The King of France is ill of a fistula, and feels his age keenly when he is ill.
While refusing for diplomatic reasons to fully support the Florentines in their war with Sienna, he does not stop any of his lords who wish to go to the wars of their own accord from doing so, saving the overly-young such as Bertram. He warns them about Italian women before they go. He was a great friend of Bertram’s father, and is glad to have the young man among his wards. He is half in love with his illness, convinced that he cannot be cured and refusing help once the properly-trained doctors have thrown up their arms. Still, he agrees to see Helena, and to try her cure when she offers her own life should she fail. Being cured, his spirits are more than revived, and he dances around with her. Having absolute power as both sovereign and warder over a number of young lords, he agrees to bestow any one of them that Helena chooses as her husband. He is enraged when Bertram refuses his command to accept her. He is grieved at reports of the lady’s death, but agrees to put the whole incident in the past and pretend that Bertram has never offended him. Seeing Bertram with the ring he gave to Helena, however, revives his anger, and he soon comes to believe that Bertram had her murdered. He is not best pleased by Diana’s riddles, but when all is revealed he takes quite a shine to her, and offers to let her choose any husband she wishes among his lords, thus risking starting the whole thing over again. Oddly for a king, he does not believe there is an inherent difference between people’s birth, rather that their worth is determined by their actions and moral character. He speaks the epilogue.