All's Well that Ends Well

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Helen Character Analysis

The protagonist of the play, Helen is strong-willed and clever. She is a remarkably active and powerful female character in a society where women are assumed to be weak and inferior to men. She takes her fate into her own hands by boldly betting her own life on her ability to cure the king’s illness, and thereby winning Bertram’s hand in marriage—against his will. She promises to be an obedient and submissive wife to Bertram, but when he betrays and abandons her, she devises a clever scheme to win him back: she has Diana pretend to agree to sleep with him and then takes Diana’s place in bed, thereby getting the consummation of her marriage that Bertram denied her. After faking her own death, she returns to Rossillion at the very end of the play to reveal the truth about Bertram and Diana’s relationship and to show Bertram that she has fulfilled his requirements for being his wife.

Helen Quotes in All's Well that Ends Well

The All's Well that Ends Well quotes below are all either spoken by Helen or refer to Helen. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of All's Well that Ends Well published in 2006.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

My imagination
Carries no favor in ‘t but Bertram’s.
I am undone. There is no living, none,
If Bertram be away. ‘Twere all one
That I should love a bright particular star
And think to wed it, he is so above me.

Related Characters: Helen (speaker), Bertram
Page Number: 1.1.87-92
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote brings up a force that will move the action forward for the entire play: Helen's desperate and unremitting love for Bertram. At this moment, however, Helen firmly believes that she loves hopelessly: he is as far away from her as a "star" is from humans, because of his social class and noble birth.

Despite Helen's pessimism, she still cannot rid herself of her passion. Instead, she tells us, "There is no living...If Bertram be away." This statement will remain true as the play continues--Helen simply cannot bear to be away from Bertram, and will follow him, no matter the cost. 

These opposing emotions create a consistent sense of conflict within Helen. She assumes that she does not deserve Bertram, yet cannot help but love him. The characters around Helen (and the audience) take quite a different attitude, however: to them, it is the proud and shallow Bertram who is unworthy of Helen's love. 

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Parolles:
Are you meditating on virginity?

Helen:
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.

Helen:
But he assails, and our virginity, though valiant in the defense, 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.

Helen:
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.

Related Characters: Helen (speaker), Parolles (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.115-129
Explanation and Analysis:

After Helen's mournful speech about Bertram, her next dialogue with Parolles strikes a very different tone, as they banter about the subject of virginity. Although their retorts may seem simply bawdy and comic, they actually bring up a vital theme: the close connection, within All's Well That Ends Well, between love and war.

As Parolles and Helen discuss relations between men and women, they consistently use warlike metaphors to express themselves. In fact, they describe the entire act of losing one's virginity as a siege that ends only when (presumably female) virginity is at last "blown down." 

Although she claims to be a meek and modest maiden, it is important to note that Helen is not shocked or frightened by Parolles' vulgar talk. Instead, she meets him on his own turf, challenging his wit with sharp replies of her own, and proving herself a master of metaphor and language. 

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. . . . 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 anything with it?

Related Characters: Parolles (speaker), Helen
Page Number: 1.1.161-170
Explanation and Analysis:

As he continues his banter about virginity with Helen, Parolles launches into a long explanation of the definition of virginity. Trying to explain to Helen why maidens should attempt to lose their virginities, he explains that virginity is like "an old courtier" who is out of fashion. He then compares it to "a withered pear" that "looks ill" and is dry. Finally, he asks Helen why she wants to keep it.

In this speech, we see how contradictory the idea of virginity is in this play, and how obsessed the characters are with it. On one hand, characters like Parolles selfishly want women to give up their virginities. On the other hand, unmarried women who are not virgins are thought of as little better than prostitutes. For a poor, unmarried woman like Helen, the situation appears to be lose-lose. 

Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

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

Related Characters: Helen (speaker), Bertram
Page Number: 1.3.159-165
Explanation and Analysis:

Helen converses with the Countess, who--secretly knowing of Helen's love for Bertram--calls herself Helen's "mother." Helen, however, reacts with violent dismay: she explains that however close she may be to the family, she could never refer to Bertram as her "brother."

At least on the surface, Helen claims that her upset comes from her own "humble" station. She thinks of Bertram as her "master" and her "lord." She is not his equal, and therefore could never be related to him. Her birth is too low and his too high for them to be a part of the same family.

Of course, on another level, Helen's immediate denial of a sibling relationship between herself and Bertram springs from her desperate romantic love for him. She shies away from thinking of him as her brother because that would make her love incestuous, and therefore even more sinful than she already believes it to be (since she yearns for one of higher birth than herself). 

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
Emboweled of their doctrine have left off
The danger to itself?

Related Characters: The Countess of Rossillion (speaker), Helen, The King of France
Page Number: 1.3.249-256
Explanation and Analysis:

During her conversation with the Countess, Helen, a doctor's daughter, decides to travel to Paris and attempt to cure the King of his long, mysterious illness. The Countess, however, initially reacts with skepticism. She reminds Helen that everyone considers the king's condition hopeless, and that they are unlikely to change their minds based on the opinions of "a poor unlearned virgin." 

The Countess's comment reveals the many obstacles that Helen faces in her quest for social advancement. First, she is poor and of low birth; although her father was a well-respected doctor, their family is not noble. Second, she is a young, unmarried woman, and therefore inhabits a very low status within this patriarchal society. Although the Countess's words are not discouraging, they are also not unwise: it is highly unlikely that the king and his counselors will trust someone like Helen, at least at first. 

Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

Lafew:
I have seen a medicine
That’s able to breathe life into a stone,
Quicken a rock, and make you dance canary
With sprightly fire and motion, whose simple touch
Is powerful to araise King Pippen, nay,
To give great Charlemagne a pen in ‘s hand
And write to her a love line.

King:
What “her” is this?

Lafew:
Why, Doctor She. My lord, there’s one arrived,
If you will see her. Now, by my faith and honor,
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 amazed 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 Lafew,
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.

Related Characters: The King of France (speaker), Parolles (speaker), Helen
Page Number: 2.1.84-104
Explanation and Analysis:

The high-ranking lord Lafew has decided to help Helen, and so makes her presence known to the King, telling him that there is a "Doctor She" who can even raise the dead, and who has amazed him with "her sex, her years...Wisdom, and constancy." Although Lafew can hardly believe what he is saying, the King responds positively, saying that he will meet with Helen either to wonder at her with Lafew, or to cure his friend of his (presumably falsely inspired) amazement. 

The King and Lafew's surprise makes a great deal of sense, given the classist, sexist, hierarchical nature of their court. Young women like Helen were not supposed to have "wisdom" or learning, and yet she seems to possess a "medicine" so powerful that it could raise the King's famous ancestors. Despite their skepticism and the rigid hierarchies of their society, though, both men are open to the idea of seeing Helen, proof of their desperation, given the King's long illness. 

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.

Related Characters: Helen (speaker)
Page Number: 2.1.214-221
Explanation and Analysis:

With the King having consented to undergo Helen's treatment, he asks her how he can reward her if her cure is successful. It is here that Helen's true ambition is finally revealed: she asks that she may pick whatever husband she desires from one of the noblemen of France.

Helen's tactics here are incredibly complex and astute. It is a daring thing for any woman in this society—let alone a lowborn one like Helen—to ask to choose her own husband. Additionally we, the audience, know that she has one specific noble husband in mind: Bertram.

Even as she makes her audacious request, though, Helen maintains her language of humility and submissiveness. She makes clear to the King that it will be a display of power for him to "bestow" one of his "vassal[s]" on someone as unworthy as she is. She repeatedly reminds the King how "low and humble" she is, and asks him to pardon her from "the arrogance" of her wish. 

Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

'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 dislikest,
A poor physician's daughter, thou dislikest
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 foregoers: the mere word's a slave
Debosh'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.

Related Characters: The King of France (speaker), Helen, Bertram
Page Number: 2.3.128-155
Explanation and Analysis:

After being chosen by Helen, Bertram is furious, stating that he can never love her. The King, however, convinced of Helen's worthiness, grows angry with Bertram. In a long tirade, he explains that Bertram "distain'st" only Helen's lack of title and wealth, which he, as the King, can fix. He goes on to praise Helen's virtue, attempting to explain to Bertram the value of that attribute. He continues by asserting that Helena is rich in those qualities that only nature can bestow: "She is young, wise, and fair." He ends by telling Bertram that "scorn" is not an honorable emotion, and reminds the young lord that he can give Helen "honour and wealth," while only she herself can provide virtue and beauty. 

The King's speech is a complex one, revealing the complex nature of class within this society. Although Helen is lowborn, the King recognizes her noble qualities, and wishes to reward her with wealth and a title to match. Bertram, however, cannot see past Helen's low birth; he is moved only by the King's power and veiled threats, not by the logical argument that he hears proposed. 

This passage also reveals the transactional nature of marriage in this society. The King firmly believes that beauty, wealth, and equality of birth are enough to make a happy marriage. Further, he believes that Bertram should marry whomever he, the King, commands. This view even further complicates the already thorny subject of marriage within the play. 

Act 2, Scene 5 Quotes

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

Related Characters: Helen (speaker), Bertram
Page Number: 2.5.77-78
Explanation and Analysis:

As Bertram prepares to leave, a dismayed Helen comes to watch him depart. Although they are man and wife, they have not consummated their relationship, and it is plain to Helen that her husband is determined to leave her. That said, she does not attempt to stop him. Instead, she only reminds him that she is his "most obedient servant" and that she will do whatever he says. 

Once again, we witness the complexity of Helen. Despite being a strong and independent female character, she also appears completely submissive to her careless and cruel husband. In other words, she is determined to be the perfect wife, no matter how badly Bertram may treat her. This submission is born both from the societal expectations that wives be docile and obedient, and also from Helen's deep love for Bertram, and her desire to please him no matter what. 

Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Bertram (speaker), Helen, The Countess of Rossillion, The King of France
Page Number: 3.2.19-22
Explanation and Analysis:

Helen travels back to Rossillion to the countess, where she gives her new mother-in-law a letter from Bertram. Within it, he explains that Helen has cured the King, but that he considers himself "undone" by their marriage. He goes on to say that while they are married, he has not slept with his wife, and intends never to do so. 

This note reveals the cruelty and shallowness behind the noble Bertram. Although he may be highborn, handsome, and brave, he acts callously towards Helen, the woman who loves him most in the world, and even goes so far as to deceive her in order to get what he wants. Further, he even ridicules her to the Countess, who loves Helen as much as (or even more than) her own child. 

It is also notable how obsessed Bertram is with the idea of sex as it relates to marriage. As long as Helen remains a virgin, Bertram believes, they are not truly man and wife. This idea will come back to haunt him as the play continues. 

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.”

Related Characters: Bertram (speaker), Helen
Related Symbols: Bertram’s Ring
Page Number: 3.2.58-62
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Helen reads aloud a letter from Bertram, in which he tells her that they will only be married when she can get "the ring upon my finger," and prove that she is pregnant with his child. To Bertram, of course, these requirements seem like impossibilities. As far as he is concerned, he will never give Helen a ring (implying his loyalty to and love for her), nor will he ever sleep with her, making a child out of the question. 

Helen, however, takes the letter in a different way. After all, she has already cured the King of a deadly illness and married a man considered far above her in terms of wealth and nobility; it makes sense that she would believe Bertram's requirements to be merely difficult, but not impossible, tasks. This difference in understanding highlights the gap between Bertram's shallow arrogance and Helen's determined, can-do attitude.

At the same time, this passage also underlines Bertram's equation of sex, marriage, and love. He believes that his marriage to Helen will never be real unless they consummate it--and so Helen decides to challenge him on his own terms. 

Act 3, Scene 7 Quotes

Helen:
The Count he woos your daughter;
Lays down his wanton siege before her beauty,
Resolved 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.

Helen:
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.

Related Characters: Helen (speaker), The Widow (speaker), Bertram, Diana
Related Symbols: Bertram’s Ring
Page Number: 3.7.20-38
Explanation and Analysis:

Back at the Widow's home, Helen reveals herself as Bertram's scorned wife. Rather than hating Diana for having attracted Bertram's attention, Helen instead has a much craftier plan: she will use Bertram's attraction to Diana in order to gain both his ring and his child, fooling him into thinking that he is pledging his love to and sleeping with Diana, when in fact Helen has taken her place.

This passage yet again shows the complexity of Helen's thinking. She does not hate Diana, but instead views the other woman as a means by which she can eventually be reunited with her husband (and fulfill his previous, seemingly impossible demands). She assures the Widow that Bertram will give the ring to Diana, despite his noble blood and the ring's importance to his family, knowing all too well that her faithless husband is driven by his desire rather than his judgment. 

Helen also tells both the Widow and the audience that her plot, which will culminate in Bertram sleeping with and impregnating her, is "lawful," because she is in fact Bertram's wife. Deceit and trickery, in Helen's mind, are utterly justified when they are carried out on behalf of the "lawful" bonds of matrimony. 

Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

Upon his many protestations to marry me when his wife was dead, I blush to say it, he won me. Now is the Count Rossillion a widower, his vows are forfeited to me and my honor’s paid to him. He stole from Florence, taking no leave, and I follow him to his country for justice. Grant it me, O king. In you it best lies. Otherwise a seducer flourishes, and a poor maid is undone.

Related Characters: Diana (speaker), Helen, Bertram
Page Number: 5.3.159-166
Explanation and Analysis:

As Helen's plot continues to unfold, Diana and her mother appear before the King, and accuse Bertram: they say that he promised to marry her, took her virginity, and abandoned her. Here Diana describes how Bertram supposedly fooled her into giving up her honor, only to leave without her knowledge. She pleads for justice, and asks for Bertram to be punished.

This is a complex speech, full of both pathos and irony. On one hand, Bertram does indeed think that he committed all these crimes (and is now denying it). On the other hand, the woman he actually slept with is not Diana, but Helen, his "lawful" wife. Essentially, Diana and Helen have banded together both to reunite Helen with Bertram (however unwilling he may be) and to punish him for his deceitful, unfaithful behavior.

As is standard for All's Well, Diana also takes care to portray Bertram as the aggressor, and herself as the conquered victim. Once again, love and war come together, highlighting both traditional gender roles (and their sometimes-comic reversals) and the characters' individual views on the subject. 

If she, my liege, can make me know this clearly,
I’ll love her dearly, ever, ever dearly.

Related Characters: Bertram (speaker), Helen
Page Number: 5.3.360-361
Explanation and Analysis:

At last, with her plot complete, Helen emerges. Not only is she alive (to the surprise of all but the Widow and Diana), but she is also in possession of Bertram's ring, and pregnant with his child. The entire court is shocked by this apparent miracle, but none more so than Bertram, who has been fooled into sleeping with his own wife (an act in which he vowed never to engage).

In proving that Bertram has taken her virginity and impregnated her, Helen has essentially proved the validity of their marriage to all--including Bertram himself. She has tied herself to him forever, and has proven that their lawful connection is a physical one as well. In short, she has used society's obsession with sex, marriage, and virginity to get exactly what she wanted: the man of her dreams. 

Of course, Helen has also done so through a great deal of deceit--but Bertram now seems past caring. At this point in the plot, he wishes only for understanding and resolution, and so vows to "love" his formerly hated wife "dearly" if she will explain to him how these events came to pass. Although this resolution may seem weak and suspect, it is the best that the characters of the dark and complex All's Well can manage. 

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Helen Character Timeline in All's Well that Ends Well

The timeline below shows where the character Helen appears in All's Well that Ends Well. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
The doctor’s daughter, named Helen, is crying while the countess and Lafew talk, and the countess tells Helen to restrain... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
...advice to be virtuous, careful, and honest. She leaves, and after Lafew says goodbye to Helen, he leaves with Bertram. All alone, Helen reveals that her tears are not over her... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Bertram’s friend Parolles enters. Helen says to herself that she knows Parolles to be “a great way fool, solely a... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
...virginity is “too cold a companion,” and says that women should try to lose it. Helen disagrees, and Parolles speaks further against virginity. He says that to uphold virginity is to... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Helen remains insistent that she will maintain her virginity, and then speaks of Bertram. She compliments... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Helen jokes that Parolles must have been born when Mars was in retrograde (moving in reverse),... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
...he is now ill and weak. He asks Bertram about the famous physician of Rossillion (Helen’s father), who died six months ago. He says that if this doctor were still alive,... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Back at Rossillion, the countess asks a steward about Helen. She sees that a fool (a servant whose job is to entertain the court) is... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Social Classes Theme Icon
...friend. Tired of the fool’s coarse jokes, the countess tells him to leave and tell Helen that she wants to speak to her. On his way out, the fool sings a... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Social Classes Theme Icon
The steward and the countess discuss Helen, and the steward reveals that he has overheard Helen talking of her love for Bertram,... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Helen greets the countess, and the countess tells her that she is like a mother to... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Helen begs the countess’ pardon, and finally admits that she does love Bertram. She asks the... (full context)
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The countess asks Helen if she has lately been planning to go to Paris, to the royal court. Helen... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Helen says that the medicines were made by her father, the famous doctor, and she is... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...doctor, and he agrees, if only to marvel at the boldness of the young girl. Helen enters and Lafew leaves the king and her alone. (full context)
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Helen tells the king who her father was, and the king says that he knew of... (full context)
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Helen says she will not force the medicine on the king, and the king again thanks... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The king asks Helen how quickly she thinks she can heal him, and she answers that he will be... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...is the work of the “very hand of heaven,” acting through the weak “minister” of Helen. The king then enters with Helen, and he tells her that he is ready to... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Social Classes Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The king has all his noblemen line up and tells Helen to make her choice. Helen speaks to the noblemen and tells them all that she... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Bertram is immediately upset, and does not want to marry Helen. The king tells him that Helen has “raised” him from his “sickly bed,” and demands... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
The king even promises Bertram to supply Helen’s dowry from his own wealth, but Bertram is stubborn, and says that he “cannot love... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Social Classes Theme Icon
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
...about how he will beat the old man. Lafew returns and announces that Bertram and Helen have been married. (full context)
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
...leaves. A very distraught Bertram enters and tells Parolles that he will not sleep with Helen, even though he was forced to marry her. He plans to go to the wars... (full context)
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Bertram says that he will send Helen to Rossillion to wait for him, but plans never to return there. Parolles asks if... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Social Classes Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Helen receives the countess’ letter from the fool, and asks the fool whether the countess is... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
...says that he believes Parolles is a valiant soldier. Parolles enters and informs Bertram that Helen will obey his wishes and leave for Rossillion immediately. (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Helen enters and tells Bertram that she has made arrangements for her departure from the royal... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Social Classes Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
...the letter, in which Bertram tells her that he has resolved never to sleep with Helen, and has run away from Rossillion for good. The countess says that his behavior is... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Social Classes Theme Icon
The fool returns and tells the countess that Bertram has run away. He says that Helen can tell her more, and leaves as Helen enters with a nobleman. The countess asks... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
...saddened by all this, and says she no longer considers Bertram to be her son. Helen reads more of Bertram’s letter, in which he says, “Till I have no wife I... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Alone, Helen decides that she will leave France. She worries that it is her fault that Bertram... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
Social Classes Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Back at Rossillion, the countess finds a letter that Helen has left for her. In the letter, Helen tells the countess that she has left... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
The countess is sad at Helen’s departure and furious with her son, who she calls an “unworthy husband.” She orders for... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 5
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Helen enters, and the widow says that she will let this pilgrim stay at her house... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Helen says that she believes Parolles’ assessment of the wife’s character and says the wife is... (full context)
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
...says that he is leading Bertram astray. The troops pass by, and the widow tells Helen to follow her to her house for the night. Helen thanks her, and asks for... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 7
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At the Florentine widow’s home, Helen tries to persuade the widow that she is actually Bertram’s wife. The widow says she... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
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Helen plans to have Diana appear to give into Bertram’s advances and to agree to sleep... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
...she is cold to rebuff his advances, and says that he was forced to marry Helen but does not love her. He promises to love Diana and give her “all rights... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
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Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
The noblemen discuss Helen, who they say has died during her pilgrimage. They say that Bertram will be “glad”... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
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The next day, Helen journeys with the widow and Diana to go find the king of France in Marseilles.... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
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In Rossillion, the countess has just learned of Helen’s apparent death. She and Lafew lament the death of “the most virtuous gentlewoman that ever... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
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...he has spoken to the king about Bertram possibly marrying his (Lafew’s) daughter, now that Helen is dead. The countess says that she would be happy with such a marriage. Lafew... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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Helen, the widow, and Diana arrive in Marseilles to find the king of France. Helen sees... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
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Speaking to the countess, the king laments the death of Helen and says that Bertram didn’t realize how good of a wife she was. The countess... (full context)
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...Bertram says that he used to wish to marry her, before he was married to Helen. He says that he loved Helen, and the king says that it reflects well on... (full context)
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The king says that there is no use in talking about Helen’s virtues now that she is dead, and asks Bertram to “now forget her,” and marry... (full context)
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Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
...married, but she wouldn’t take the ring back. The king is sure the ring is Helen’s and demands that Bertram “confess ‘twas hers and by what rough enforcement / You got... (full context)
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...“wrapped in dismal thinkings,” and suspects that Bertram may have had something to do with Helen’s death. Just then, the gentleman whom Helen encountered at Marseilles enters and delivers her letter... (full context)
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...will give him his ring back in exchange for hers (the ring that is actually Helen’s). The king asks if Bertram’s story about Helen’s ring being thrown to him out a... (full context)
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...with her, and may have promised her marriage. The king asks Diana how she got Helen’s ring, and Diana says she never bought it, nor was given it, nor borrowed it... (full context)
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...Bertram “got his wife with child,” and says that “one that’s dead is quick,” as Helen enters. (full context)
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Bertram and the king are shocked to see Helen alive. Helen shows Bertram the letter he wrote her long ago in which he said... (full context)
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Lafew starts to cry at seeing that Helen is not dead. The king asks Helen to explain what has happened, and then turns... (full context)