All's Well that Ends Well

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The Countess of Rossillion Character Analysis

The mother of Bertram, who also essentially adopts Helen after her father’s death. She is kind and supportive to Helen, and is not upset when she learns of Helen’s love for her son. She becomes increasingly upset with Bertram when he abandons and dishonors Helen, even claiming that he is no longer her son at one point.

The Countess of Rossillion Quotes in All's Well that Ends Well

The All's Well that Ends Well quotes below are all either spoken by The Countess of Rossillion or refer to The Countess of Rossillion. 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 3 Quotes

Countess:
Tell me thy reason why thou wilt marry.

Fool:
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?

Related Characters: The Countess of Rossillion (speaker), The Fool (speaker)
Page Number: 1.3.28-32
Explanation and Analysis:

In another comic interlude, the Countess, Bertram's mother, exchanges jokes with her fool as the two discuss the topic of marriage. The Fool, who claims that he means to marry, says that he will do so because his body "requires it"--basically, he wishes to marry in order to engage in sexual intercourse.

The Fool's retorts go against the generally accepted idea that marriage is a holy institution, driven by a combination of love and piety. His view, however joking, is not without merit: people in All's Well often enter into relationships for reasons other than love, and the connection between marriage and sex is both stronger and more complicated than the characters want to admit. 

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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 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. 

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The Countess of Rossillion Character Timeline in All's Well that Ends Well

The timeline below shows where the character The Countess of Rossillion 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
...ward he will be because his own father has recently passed away. His mother, the countess of Rossillion, is sad to see her son leave. A nobleman named Lafew says that... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
The countess mentions that a young woman under her care had a father who was such a... (full context)
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 her sorrow over her father’s... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
The countess bids farewell to her son, and gives Bertram some motherly advice to be virtuous, careful,... (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... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Social Classes Theme Icon
...his wife loves him, and is his 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... (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... (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 her. Helen is... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Helen begs the countess’ pardon, and finally admits that she does love Bertram. She asks the countess not to... (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... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...the king, if she were given the chance to go to Paris. She asks the countess’ permission to go, and the countess give her permission. She tells Helen that she will... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Social Classes Theme Icon
At Rossillion, the countess orders the fool to bear a letter to the royal court. The fool speaks contemptuously... (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 well. The fool... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Social Classes Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
At Rossillion, the fool delivers a letter from Bertram to the countess. He says that Bertram appeared melancholy, and the countess opens the letter to see what... (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... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
The countess says that she is saddened by all this, and says she no longer considers 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... (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... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
Social Classes Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
In Rossillion, the countess has just learned of Helen’s apparent death. She and Lafew lament the death of “the... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
After the fool leaves, Lafew tells the countess that he has spoken to the king about Bertram possibly marrying his (Lafew’s) daughter, now... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Speaking to the countess, the king laments the death of Helen and says that Bertram didn’t realize how good... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
...that he is lying. She produces his ancestral ring as proof of their union. The countess recognizes the ring and, seeing it as definitive proof, exclaims, “this is his wife.” (full context)