KING. This haste hath wings indeed.

LAFEU. Nay, come your ways; 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.


KING. Now, fair one, does your business follow us?

HELENA. Ay, my good lord. Gerard de Narbon was My father; in what he did profess, well found.

KING. I knew him.

HELENA. The rather will I spare my praises towards him. Knowing him is enough. On his bed of death Many receipts he gave me; chiefly one, Which, as the dearest issue of his practice, And of his old experience the only darling, 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, I come to tender it, and my appliance, With all bound humbleness.

KING. We thank you, maiden: But may not be so credulous of cure,— When our most learned doctors leave us, and The congregated college have concluded That labouring art can never ransom nature From her inaidable estate,—I say we must not So stain our judgment, or corrupt our hope, To prostitute our past-cure malady 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; Humbly entreating from your royal thoughts A modest one to bear me back again.

KING. 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: 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 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. Oft expectation fails, and most oft there Where most it promises; and oft it hits Where hope is coldest, and despair most fits.

KING. I must not hear thee: fare thee well, kind maid; Thy pains, not used, must by thyself be paid: Proffers, not took, reap thanks for their reward.

HELENA. Inspired merit so by breath is barred: 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 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; But know I think, and think I know most sure, My art is not past power nor you past cure.

KING. Art thou so confident? Within what space Hop'st thou my cure?

HELENA. The greatest grace lending grace. 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 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. Upon thy certainty and confidence What dar'st thou venture?

HELENA. Tax of impudence,— A strumpet's boldness, a divulged shame,— Traduc'd by odious ballads; my maiden's name Sear'd otherwise; ne worse of worst extended, With vilest torture let my life be ended.

KING. 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 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. 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 deserv'd. Not helping, death's my fee; But, if I help, what do you promise me?

KING. Make thy demand.

HELENA. But will you make it even?

KING. Ay, by my sceptre and my hopes of heaven.

HELENA. Then shalt thou give me, with thy kingly hand 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: But such a one, thy vassal, whom I know Is free for me to ask, thee to bestow.

KING. Here is my hand; the premises observ'd, Thy will by my performance shall be serv'd; So make the choice of thy own time, for I, Thy resolv'd 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 cam'st, how tended on.—But rest Unquestion'd welcome and undoubted blest.— Give me some help here, ho!—If thou proceed As high as word, my deed shall match thy deed.

[Flourish. Exeunt.]

SCENE 2. Rousillon. A room in the COUNTESS'S palace.


COUNTESS. Come on, sir; I shall now put you to the height of your breeding.

CLOWN. I will show myself highly fed and lowly taught: I know my business is but to the court.

COUNTESS. To the court! why, what place make you special, when you put off that with such contempt? But to the court!

CLOWN. Truly, madam, if God have lent a man any manners, he may easily put it off at court: he that cannot make a leg, put off's cap, kiss his hand, and say nothing, has neither leg, hands, lip, nor cap; and indeed such a fellow, to say precisely, were not for the court; but for me, I have an answer will serve all men.

COUNTESS. Marry, that's a bountiful answer that fits all questions.

CLOWN. It is like a barber's chair, that fits all buttocks—the pin- buttock, the quatch-buttock, the brawn-buttock, or any buttock.

COUNTESS. Will your answer serve fit to all questions?

CLOWN. As fit as ten groats is for the hand of an attorney, as your French crown for your taffety punk, as Tib's rush for Tom's forefinger, as a pancake for Shrove-Tuesday, a morris for Mayday, as the nail to his hole, the cuckold to his horn, as a scolding quean to a wrangling knave, as the nun's lip to the friar's mouth; nay, as the pudding to his skin.

COUNTESS. Have you, I, say, an answer of such fitness for all questions?

CLOWN. From below your duke to beneath your constable, it will fit any question.

COUNTESS. It must be an answer of most monstrous size that must fit all demands.

CLOWN. But a trifle neither, in good faith, if the learned should speak truth of it: here it is, and all that belongs to't. Ask me if I am a courtier: it shall do you no harm to learn.

COUNTESS. To be young again, if we could: I will be a fool in question, hoping to be the wiser by your answer. I pray you, sir, are you a courtier?

CLOWN. O Lord, sir!—There's a simple putting off. More, more, a hundred of them.

COUNTESS. Sir, I am a poor friend of yours, that loves you.

CLOWN. O Lord, sir!—Thick, thick; spare not me.

COUNTESS. I think, sir, you can eat none of this homely meat.

CLOWN. O Lord, sir!—Nay, put me to't, I warrant you.

COUNTESS. You were lately whipped, sir, as I think.

CLOWN. O Lord, sir!—Spare not me.

COUNTESS. Do you cry 'O Lord, sir!' at your whipping, and 'spare not me'? Indeed your 'O Lord, sir!' is very sequent to your whipping. You would answer very well to a whipping, if you were but bound to't.

CLOWN. I ne'er had worse luck in my life in my—'O Lord, sir!' I see thing's may serve long, but not serve ever.

COUNTESS. I play the noble housewife with the time, to entertain it so merrily with a fool.

CLOWN. O Lord, sir!—Why, there't serves well again.

COUNTESS. An end, sir! To your business. Give Helen this, And urge her to a present answer back: Commend me to my kinsmen and my son: This is not much.

CLOWN. Not much commendation to them.

COUNTESS. Not much employment for you: you understand me?

CLOWN. Most fruitfully: I am there before my legs.

COUNTESS. Haste you again.

[Exeunt severally.]

SCENE 3. Paris. The KING'S palace.


LAFEU. They say miracles are past; and we have our philosophical persons to make modern and familiar things supernatural and causeless. Hence is it that we make trifles of terrors, ensconcing ourselves into seeming knowledge when we should submit ourselves to an unknown fear.

PAROLLES. Why, 'tis the rarest argument of wonder that hath shot out in our latter times.

BERTRAM. And so 'tis.

LAFEU. To be relinquish'd of the artists,—

PAROLLES. So I say; both of Galen and Paracelsus.

LAFEU. Of all the learned and authentic fellows,—

PAROLLES. Right; so I say.

LAFEU. That gave him out incurable,—

PAROLLES. Why, there 'tis; so say I too.

LAFEU. Not to be helped,—

PAROLLES. Right; as 'twere a man assured of a,—

LAFEU. Uncertain life and sure death.

PAROLLES. Just; you say well: so would I have said.

LAFEU. I may truly say, it is a novelty to the world.

PAROLLES. It is indeed: if you will have it in showing, you shall read it in,—What do you call there?—

LAFEU. A showing of a heavenly effect in an earthly actor.

PAROLLES. That's it; I would have said the very same.

LAFEU. Why, your dolphin is not lustier: 'fore me, I speak in respect,—

PAROLLES. Nay, 'tis strange, 'tis very strange; that is the brief and the tedious of it; and he's of a most facinerious spirit that will not acknowledge it to be the,—

LAFEU. Very hand of heaven.

PAROLLES. Ay; so I say.

LAFEU. In a most weak,—

PAROLLES. And debile minister, great power, great transcendence: which should, indeed, give us a further use to be made than alone the recov'ry of the king, as to be,—

LAFEU. Generally thankful.

PAROLLES. I would have said it; you say well. Here comes the king.

[Enter KING, HELENA, and Attendants.]

LAFEU. Lustic, as the Dutchman says: I'll like a maid the better, whilst I have a tooth in my head: why, he's able to lead her a coranto.

PAROLLES. 'Mort du vinaigre!' is not this Helen?

LAFEU. 'Fore God, I think so.

KING. Go, call before me all the lords in court.—

[Exit an Attendant.]

Sit, my preserver, by thy patient's side; And with this healthful hand, whose banish'd sense Thou has repeal'd, a second time receive The confirmation of my promis'd gift, Which but attends thy naming.

[Enter severaol Lords.]

Fair maid, send forth thine eye: this youthful parcel Of noble bachelors stand at my bestowing, O'er whom both sovereign power and father's voice I have to use: thy frank election make; Thou hast power to choose, and they none to forsake.

HELENA. To each of you one fair and virtuous mistress Fall, when love please!—marry, to each, but one!

LAFEU. I'd give bay Curtal and his furniture, My mouth no more were broken than these boys', And writ as little beard.

KING. Peruse them well: Not one of those but had a noble father.

HELENA. Gentlemen, Heaven hath through me restor'd the king to health.

ALL. We understand it, and thank heaven for you.

HELENA. I am a simple maid, and therein wealthiest That I protest I simply am a maid.— Please it, your majesty, I have done already: The blushes in my cheeks thus whisper me— 'We blush that thou shouldst choose; but, be refus'd, Let the white death sit on thy cheek for ever; We'll ne'er come there again.'

KING. Make choice; and, see: Who shuns thy love shuns all his love in me.

HELENA. Now, Dian, from thy altar do I fly, And to imperial Love, that god most high, Do my sighs stream.—Sir, will you hear my suit?

FIRST LORD. And grant it.

HELENA. Thanks, sir; all the rest is mute.

LAFEU. I had rather be in this choice than throw ames-ace for my life.

HELENA. The honour, sir, that flames in your fair eyes, Before I speak, too threateningly replies: Love make your fortunes twenty times above Her that so wishes, and her humble love!

SECOND LORD. No better, if you please.

HELENA. My wish receive, Which great Love grant; and so I take my leave.

LAFEU. Do all they deny her? An they were sons of mine I'd have them whipped; or I would send them to the Turk to make eunuchs of.

HELENA. [To third Lord.] Be not afraid that I your hand should take; I'll never do you wrong for your own sake: Blessing upon your vows! and in your bed Find fairer fortune, if you ever wed!

LAFEU. These boys are boys of ice: they'll none have her: Sure, they are bastards to the English; the French ne'er got 'em.

HELENA. You are too young, too happy, and too good, To make yourself a son out of my blood.

FOURTH LORD. Fair one, I think not so.

LAFEU. There's one grape yet,—I am sure thy father drank wine.—But if thou beest not an ass, I am a youth of fourteen; I have known thee already.

HELENA. [To BERTRAM.] I dare not say I take you; but I give Me and my service, ever whilst I live, Into your guiding power.—This is the man.

KING. Why, then, young Bertram, take her; she's thy wife.

BERTRAM. My wife, my liege! I shall beseech your highness, In such a business give me leave to use The help of mine own eyes.

KING. Know'st thou not, Bertram, What she has done for me?

BERTRAM. Yes, my good lord; But never hope to know why I should marry her.

KING. Thou know'st she has rais'd me from my sickly bed.

BERTRAM. But follows it, my lord, to bring me down Must answer for your raising? I know her well; She had her breeding at my father's charge: A poor physician's daughter my wife!—Disdain Rather corrupt me ever!

KING. 'Tis only title thou disdain'st in her, the which I can build up. Strange is it that our bloods, Of colour, weight, and heat, pour'd all together, Would quite confound distinction, yet stand off In differences so mighty. If she be All that is virtuous,—save what thou dislik'st, A poor physician's daughter,—thou dislik'st Of virtue for the name: but do not so: From lowest place when virtuous things proceed, The place is dignified by the doer's deed: Where great additions swell's, and virtue none, It is a dropsied honour: good alone Is good without a name; vileness is so: The property by what it is should go, Not by the title. She is young, wise, fair; In these to nature she's immediate heir; And these breed honour: that is honour's scorn Which challenges itself as honour's born, And is not like the sire: honours thrive When rather from our acts we them derive Than our fore-goers: the mere word's a slave, Debauch'd on every tomb; on every grave A lying trophy; and as oft is dumb Where dust and damn'd oblivion is the tomb Of honour'd bones indeed. What should be said? If thou canst like this creature as a maid, I can create the rest: virtue and she Is her own dower; honour and wealth from me.

BERTRAM. I cannot love her, nor will strive to do 't.

KING. Thou wrong'st thyself, if thou shouldst strive to choose.

HELENA. That you are well restor'd, my lord, I am glad: Let the rest go.

KING. My honour's at the stake; which to defeat, I must produce my power. Here, take her hand, Proud scornful boy, unworthy this good gift; That dost in vile misprision shackle up My love and her desert; that canst not dream We, poising us in her defective scale, Shall weigh thee to the beam; that wilt not know It is in us to plant thine honour where We please to have it grow. Check thy contempt: Obey our will, which travails in thy good; Believe not thy disdain, but presently Do thine own fortunes that obedient right Which both thy duty owes and our power claims Or I will throw thee from my care for ever, Into the staggers and the careless lapse Of youth and ignorance; both my revenge and hate Loosing upon thee in the name of justice, Without all terms of pity. Speak! thine answer!

BERTRAM. Pardon, my gracious lord; for I submit My fancy to your eyes: when I consider What great creation, and what dole of honour Flies where you bid it, I find that she, which late Was in my nobler thoughts most base, is now The praised of the king; who, so ennobled, Is as 'twere born so.

KING. Take her by the hand, And tell her she is thine: to whom I promise A counterpoise; if not to thy estate, A balance more replete.

BERTRAM. I take her hand.

KING. Good fortune and the favour of the king Smile upon this contract; whose ceremony Shall seem expedient on the now-born brief, And be perform'd to-night: the solemn feast Shall more attend upon the coming space, Expecting absent friends. As thou lov'st her, Thy love's to me religious; else, does err.

[Exeunt KING, BERTAM, HELENA, Lords, and Attendants.]

LAFEU. Do you hear, monsieur? a word with you.

PAROLLES. Your pleasure, sir?

LAFEU. Your lord and master did well to make his recantation.

PAROLLES. Recantation!—my lord! my master!

LAFEU. Ay; is it not a language I speak?

PAROLLES. A most harsh one, and not to be understood without bloody succeeding. My master!

LAFEU. Are you companion to the Count Rousillon?

PAROLLES. To any count; to all counts; to what is man.

LAFEU. To what is count's man: count's master is of another style.

PAROLLES. You are too old, sir; let it satisfy you, you are too old.

LAFEU. I must tell thee, sirrah, I write man; to which title age cannot bring thee.

PAROLLES. What I dare too well do, I dare not do.

LAFEU. I did think thee, for two ordinaries, to be a pretty wise fellow; thou didst make tolerable vent of thy travel; it might pass: yet the scarfs and the bannerets about thee did manifoldly dissuade me from believing thee a vessel of too great a burden. I have now found thee; when I lose thee again I care not: yet art thou good for nothing but taking up; and that thou art scarce worth.

PAROLLES. Hadst thou not the privilege of antiquity upon thee,—

LAFEU. Do not plunge thyself too far in anger, lest thou hasten thy trial; which if—Lord have mercy on thee for a hen! So, my good window of lattice, fare thee well: thy casement I need not open, for I look through thee. Give me thy hand.

PAROLLES. My lord, you give me most egregious indignity.

LAFEU. Ay, with all my heart; and thou art worthy of it.

PAROLLES. I have not, my lord, deserved it.

LAFEU. Yes, good faith, every dram of it: and I will not bate thee a scruple.

PAROLLES. Well, I shall be wiser.

LAFEU. E'en as soon as thou canst, for thou hast to pull at a smack o' th' contrary. If ever thou beest bound in thy scarf and beaten, thou shalt find what it is to be proud of thy bondage. I have a desire to hold my acquaintance with thee, or rather my knowledge, that I may say in the default, he is a man I know.

PAROLLES. My lord, you do me most insupportable vexation.

LAFEU. I would it were hell-pains for thy sake, and my poor doing eternal: for doing I am past; as I will by thee, in what motion age will give me leave.


PAROLLES. Well, thou hast a son shall take this disgrace off me; scurvy, old, filthy, scurvy lord!—Well, I must be patient; there is no fettering of authority. I'll beat him, by my life, if I can meet him with any convenience, an he were double and double a lord. I'll have no more pity of his age than I would have of— I'll beat him, an if I could but meet him again.

[Re-enter LAFEU.]

LAFEU. Sirrah, your lord and master's married; there's news for you; you have a new mistress.

PAROLLES. I most unfeignedly beseech your lordship to make some reservation of your wrongs: he is my good lord: whom I serve above is my master.

LAFEU. Who? God?

PAROLLES. Ay, sir.

LAFEU. The devil it is that's thy master. Why dost thou garter up thy arms o' this fashion? dost make hose of thy sleeves? do other servants so? Thou wert best set thy lower part where thy nose stands. By mine honour, if I were but two hours younger, I'd beat thee: methink'st thou art a general offence, and every man should beat thee. I think thou wast created for men to breathe themselves upon thee.

PAROLLES. This is hard and undeserved measure, my lord.

LAFEU. Go to, sir; you were beaten in Italy for picking a kernel out of a pomegranate; you are a vagabond, and no true traveller: you are more saucy with lords and honourable personages than the heraldry of your birth and virtue gives you commission. You are not worth another word, else I'd call you knave. I leave you.


PAROLLES. Good, very good, it is so then.—Good, very good; let it be concealed awhile.

[Enter BERTRAM.]

BERTRAM. Undone, and forfeited to cares for ever!

PAROLLES. What's the matter, sweet heart?

BERTRAM. Although before the solemn priest I have sworn, I will not bed her.

PAROLLES. What, what, sweet heart?

BERTRAM. O my Parolles, they have married me!— I'll to the Tuscan wars, and never bed her.

PAROLLES. France is a dog-hole, and it no more merits The tread of a man's foot:—to the wars!

BERTRAM. There's letters from my mother; what the import is I know not yet.

PAROLLES. Ay, that would be known. To the wars, my boy, to the wars! He wears his honour in a box unseen That hugs his kicksy-wicksy here at home, Spending his manly marrow in her arms, Which should sustain the bound and high curvet Of Mars's fiery steed. To other regions! France is a stable; we that dwell in't, jades; Therefore, to the war!

BERTRAM. It shall be so; I'll send her to my house, Acquaint my mother with my hate to her, And wherefore I am fled; write to the king That which I durst not speak: his present gift Shall furnish me to those Italian fields Where noble fellows strike: war is no strife To the dark house and the detested wife.

PAROLLES. Will this caprichio hold in thee, art sure?

BERTRAM. Go with me to my chamber and advise me. I'll send her straight away: to-morrow I'll to the wars, she to her single sorrow.

PAROLLES. Why, these balls bound; there's noise in it. 'Tis hard: A young man married is a man that's marr'd: Therefore away, and leave her bravely; go: The king has done you wrong: but, hush, 'tis so.


SCENE 4. The same. Another room in the same.

[Enter HELENA and CLOWN.]

HELENA. My mother greets me kindly: is she well?

CLOWN. She is not well, but yet she has her health: she's very merry, but yet she is not well: but thanks be given, she's very well, and wants nothing i' the world; but yet she is not well.

HELENA. If she be very well, what does she ail that she's not very well?

CLOWN. Truly, she's very well indeed, but for two things.

HELENA. What two things?

CLOWN. One, that she's not in heaven, whither God send her quickly! The other, that she's in earth, from whence God send her quickly!


PAROLLES. Bless you, my fortunate lady!

HELENA. I hope, sir, I have your good will to have mine own good fortunes.

PAROLLES. You had my prayers to lead them on; and to keep them on, have them still. O, my knave,—how does my old lady?

CLOWN. So that you had her wrinkles and I her money, I would she did as you say.

PAROLLES. Why, I say nothing.

CLOWN. Marry, you are the wiser man; for many a man's tongue shakes out his master's undoing: to say nothing, to do nothing, to know nothing, and to have nothing, is to be a great part of your title; which is within a very little of nothing.

PAROLLES. Away! thou art a knave.

CLOWN. You should have said, sir, before a knave thou art a knave; that is before me thou art a knave: this had been truth, sir.

PAROLLES. Go to, thou art a witty fool; I have found thee.

CLOWN. Did you find me in yourself, sir? or were you taught to find me? The search, sir, was profitable; and much fool may you find in you, even to the world's pleasure and the increase of laughter.

PAROLLES. A good knave, i' faith, and well fed.— Madam, my lord will go away to-night: A very serious business calls on him. The great prerogative and right of love, Which, as your due, time claims, he does acknowledge; But puts it off to a compell'd restraint; Whose want, and whose delay, is strew'd with sweets; Which they distil now in the curbed time, To make the coming hour o'erflow with joy And pleasure drown the brim.

HELENA. What's his will else?

PAROLLES. That you will take your instant leave o' the king, And make this haste as your own good proceeding, Strengthen'd with what apology you think May make it probable need.

HELENA. What more commands he?

PAROLLES. That, having this obtain'd, you presently Attend his further pleasure.

HELENA. In everything I wait upon his will.

PAROLLES. I shall report it so.

HELENA. I pray you.—Come, sirrah.


SCENE 5. Another room in the same.

[Enter LAFEU and BERTRAM.]

LAFEU. But I hope your lordship thinks not him a soldier.

BERTRAM. Yes, my lord, and of very valiant approof.

LAFEU. You have it from his own deliverance.

BERTRAM. And by other warranted testimony.

LAFEU. Then my dial goes not true: I took this lark for a bunting.

BERTRAM. I do assure you, my lord, he is very great in knowledge, and accordingly valiant.

LAFEU. I have, then, sinned against his experience and transgressed against his valour; and my state that way is dangerous, since I cannot yet find in my heart to repent. Here he comes; I pray you make us friends; I will pursue the amity


PAROLLES. [To BERTRAM.] These things shall be done, sir.

LAFEU. Pray you, sir, who's his tailor?


LAFEU. O, I know him well, I, sir; he, sir, is a good workman, a very good tailor.

BERTRAM. [Aside to PAROLLES.] Is she gone to the king?


BERTRAM. Will she away to-night?

PAROLLES. As you'll have her.

BERTRAM. I have writ my letters, casketed my treasure, Given order for our horses; and to-night, When I should take possession of the bride, End ere I do begin.

LAFEU. A good traveller is something at the latter end of a dinner; but one that lies three-thirds and uses a known truth to pass a thousand nothings with, should be once heard and thrice beaten.— God save you, Captain.

BERTRAM. Is there any unkindness between my lord and you, monsieur?

PAROLLES. I know not how I have deserved to run into my lord's displeasure.

LAFEU. You have made shift to run into 't, boots and spurs and all, like him that leapt into the custard; and out of it you'll run again, rather than suffer question for your residence.

BERTRAM. It may be you have mistaken him, my lord.

LAFEU. And shall do so ever, though I took him at his prayers. Fare you well, my lord; and believe this of me, there can be no kernal in this light nut; the soul of this man is his clothes; trust him not in matter of heavy consequence; I have kept of them tame, and know their natures.—Farewell, monsieur; I have spoken better of you than you have or will to deserve at my hand; but we must do good against evil.


PAROLLES. An idle lord, I swear.

BERTRAM. I think so.

PAROLLES. Why, do you not know him?

BERTRAM. Yes, I do know him well; and common speech Gives him a worthy pass. Here comes my clog.

[Enter HELENA.]

HELENA. I have, sir, as I was commanded from you, Spoke with the king, and have procur'd his leave For present parting; only he desires Some private speech with you.

BERTRAM. I shall obey his will. You must not marvel, Helen, at my course, Which holds not colour with the time, nor does The ministration and required office On my particular. Prepared I was not For such a business; therefore am I found So much unsettled: this drives me to entreat you: That presently you take your way for home, And rather muse than ask why I entreat you: For my respects are better than they seem; And my appointments have in them a need Greater than shows itself at the first view To you that know them not. This to my mother:

[Giving a letter.] 'Twill be two days ere I shall see you; so I leave you to your wisdom.

HELENA. Sir, I can nothing say But that I am your most obedient servant.

BERTRAM. Come, come, no more of that.

HELENA. And ever shall With true observance seek to eke out that Wherein toward me my homely stars have fail'd To equal my great fortune.

BERTRAM. Let that go: My haste is very great. Farewell; hie home.

HELENA. Pray, sir, your pardon.

BERTRAM. Well, what would you say?

HELENA. I am not worthy of the wealth I owe; Nor dare I say 'tis mine, and yet it is; But, like a timorous thief, most fain would steal What law does vouch mine own.

BERTRAM. What would you have?

HELENA. Something; and scarce so much:—nothing, indeed.— I would not tell you what I would, my lord:—Faith, yes;— Strangers and foes do sunder and not kiss.

BERTRAM. I pray you, stay not, but in haste to horse.

HELENA. I shall not break your bidding, good my lord.

BERTRAM. Where are my other men, monsieur?— Farewell,

[Exit HELENA.]

Go thou toward home, where I will never come Whilst I can shake my sword or hear the drum:— Away, and for our flight.

PAROLLES. Bravely, coragio!



SCENE 1. Florence. A room in the DUKE's palace.

[Flourish. Enter the DUKE OF FLORENCE, attended; two French Lords, and Soldiers.]

DUKE. So that, from point to point, now have you heard The fundamental reasons of this war; Whose great decision hath much blood let forth, And more thirsts after.

FIRST LORD. Holy seems the quarrel Upon your grace's part; black and fearful On the opposer.

DUKE. Therefore we marvel much our cousin France Would, in so just a business, shut his bosom Against our borrowing prayers.

SECOND LORD. Good my lord, The reasons of our state I cannot yield, But like a common and an outward man That the great figure of a council frames By self-unable motion; therefore dare not Say what I think of it, since I have found Myself in my incertain grounds to fail As often as I guess'd.

DUKE. Be it his pleasure.

FIRST LORD. But I am sure the younger of our nature, That surfeit on their ease, will day by day Come here for physic.

DUKE. Welcome shall they be; And all the honours that can fly from us Shall on them settle. You know your places well; When better fall, for your avails they fell: To-morrow to th' field.

[Flourish. Exeunt.]

SCENE 2. Rousillon. A room in the COUNTESS'S palace.


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 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 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 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.


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 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, BERTRAM.'

This is not well, rash and unbridled boy, To fly the favours of so good a king; To pluck his indignation on thy head By the misprizing 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 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 they come will tell you more: for my part, I only hear your son was run away.


[Enter HELENA and the two Gentlemen.]

SECOND GENTLEMAN. Save you, good madam.

HELENA. Madam, my lord is gone, for ever gone.

FIRST 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, Can woman me unto 't.—Where is my son, I pray you?

FIRST GENTLEMAN. Madam, he's gone to serve the Duke of Florence: We met him thitherward; for thence we came, And, after some despatch in hand at court, Thither we bend again.

HELENA. Look on this letter, madam; here's my passport.

[Reads.] '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 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 pains.

COUNTESS. I pr'ythee, 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?


COUNTESS. And to be a soldier?

FIRST GENTLEMAN. Such is his noble purpose: and, believe 't, The duke will lay upon him all the honour That good convenience claims.

COUNTESS. Return you thither?

SECOND 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?

HELENA. Ay, madam.

SECOND 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 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?

SECOND GENTLEMAN. A servant only, and a gentleman Which I have sometime known.

COUNTESS. Parolles, was it not?

SECOND 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.

SECOND GENTLEMAN. Indeed, good lady, The fellow has a deal of that too much Which holds him much to have.

COUNTESS. You are welcome, gentlemen. I will entreat you, when you see my son, To tell him that his sword can never win The honour that he loses: more I'll entreat you Written to bear along.

FIRST GENTLEMAN. We serve you, madam, In that and all your worthiest affairs.

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! 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 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, 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 it; And though I kill him not, I am the cause 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, 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, And angels offic'd 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.


SCENE 3. Florence. Before the DUKE's palace.

[Flourish. Enter the DUKE OF FLORENCE, BERTRAM, PAROLLES, Lords, Soldiers, and others.]

DUKE. The general of our horse thou art; and we, Great in our hope, lay our best love and credence Upon thy promising fortune.

BERTRAM. Sir, it is A charge too heavy for my strength; but yet We'll strive to bear it, for your worthy sake To the extreme edge of hazard.

DUKE. Then go thou forth; And fortune play upon thy prosperous helm, As thy auspicious mistress!

BERTRAM. This very day, Great Mars, I put myself into thy file; Make me but like my thoughts, and I shall prove A lover of thy drum, hater of love.


SCENE 4. Rousillon. A room in the COUNTESS'S palace.

[Enter COUNTESS and Steward.]

COUNTESS. Alas! and would you take the letter of her? Might you not know she would do as she has done, By sending me a letter? Read it again.

STEWARD. [Reads.] 'I am Saint Jaques' pilgrim, thither gone: Ambitious love hath so in me offended That barefoot plod I the cold ground upon, With sainted vow my faults to have amended. Write, write, that from the bloody course of war My dearest master, your dear son, may hie: Bless him at home in peace, whilst I from far His name with zealous fervour sanctify: His taken labours bid him me forgive; I, his despiteful Juno, sent him forth From courtly friends, with camping foes to live, Where death and danger dog the heels of worth: He is too good and fair for death and me; Whom I myself embrace to set him free.'

COUNTESS. Ah, what sharp stings are in her mildest words!— Rinaldo, you did never lack advice so much As letting her pass so; had I spoke with her, I could have well diverted her intents, Which thus she hath prevented.

STEWARD. Pardon me, madam: If I had given you this at over-night, She might have been o'er ta'en; and yet she writes, Pursuit would be but vain.

COUNTESS. What angel shall Bless this unworthy husband? he cannot thrive, Unless her prayers, whom heaven delights to hear And loves to grant, reprieve him from the wrath Of greatest justice.—Write, write, Rinaldo, To this unworthy husband of his wife: Let every word weigh heavy of her worth, That he does weigh too light: my greatest grief, Though little he do feel it, set down sharply. Dispatch the most convenient messenger:— When, haply, he shall hear that she is gone He will return; and hope I may that she, Hearing so much, will speed her foot again, Led hither by pure love: which of them both Is dearest to me I have no skill in sense To make distinction:—provide this messenger:— My heart is heavy, and mine age is weak; Grief would have tears, and sorrow bids me speak.


SCENE 5. Without the walls of Florence.

[Enter an old Widow of Florence, DIANA, VIOLENTA, MARIANA, and other Citizens.]

WIDOW. Nay, come; for if they do approach the city we shall lose all the sight.

DIANA. They say the French count has done most honourable service.

WIDOW. It is reported that he has taken their greatest commander; and that with his own hand he slew the duke's brother.

[A tucket afar off.]

We have lost our labour; they are gone a contrary way: hark! you may know by their trumpets.

MARIANA. Come, let's return again, and suffice ourselves with the report of it. Well, Diana, take heed of this French earl: the honour of a maid is her name; and no legacy is so rich as honesty.

WIDOW. I have told my neighbour how you have been solicited by a gentleman his companion.

MARIANA. I know that knave; hang him! one Parolles: a filthy officer he is in those suggestions for the young earl.—Beware of them, Diana; their promises, enticements, oaths, tokens, and all these engines of lust, are not the things they go under; many a maid hath been seduced by them; and the misery is, example, that so terrible shows in the wreck of maidenhood, cannot for all that dissuade succession, but that they are limed with the twigs that threaten them. I hope I need not to advise you further; but I hope your own grace will keep you where you are, though there were no further danger known but the modesty which is so lost.

DIANA. You shall not need to fear me.

WIDOW. I hope so.—Look, here comes a pilgrim. I know she will lie at my house: thither they send one another; I'll question her.—

[Enter HELENA in the dress of a pilgrim.]

God save you, pilgrim! Whither are bound?

HELENA. To Saint Jaques-le-Grand. Where do the palmers lodge, I do beseech you?

WIDOW. At the Saint Francis here, beside the port.

HELENA. Is this the way?

WIDOW. Ay, marry, is't. Hark you! They come this way.

[A march afar off.]

If you will tarry, holy pilgrim, But till the troops come by, I will conduct you where you shall be lodg'd; The rather for I think I know your hostess As ample as myself.

HELENA. Is it yourself?

WIDOW. If you shall please so, pilgrim.

HELENA. I thank you, and will stay upon your leisure.

WIDOW. You came, I think, from France?

HELENA. I did so.

WIDOW. Here you shall see a countryman of yours That has done worthy service.

HELENA. His name, I pray you.

DIANA. The Count Rousillon: know you such a one?

HELENA. But by the ear, that hears most nobly of him: His face I know not.

DIANA. Whatsoe'er he is, He's bravely taken here. He stole from France, As 'tis reported, for the king had married him Against his liking: think you it is so?

HELENA. Ay, surely, mere the truth; I know his lady.

DIANA. There is a gentleman that serves the count Reports but coarsely of her.

HELENA. What's his name?

DIANA. Monsieur Parolles.

HELENA. O, I believe with him, In argument of praise, or to the worth Of the great count himself, she is too mean To have her name repeated; all her deserving Is a reserved honesty, and that I have not heard examin'd.

DIANA. Alas, poor lady! 'Tis a hard bondage to become the wife Of a detesting lord.

WIDOW. Ay, right; good creature, wheresoe'er she is Her heart weighs sadly: this young maid might do her A shrewd turn, if she pleas'd.

HELENA. How do you mean? May be, the amorous count solicits her In the unlawful purpose.

WIDOW. He does, indeed; And brokes with all that can in such a suit Corrupt the tender honour of a maid; But she is arm'd for him, and keeps her guard In honestest defence.

MARIANA. The gods forbid else!

WIDOW. So, now they come:—

[Enter, with a drum and colours, a party of the Florentine army, BERTRAM, and PAROLLES.]

That is Antonio, the Duke's eldest son; That, Escalus.

HELENA. Which is the Frenchman?

DIANA. He; That with the plume: 'tis a most gallant fellow. I would he lov'd his wife: if he were honester He were much goodlier: is't not a handsome gentleman?

HELENA. I like him well.

DIANA. 'Tis pity he is not honest? yond's that same knave That leads him to these places; were I his lady I would poison that vile rascal.

HELENA. Which is he?

DIANA. That jack-an-apes with scarfs. Why is he melancholy?

HELENA. Perchance he's hurt i' the battle.

PAROLLES. Lose our drum! well.

MARIANA. He's shrewdly vex'd at something. Look, he has spied us.

WIDOW. Marry, hang you!

MARIANA. And your courtesy, for a ring-carrier!

[Exeunt BERTRAM, PAROLLES, Officers, and Soldiers.]

WIDOW. The troop is past. Come, pilgrim, I will bring you Where you shall host: of enjoin'd penitents There's four or five, to great Saint Jaques bound, Already at my house.

HELENA. I humbly thank you: Please it this matron and this gentle maid To eat with us to-night; the charge and thanking Shall be for me: and, to requite you further, I will bestow some precepts of this virgin, Worthy the note.

BOTH. We'll take your offer kindly.


SCENE 6. Camp before Florence.

[Enter BERTRAM, and the two French Lords.]

FIRST LORD. Nay, good my lord, put him to't; let him have his way.

SECOND LORD. If your lordship find him not a hilding, hold me no more in your respect.

FIRST LORD. On my life, my lord, a bubble.

BERTRAM. Do you think I am so far deceived in him?

FIRST LORD. Believe it, my lord, in mine own direct knowledge, without any malice, but to speak of him as my kinsman, he's a most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise-breaker, the owner of no one good quality worthy your lordship's entertainment.

SECOND LORD. It were fit you knew him; lest, reposing too far in his virtue, which he hath not, he might at some great and trusty business, in a main danger fail you.

BERTRAM. I would I knew in what particular action to try him.

SECOND LORD. None better than to let him fetch off his drum, which you hear him so confidently undertake to do.

FIRST LORD. I with a troop of Florentines will suddenly surprise him; such I will have whom I am sure he knows not from the enemy; we will bind and hoodwink him so that he shall suppose no other but that he is carried into the leaguer of the adversaries when we bring him to our own tents. Be but your lordship present at his examination; if he do not, for the promise of his life, and in the highest compulsion of base fear, offer to betray you, and deliver all the intelligence in his power against you, and that with the divine forfeit of his soul upon oath, never trust my judgment in anything.

SECOND LORD. O, for the love of laughter, let him fetch his drum; he says he has a stratagem for't: when your lordship sees the bottom of his success in't, and to what metal this counterfeit lump of ore will be melted, if you give him not John Drum's entertainment, your inclining cannot be removed. Here he comes.

FIRST LORD. O, for the love of laughter, hinder not the honour of his design: let him fetch off his drum in any hand.


BERTRAM. How now, monsieur! this drum sticks sorely in your disposition.

SECOND LORD. A pox on 't; let it go; 'tis but a drum.

PAROLLES. But a drum! Is't but a drum? A drum so lost!—There was excellent command! to charge in with our horse upon our own wings, and to rend our own soldiers.

SECOND LORD. That was not to be blamed in the command of the service; it was a disaster of war that Caesar himself could not have prevented, if he had been there to command.

BERTRAM. Well, we cannot greatly condemn our success: some dishonour we had in the loss of that drum; but it is not to be recovered.

PAROLLES. It might have been recovered.

BERTRAM. It might, but it is not now.

PAROLLES. It is to be recovered: but that the merit of service is seldom attributed to the true and exact performer, I would have that drum or another, or hic jacet.

BERTRAM. Why, if you have a stomach, to't, monsieur, if you think your mystery in stratagem can bring this instrument of honour again into his native quarter, be magnanimous in the enterprise, and go on; I will grace the attempt for a worthy exploit; if you speed well in it, the duke shall both speak of it and extend to you what further becomes his greatness, even to the utmost syllable of your worthiness.

PAROLLES. By the hand of a soldier, I will undertake it.

BERTRAM. But you must not now slumber in it.

PAROLLES. I'll about it this evening: and I will presently pen down my dilemmas, encourage myself in my certainty, put myself into my mortal preparation; and, by midnight, look to hear further from me.

BERTRAM. May I be bold to acquaint his grace you are gone about it?

PAROLLES. I know not what the success will be, my lord, but the attempt I vow.

BERTRAM. I know thou art valiant; and, to the possibility of thy soldiership, will subscribe for thee. Farewell.

PAROLLES. I love not many words.


FIRST LORD. No more than a fish loves water.—Is not this a strange fellow, my lord? that so confidently seems to undertake this business, which he knows is not to be done; damns himself to do, and dares better be damned than to do't.

SECOND LORD. You do not know him, my lord, as we do: certain it is that he will steal himself into a man's favour, and for a week escape a great deal of discoveries; but when you find him out, you have him ever after.

BERTRAM. Why, do you think he will make no deed at all of this, that so seriously he does address himself unto?

FIRST LORD. None in the world: but return with an invention, and clap upon you two or three probable lies: but we have almost embossed him, —you shall see his fall to-night: for indeed he is not for your lordship's respect.

SECOND LORD. We'll make you some sport with the fox ere we case him. He was first smok'd by the old Lord Lafeu: when his disguise and he is parted, tell me what a sprat you shall find him; which you shall see this very night.

FIRST LORD. I must go look my twigs; he shall be caught.

BERTRAM. Your brother, he shall go along with me.

FIRST LORD. As't please your lordship: I'll leave you.


BERTRAM. Now will I lead you to the house, and show you The lass I spoke of.

SECOND LORD. But you say she's honest.

BERTRAM. That's all the fault: I spoke with her but once, And found her wondrous cold; but I sent to her, By this same coxcomb that we have i' the wind, Tokens and letters which she did re-send; And this is all I have done. She's a fair creature; Will you go see her?

SECOND LORD. With all my heart, my lord.


SCENE 7. Florence. A room in the WIDOW'S house.

[Enter HELENA and Widow.]

HELENA. If you misdoubt me that I am not she, I know not how I shall assure you further, But I shall lose the grounds I work upon.

WIDOW. Though my estate be fallen, I was well born, Nothing acquainted with these businesses; And would not put my reputation now In any staining act.

HELENA. Nor would I wish you. First give me trust, the count he is my husband, And what to your sworn counsel I have spoken Is so from word to word; and then you cannot, By the good aid that I of you shall borrow, Err in bestowing it.

WIDOW. I should believe you; For you have show'd me that which well approves You're great in fortune.

HELENA. Take this purse of gold, And let me buy your friendly help thus far, Which I will over-pay, and pay again When I have found it. The count he woos your daughter Lays down his wanton siege before her beauty, Resolv'd to carry her: let her in fine, consent, As we'll direct her how 'tis best to bear it, Now his important blood will naught deny That she'll demand: a ring the county wears, That downward hath succeeded in his house From son to son, some four or five descents Since the first father wore it: this ring he holds In most rich choice; yet, in his idle fire, To buy his will, it would not seem too dear, Howe'er repented after.

WIDOW. Now I see The bottom of your purpose.

HELENA. You see it lawful then: it is no more But that your daughter, ere she seems as won, Desires this ring; appoints him an encounter; In fine, delivers me to fill the time, Herself most chastely absent; after this, To marry her, I'll add three thousand crowns To what is pass'd already.

WIDOW. I have yielded: Instruct my daughter how she shall persever, That time and place, with this deceit so lawful, May prove coherent. Every night he comes With musics of all sorts, and songs compos'd To her unworthiness: it nothing steads us To chide him from our eaves; for he persists, As if his life lay on 't.

HELENA. Why, then, to-night Let us assay our plot; which, if it speed, Is wicked meaning in a lawful deed, And lawful meaning in a lawful act; Where both not sin, and yet a sinful fact: But let's about it.



SCENE 1. Without the Florentine camp.

[Enter first Lord with five or six Soldiers in ambush.]

FIRST LORD. He can come no other way but by this hedge-corner. When you sally upon him, speak what terrible language you will; though you understand it not yourselves, no matter; for we must not seem to understand him, unless some one among us, whom we must produce for an interpreter.

FIRST SOLDIER. Good captain, let me be the interpreter.

FIRST LORD. Art not acquainted with him? knows he not thy voice?

FIRST SOLDIER. No, sir, I warrant you.

FIRST LORD. But what linsey-woolsey has thou to speak to us again?

FIRST SOLDIER. E'en such as you speak to me.

FIRST LORD. He must think us some band of strangers i' the adversary's entertainment. Now he hath a smack of all neighbouring languages, therefore we must every one be a man of his own fancy; not to know what we speak one to another, so we seem to know, is to know straight our purpose: choughs' language, gabble enough, and good enough. As for you, interpreter, you must seem very politic. But couch, ho! here he comes; to beguile two hours in a sleep, and then to return and swear the lies he forges.


PAROLLES. Ten o'clock. Within these three hours 'twill be time enough to go home. What shall I say I have done? It must be a very plausive invention that carries it ;they begin to smoke me: and disgraces have of late knocked too often at my door. I find my tongue is too foolhardy; but my heart hath the fear of Mars before it, and of his creatures, not daring the reports of my tongue.

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