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ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL NOTICE.
THE fable of this play, (written in 1598,) is taken from a novel of which Boccace is the original author; but it is more than probable that our poet read it in a book called The Palace of Pleasure; a collection of novels translated from different authors, by one William Painter, 1566, 4to. Shakspeare has only borrowed from the novel a few leading circumstances in the graver parts of the drama: the comic characters are entirely of his own formation: one of them, Parolles, a boaster and a coward, is the sheet-anchor of the piece. The plot is not sufficiently probable. Some of the scenes are forcibly written, whilst others are impoverished and uninteresting. The moral of the play may be correctly ascertained from Dr. Johnson's estimate of the character of Bertram: "I cannot reconcile my heart to Bertram; a man noble without generosity, and young without truth; who marries Helena as a coward, and leaves her as a profligate: when she is dead, by his unkindness, sneaks home to a second marriage, is accused by a woman whom he has wronged, defends himself by falsehood, and is dismissed to happiness."
SCENE I-Rousillon.-A Room in the
Enter BERTRAM, the COUNTESS of ROUSILLON,
Ber. 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.
Laf. 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.
Count. What hope is there of his majesty's amendment?
Laf. 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
skill was almost as great as his honesty; had it stretched so far, it 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.
Laf. How called you the man you speak of, madam?
Count. He was famous, Sir, in his profession, and it was his great right to be so: Gerard de Narbon.
Laf. He was excellent, indeed, madam; the king very lately spoke of him admiringly, and mourningly: he was skilful enough to have lived still, if knowledge could be set up against mortality.
Ber. What is it, my good lord, the king languishes of?
Laf. A fistula, my lord.
Ber. I heard not of it before.
Laf. I would, it were not notorious.-Was this gentlewoman the daughter of Gerard de Narbon ?
Count. 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; ik
• Qualities of goed breeding and erudition.
her they are the better for their simpleness; | That they take place, when virtue's steely bones she derives her honesty, and achieves her good-Look bleak in the cold wind: withal, full oft
Laf. Your commendations, madam, get from her tears.
Count. '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.
Hel. I do affect a sorrow, indeed, but I have it too.
Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly. Par. Save you, fair queen.
Hel. And you, monarch.
Hel. And no.
Par. Are you meditating on virginity?
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?
Par. Keep him out.
Hel. But he assails; and our virginity, though
Laf. Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the liv-valiant in the defence, yet is weak: unfold to us ing.
Count. If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it soon mortal.
Ber. Madam, I desire your holy wishes.
In manners, as in shape! thy blood and virtue,
That thee may furnish, and my prayers pluck down,
Fall on thy head! Farewell.-My lord,
Laf. He cannot want the best
Count. Heaven bless him!--Farewell, Bertram. [Exit COUNTESS. Ber. The best wishes, that can be forged in your thoughts, [To HELENA] be servants to you !§ Be comfortable to my mother, your mistress, and make much of her.
Laf. Farewell, pretty lady: You must hold the credit of your father.
[Exeunt BERTRAM and LAFEU. Hel. Oh! were that all!-I think not on my father;
And these great tears grace bis remembrance
Than those I shed for him. What was he like?
some warlike resistance.
Par. There is none; man, sitting down before you, will undermine you, and blow you up. Hel. Bless our poor virginity from underminers and blowers up!-Is there no military policy, how virgins might blow up men ?
Par. 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.
Hel. I will stand for't a little, though therefore I die a virgin.
Par. 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 sanctifed 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 selflove, 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't.
Hel. How might one do, Sir, to lose it to her own liking?
Par. 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 tooth-pick, 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 dryly; marry, 'tis a withered pear; it was formerly better; marry, yet, 'tis a withered pear: Will you any thing with it?
Hel. Not my virginity yet.
There shall your master have a thousand loves,
The court's a learning-place ;-and he is one—~~
A quibble on date, which means age, and candied fruit.
Par. Under Mars, I.
Hel. I especially think, under Mars.
Hel. The wars have so kept you under, that you must needs be born under Mars.
Par. When he was predominant.
Hel. When he was retrograde, I think, rather.
Hel. You go so much backward, when you fight.
Par. That's for advantage.
Hel. 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.
1 Lord. His love and wisdom,
King. He hath arm'd our answer,
2 Lord. It may well serve
A nursery to our gentry, who are sick
King. What's he comes here ?
Enter BERTRAM, LAFEU, and PAROLLES.
1 Lord. It is the count Rousillon, my good
May'st thou inherit too! Welcome to Paris.
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 To talk of your good father: In his youth Par. I am so full of businesses, I cannot answer He had the wit, which I can well observe thee acutely I will return perfect courtier; in To-day in our young lords; but they may jest, the which, my instruction shall serve to natur-Till their own scorn return to them unnoted, alize thee, so thou wilt be capable of a cour- Ere they can hide their levity in honour. tier's counsel, and understand what advice shall So like a courtier, contempt not bitterness thrust upon thee; else thou diest in thine un- Were in his pride or sharpness; if they were, thankfulness, and thine ignorance makes thee His equal had awak'd them; and his honour, away: farewell. When thou hast leisure, say Clock to itself, knew the true minute when thy prayers; when thou hast none, remember Exception bid him speak, and, at this time, thy friends: get thee a good husband, and use His tongue obey'd his hand: who were below him as he uses thee: so farewell. [Exit. He used as creatures of another place; [him And bow'd his eminent top to their low ranks, Making them proud of his humility,
Hel. Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
That makes me see, and cannot feed mine eye?
In their poor praise he humbled: Such a man
Ber. His good remembrance, Sir,
King. 'Would, I were with him! He would
(Methinks, I hear him now; his plausive words
Flourish of Cornets. Enter the KING OF FRANCE, with letters; LORDS and others Mere fathers of their garments; § whose conattending.
Expire before their fashions:--This he wish'd.
Since I nor wax nor honey can bring home,
I quickly were dissolved from my hive,
To give some labourers room.
2 Lord. You are lov'd, Sir;
They, that least end it you, shall lack you
King. I fill a place, I know't.-How long is't,
Since the physician at your father's died?
Ber. Some six months since, my lord.
To repair here signifies to renovate. + His is put for its. t Approbation. Who have no other use of their faculties than to invent new modes of dress.
Lend me an arm; the rest have worn me out
Ber. Thank your majesty. [Exeunt. Flourish.
SCENE 111.-Rousillon.-A Room in the
Enter COUNTESS STEWARD, and CLOWN. * Count. I will now hear what say you of this gentlewoman?
Stew. 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.
Count. 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.
Clo. 'Tis not unknown to you, madam, I am a poor fellow.
Count. Well, Sir,
Clo. 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.
Count. Wilt thou needs be a beggar?
Clo. I do beg your good-will in this case.
Clo. In Isbel's case and mine own.
is no heritage and I think I shall never have the blessing of God, till I have issue of my body; for, they say, bearns are blessings.
Count. Tell me thy reason why thou wilt marry. Clo. My poor body, madam, requires it; I am driven on by the flesh; and he must needs go, that the devil drives.
Count. Is this all your worship's reason? Clo. Faith, madain, I have other holy reasons, such as they are.
Count. May the world know them?
Clo. I have been, madam, a wicked creature, as you and all flesh and blood are; and indeed, I do marry that I may repent.
Count. Get you gone, Sir; I'll talk with yɛn
Stew. May it please you, madam, that be bid Helen come to you; of her I am to speak.
Count. Sirfah, tell my gentlewoman I would speak with her; Helen I mean.
Clo. Was this fair face the cause, quoth
Was this king Priam's joy!
Count. What, one good in ten? you corrupt the song, sirrah.
Clo. 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 tythe-woman, if I were the pai son: One in ten, quoth a'! an we might have a good woman born but every blazing star, or at an earthquake, 'twould mend the lottery well; a man may draw his heart out, ere he pluck one.
Count. You'll be gone, Sir knave, and do as I command you?
Clo. 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.
Count. Well, now. Stew. I know, madam, you love your gentlewoman entirely.
Count. 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 deinand.
Stew. 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 Count. Thy marriage, sooner than thy wicked-to her own ears; she thought, I dare vow for
Clo. I am out of friends, madam; and I hope to have friends for my wife's sake.
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 to be surprised, 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, + iu the loss that may happen, it concerns you something to know it.
Count. Such friends are thine enemies, knave. Clo. You are shallow, madam; e'en 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 inn 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, be that kisses my wife, is my friend. If men could be contented to be what they are, there Count. You have discharged this honestly; were no fear in marriage; for young Charbon keep it to yourself: many likelihoods informed the puritan, and old Poysan the papist, how-me of this before, which hung so tottering in soe'er their hearts are severed in religion, their the balance, that I could neither believe, nor heads are both one, they may joll horns to- misdoubt: Pray you leave me: stall this in gether, like any deer i'the herd. your bosom, and I thank you for your honest care: I will speak with you further anon.
Count. Wilt thou ever be a foul-mouthed and
Clo. A prophet I, madam; and I speak the truth the next way: **
For 1 the ballad will repeat,
Licensed jesters were formerly maintained by every
The nearest way.
1 To be married.