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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act II. Scene I.

All’s Well that Ends Well

Paris.A Room in the KING’S Palace.

Flourish.Enter the KING, with divers young Lords taking leave for the Florentine war; BERTRAM, PAROLLES, and Attendants.

King.Farewell, young lords: these war-like principles

Do not throw from you: and you, my lords, farewell:

Share the advice betwixt you; if both gain, all

The gift doth stretch itself as ’tis receiv’d,

And is enough for both.

First Lord.’Tis 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 besiêge. 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 loud: I say, farewell.

Sec. 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 Lords.Our hearts receive your warnings.

King.Farewell. Come hither to me.[Exit attended.

First Lord.O my sweet lord, that you will stay behind us!

Par.’Tis not his fault, the spark.

Sec. Lord.O! ’tis brave wars.

Par.Most admirable: I have seen those wars.

Ber.I am commanded here, and kept a coil with

‘Too young,’ and ‘the next year,’ and ‘’tis too early.’

Par.An thy mind stand to ’t, boy, steal away bravely.

Ber.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.

Par.Commit it, count.

Sec. Lord.I am your accessary; and so farewell.

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

First Lord.Farewell, captain.

Sec. Lord.Sweet Monsieur Parolles!

Par.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

Sec. Lord.We shall, noble captain.[Exeunt Lords.

Par.Mars dote on you for his novices!

What will ye do?

Ber.Stay; the king.

Re-enter KING; PAROLLES and BERTRAM retire.

Par.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.

Ber.And I will do so.

Par.Worthy fellows; and like to prove most sinewy swordmen.[Exeunt BERTRAM and PAROLLES.

Enter LAFEU.

Laf.[Kneeling.]Pardon, my lord, for me and for my tidings.

King.I’ll fee thee to stand up.

Laf.Then here’s a man stands that has brought 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.

Laf.Good faith, across: but, my good lord, ’tis thus;

Will you be cur’d of your infirmity?


Laf.O! will you eat no grapes, my royal fox?

Yes, but you will my noble grapes an 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 Pepin, nay,

To give great Charlemain a pen in ’s hand

And write to her a love-line.

King.What ‘her’ is this?

Laf.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 thee

May spend our wonder too, or take off thine

By wond’ring how thou took’st it.

Laf.Nay, I’ll fit you,

And not be all day neither.[Exit.

King.Thus he his special nothing ever prologues.

Re-enter LAFEU, with HELENA.

Laf.Nay, come your ways.

King.This haste hath wings indeed.

Laf.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.[Exit.

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

Hel.Ay, my good lord.

Gerard de Narbon was my father;

In what he did profess well found.

King.I knew him.

Hel.The rather will I spare my praises towards him;

Knowing him is enough. On ’s 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.

Hel.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.

Hel.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 us’d, must by thyself be paid:

Proffers not took reap thanks for their reward.

Hel.Inspired merit so by breath is barr’d.

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?

Hel.The great’st 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?

Hel.Tax of impudence,

A strumpet’s boldness, a divulged shame,

Traduc’d by odious ballads: my maiden’s name

Sear’d otherwise; nay worse—if worse—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, virtue, 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.

Hel.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.

Hel.But will you make it even?

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

Hel.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.