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All's Well That Ends Well

All's Well That Ends Well Translation Act 1, Scene 1

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Enter BERTRAM, the COUNTESS of Rousillon, HELENA, and LAFEU, all in black

COUNTESS

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

COUNTESS

In saying goodbye to my son, it's like I'm losing another husband.

BERTRAM

And I in going, madam, weep o'er my father's deathanew: but I must attend his majesty's command, towhom I am now in ward, evermore in subjection.

BERTRAM

And for me, in leaving, mother, I mourn my father's death all over again, but I must serve at the king's command, since I am now his subject and eternally in servitude to him. 

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.

LAFEU

The king will be like a husband to you, madam, and like a father to you, sir. If he's so good to all his subjects, you can be sure he'll be good to you. Your family has been so important to him that you'd bring out the generosity in him even if he was miserable—since he is generous, there's no way he won't share that kindness with you.

COUNTESS

What hope is there of his majesty's amendment?

COUNTESS

How likely is it that his majesty will recover?

LAFEU

He hath abandoned his physicians, madam; under whose practises he hath persecuted time with hope, and finds no other advantage in the process but only the losing of hope by time.

LAFEU

He's given up on his doctors, madam. He's wasted a lot of time and hope following their orders, and all he's getting out of it is gradually losing hope over 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.

COUNTESS

[Gesturing to HELENA] This young woman had a father—oh, that word "had!" What a sad word it is!—and his skill was only outshined by his goodness. If he'd had the chance, he could have made men immortal. Death would have been out of business. If only he were living now, for the king's sake! I think he would cure the king's illness. 

LAFEU

How called you the man you speak of, madam?

LAFEU

What was the name of this man you speak of, madam?

COUNTESS

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

COUNTESS

He was famous in his line of work, sir, and he absolutely deserved that fame: 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 lived still, if knowledge could be set up against mortality.

LAFEU

He was excellent indeed, madam. The king only recently was talking admiringly and sadly about him. Narbon had enough skill to keep himself alive, if only you could fight mortality with brilliance. 

BERTRAM

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

BERTRAM

What exactly is the king's sickness, my good lord?

LAFEU

A fistula, my lord.

LAFEU

A fistula, my lord. 

BERTRAM

I heard not of it before.

BERTRAM

I haven't heard of that before. 

LAFEU

I would it were not notorious. Was this gentlewomanthe daughter of Gerard de Narbon?

LAFEU

Don't let the word get out. So this woman was 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.

COUNTESS

His only child, my lord, and left to my care. I have high hopes that she'll live up to the education she's received. She got her lovely personality from her father—that makes good-looking women even better-looking. If a sinful mind accompanies a woman with many skills, those skills are praiseworthy but also regrettable—they're virtues but also traitors. In Helena, though, these virtues are stronger because she is so pure. She gets her honesty from her father and earns her goodness herself. 

LAFEU

Your commendations, madam, get from her tears.

LAFEU

I can see the proof of your praises in her tears, madam.  

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 have it.

COUNTESS

It's the best salt water a maiden can wash her praises in. As soon as she remembers her father, the cruelty of her sorrow takes all the joy out of her cheeks. No more of this, Helena. Come on, no more. You don't want people to think that you're performing sorrow rather than genuinely feeling it. 

HELENA

I do affect a sorrow indeed, but I have it too.

HELENA

I do perform my sorrow, but I genuinely feel it too. 

LAFEU

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

LAFEU

Moderate mourning is what we owe to the dead, but excessive grief is an enemy to the living. 

COUNTESS

If the living be enemy to the grief, the excessmakes it soon mortal.

COUNTESS

If the living is an enemy to grief, too much grief will kill the mourners. 

BERTRAM

Madam, I desire your holy wishes.

BERTRAM

Madam, I desire your blessing. 

LAFEU

How understand we that?

LAFEU

What should we make of 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 cheque'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.

COUNTESS

Be blessed, Bertram, and follow your father in behavior as well as in looks! Your blood and your manners are fighting for power inside of you, so let your goodness take the side of your noble blood! Be good to all, trust a few, don't wrong anyone. Win over your enemies by holding power, not by abusing it, and value your friends as much as you value your own life. Be scolded for being silent but don't talk so much that you make yourself a nuisance. Otherwise, I hope you'll be blessed with whatever heaven wants to supply you with, to make you better and to answer my prayers! Farewell, my lord. 

[To LAFEU] He's an untrained nobleman. Advise him, my lord. 

LAFEU

He cannot want the bestThat shall attend his love.

LAFEU

He'll have only the best advice from me. 

COUNTESS

Heaven bless him! Farewell, Bertram.

COUNTESS

Heaven bless him! Farewell, Bertram. 

Exit

BERTRAM

[To HELENA] The best wishes that can be forged inyour thoughts be servants to you! Be comfortableto my mother, your mistress, and make much of her.

BERTRAM

[To HELENA] I wish the best for you that you can imagine! Take care of my mother, your mistress, and keep her well. 

LAFEU

Farewell, pretty lady: you must hold the credit ofyour father.

LAFEU

Farewell, pretty lady: you must maintain the reputation 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. 'Twere 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 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 reliques. Who comes here?

HELENA

Oh, if only that were all! I don't think of my father. And these over-the-top tears honor his memory more than the tears I genuinely shed for him. What was he like? I have forgot him. My imagination thinks not of any face but Bertram's. I am ruined. There's no point in being alive, none, if Bertram is away. What terrible luck that I should love a bright star and want to marry it. He is so high above me. I must be comforted by the bright radiance he gives off and the light emanating from him, for I can't be close to him. Loving someone so far above my station will be fatal to my love. The deer that wants to mate with the lion must die in the process. It was lovely, though torturous, to see him every hour, to sit and draw his arched eyebrows, his hawklike eye, his curls, on the drawing-table of my heart. My heart knows too well every line and feature of his sweet face. But now he's gone, and my idol-worshipping love must cling to the things he's left behind. Who comes here?

Enter PAROLLES

HELENA

[Aside] 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 fixed evils sit so fit in him, That they take place, when virtue's steely bones Look bleak i' the cold wind: withal, full oft we see Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.

HELENA

[To herself] Here's one that accompanies him. I love this man for Bertram's sake, but, at the same time, I know that he's a notorious liar, pretty much a fool, completely a coward. These evils are so engrained in him that they stay firm even when virtue's own firmness wavers in the cold wind. Moreover, extreme foolishness often becomes more powerful than sturdy wisdom. 

PAROLLES

Save you, fair queen!

PAROLLES

God be with you, beautiful queen! 

HELENA

And you, monarch!

HELENA

And you, monarch! 

PAROLLES

No.

PAROLLES

No. 

HELENA

And no.

HELENA

And no. 

PAROLLES

Are you meditating on virginity?

PAROLLES

Are you thinking about virginity?

HELENA

Ay. You have some stain of soldier in you: let meask you a question. Man is enemy to virginity; howmay we barricado it against him?

HELENA

Yes. You have some hint of soldier about you: let me ask you a question. Man is the enemy of virginity: how can we barricade it up against him?

PAROLLES

Keep him out.

PAROLLES

Keep him out. 

HELENA

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

HELENA

But he attacks, and our virginity, though brave, is weak in defense. Share with us some warrior tips for resistance. 

PAROLLES

There is none: man, sitting down before you, willundermine you and blow you up.

PAROLLES

There's no resistance. Man, sitting down in front of you, will conquer you and blow you up.  

HELENA

Bless our poor virginity from underminers andblowers up! Is there no military policy, howvirgins might blow up men?

HELENA

Bless our poor virginity and keep it safe from conquerers and blower-uppers! Is there no military policy on how virgins could 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 't!

PAROLLES

When virginity gets blown down, men will quickly be blown up. Indeed, in blowing him down again, your fortified city's already been lost by the fracture that you yourselves have made. It's not right under nature's laws to preserve your virginity. Loss of virginity leads to a population increase and no virgins have ever been born until their mothers lost their virginity first. The stuff you were made of is material used to make more virgins. Once you've lost your virginity, you can make ten more virgins. By keeping your virginity forever, no more virgins will be made. It's too cold a companion—get rid of it! 

HELENA

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

HELENA

I will stick with it a little bit longer even if it means 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 year it will make itself ten, which is a goodly increase; and the principal itself not much the worse: away with 't!

PAROLLES

There's no argument in favor of it. It's against the laws of nature. To speak out in favor of virginity is to accuse your mothers of behaving badly which is unacceptable disobedience. A virgin is like a man who hangs himself, because virginity should kill itself and should therefore, like a suicide victim, be buried far outside  holy ground as something that has committed a crime against nature. Virginity breeds mites like a cheese does, and, just like a cheese, grows moldy, rots, and dies, like it's eating itself. Besides, virginity is silly, proud, lazy, made of self-love, which is the most forbidden sin in the Bible. Don't keep your virginity; no matter what you'll lose out this way. Get rid of it! Within ten years, it will bring you ten babies, which is a good increase, and the original body itself won't be much the worse for wear. Away with it! 

HELENA

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

HELENA

How might somebody lose it as she pleases, sir?

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 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 drily; marry, 'tis a withered pear; it was formerly better; marry, yet 'tis a withered pear: will you anything withit?

PAROLLES

Let me see. Well, unfortunately, you'll have to like a man you've never liked before. It's merchandise that will lose its shine if it doesn't get used. The longer you keep it, the less it's worth. Get rid of it while you can still sell it. You'd better act while the clock's still ticking. Virginity, like an old nobleman, wears a cap that's out of fashion: it looks nice, but it doesn't fit, just like the brooch or the tooth-pick, which are completely out of fashion these days. You'd do better to cook your date in your pie or porridge than in your cheek, and your virginity, your old virginity, is like one of our withered French pears. It looks ill, it tastes dry. Indeed, it is a withered pear. It used to be better, but it's still a withered pear: will you do 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—

HELENA

I'm not giving it up just yet. At court, your master will have a thousand relationships. A mother and a mistress and a friend, a phoenix, a captain, and an enemy, a guide, a goddess, and a sovereign, a counsellor, a traitress, and a dear loved one. His humble ambition, his proud humility, his jarring harmony, and his dissonant sweetness, his faith, his sweet misfortune, and lots of pretty, silly nicknames that blind Cupid might have given at a christening. Now shall he—I know not what he shall. God protect him! The court's a good place to get an education, and he's someone—

PAROLLES

What one, i' faith?

PAROLLES

Someone what, pray tell?

HELENA

That I wish well. 'Tis pity—

HELENA

Someone who I wish all the best. It's a pity—

PAROLLES

What's pity?

PAROLLES

What's a 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 Return us thanks.

HELENA

That wishing someone well is just a thought and not something physical that could be felt. If only we, the poorer folk, whose more unlucky fates leave us just with our wishes, could go along with our friends, and show the love that we must keep to ourselves and that never earns us any gratitude. 

Enter Page

PAGE

Monsieur Parolles, my lord calls for you.

PAGE

Monsieur Parolles, my lord is calling for you. 

Exit

PAROLLES

Little Helen, farewell; if I can remember thee, Iwill think of thee at court.

PAROLLES

Little Helena, farewell. If I can remember you, I'll think of you at court. 

HELENA

Monsieur Parolles, you were born under a charitable star.

HELENA

Monsieur Parolles, you were born under a generous star. 

PAROLLES

Under Mars, I.

PAROLLES

I was born under Mars, the god of war. 

HELENA

I especially think, under Mars.

HELENA

I especially think you were born under Mars. 

PAROLLES

Why under Mars?

PAROLLES

Why under Mars?

HELENA

The wars have so kept you under that you must needsbe born under Mars.

HELENA

You've been so subservient to the wars that you must have been born under Mars. 

PAROLLES

When he was predominant.

PAROLLES

When the star was ascending. 

HELENA

When he was retrograde, I think, rather.

HELENA

When he was descending, I think, actually. 

PAROLLES

Why think you so?

PAROLLES

Why do you think so?

HELENA

You go so much backward when you fight.

HELENA

You tend to flee backwards when you fight. 

PAROLLES

That's for advantage.

PAROLLES

That's to gain advantage. 

HELENA

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

HELENA

So is running away, when fear leads you to flee to safety. But the mixture of bravery and fear has helped you develop an impressively swift flight and it suits you well. 

PAROLLES

I am so full of businesses, 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.

PAROLLES

I am so busy, I cannot answer you fully. I will come back the perfect nobleman, and, when I've done so, I will teach you what I've learned so that you can keep up with a nobleman's advice and understand the guidance given to you. Otherwise, you'll die in your ungratefulness and your ignorance will kill you: farewell. When you have free time, say your prayers. When you don't have time, just remember your friends. Get a good husband for yourself and use him as he uses you. So, farewell. 

Exit

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.

HELENA

Often, we find the solution in ourselves, even though we say they came from heaven. For all we say that heavens control our fates, we have free will—that talk of fate only slows us down when we ourselves are lazy in getting what we want. What power is it that makes me love someone so high up, that makes me see his wondrousness but doesn't give me the ability to gain his love? Even people who are on opposite ends of the social spectrum can be brought together by nature and their mutual attraction, and they can kiss like they were born equals. Of course, unusually difficult attempts will seem impossible to people who think rationally and rigidly about their limitations and suppose that they can't do things that others have managed to do before them. Who's ever failed to win her love when she successfully showed her merit? The king's disease—I might be misguided in this plan, but my intentions are firm and I'll stick to them. 

Exit

All s well that ends well
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Dan rubins
About the Translator: Dan Rubins

Dan Rubins is currently completing his MA in Shakespeare Studies from King's College London/Shakespeare's Globe and will be pursuing an MA in Elementary Inclusive Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. He holds a BA in English from Yale University. His Masters dissertation focuses on announcements of death in early modern drama, and other research areas of interest include Shakespeare in transformative contexts (prisons, schools, etc.) and rhyme in Shakespeare's dramatic texts. In addition to teaching and learning, he also writes theatre reviews (often of Shakespeare productions), composes musical theatre (frequently with Shakespearean inspirations), and sings in choirs (occasionally in Shakespearean choral settings).