Rossillion. A room in the Count’s palace.
(Countess; Steward Rinaldo; Clown Lavatch; Helen)
The court clown, Lavatch, tells the Countess he wants to marry. After this foolery, the Steward draws near to tell the Countess how he overheard Helena soliloquizing about her love for Bertram. The Countess speaks to Helena as to a daughter. Though Helena insists she is of too humble birth to bear the Rossillion name, she confesses to loving Bertram. The young woman expresses a desire to go to court, for two reasons: firstly to see Bertram and secondly to cure the King with a marvelous recipe left to her by her father. The Countess consents. (192 lines)
Enter Countess, Steward Rinaldo, and Clown Lavatch.
I will now hear. What say you of this gentlewoman?
Madam, the care I have had to even your content, I wish might be found in the calendar of my past endeavors, for then we wound our modesty, and make foul the clearness of our deservings, when of ourselves we publish them.
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.
’Tis not unknown to you, madam, I am a poor fellow.
No, madam, ’tis not so well that I am poor, though many of the rich are damn’d, 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.
Wilt thou needs be a beggar?
I do beg your good will in this case.
In what case?
In Isbel’s case and mine own. Service is no heritage, and I think I shall never have the blessing of God till I have issue a’ my body; for they say barnes are blessings.
Tell me thy reason why thou wilt marry.
My poor body, madam, requires it. I am driven on by the flesh, and he must needs go that the devil drives.
Is this all your worship’s reason?
Faith, madam, I have other holy reasons, such as they are.
May the world know them?
I have been, madam, a wicked creature, as you and all flesh and blood are, and indeed I do marry that I may repent.
Thy marriage, sooner than thy wickedness.
I am out a’ friends, madam, and I hope to have friends for my wive’s sake.
Such friends are thine enemies, knave.
Y’ are shallow, madam—in 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, he that kisses my wife is my friend. If men could be contented to be what they are, there were no fear in marriage, for young Charbon the puritan and old Poysam the papist, howsome’er their hearts are sever’d in religion, their heads are both one: they may jowl horns together like any deer i’ th’ herd.
Wilt thou ever be a foul-mouth’d and calumnious knave?
A prophet I, madam, and I speak the truth the next way:
For I the ballad will repeat,
Which men full true shall find:
Your marriage comes by destiny,
Your cuckoo sings by kind.
Get you gone, sir, I’ll talk with you more anon.
May it please you, madam, that he bid Helen come to you. Of her I am to speak.
Sirrah, tell my gentlewoman I would speak with her—Helen, I mean.
“Was this fair face the cause,” quoth she,
“Why the Grecians sacked Troy?
Fond done, done fond,
Was this King Priam’s joy?”
With that she sighed as she stood,
With that she sighed as she stood,
And gave this sentence then:
“Among nine bad if one be good,
Among nine bad if one be good,
There’s yet one good in ten.”
What, one good in ten? You corrupt the song, sirrah.
One good woman in ten, madam, which is a purifying a’ th’ song. Would God would serve the world so all the year! We’d find no fault with the tithe-woman if I were the parson. One in ten, quoth ’a? And we might have a good woman born but or every blazing star or at an earthquake, ’twould mend the lottery well; a man may draw his heart out ere ’a pluck one.
You’ll be gone, sir knave, and do as I command you.
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.
I know, madam, you love your gentlewoman entirely.
Faith, I do. Her father bequeath’d 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 demand.
Madam, I was very late more near her than I think she wish’d me. Alone she was, and did communicate to herself her own words to her own ears; she thought, I dare vow for her, they touch’d not any stranger sense. Her matter was, she lov’d 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 surpris’d without rescue in the first assault or ransom afterward. This she deliver’d 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 in the loss that may happen, it concerns you something to know it.
You have discharg’d this honestly, keep it to yourself. Many likelihoods inform’d me of this before, which hung so tott’ring in the balance that I could neither believe nor misdoubt. Pray you leave me. Stall this in your bosom, and I thank you for your honest care. I will speak with you further anon.
Even so it was with me when I was young.
If ever we are nature’s, these are ours. This thorn
Doth to our rose of youth rightly belong;
Our blood to us, this to our blood is born.
It is the show and seal of nature’s truth,
Where love’s strong passion is impress’d in youth.
By our remembrances of days foregone,
Such were our faults, or then we thought them none.
Her eye is sick on’t; I observe her now.
What is your pleasure, madam?
You know, Helen,
I am a mother to you.
Mine honorable mistress.
Nay, a mother,
Why not a mother? When I said “a mother,”
Methought you saw a serpent. What’s in “mother,”
That you start at it? I say I am your mother,
And put you in the catalogue of those
That were enwombed mine. ’Tis often seen
Adoption strives with nature, and choice breeds
A native slip to us from foreign seeds.
You ne’er oppress’d me with a mother’s groan,
Yet I express to you a mother’s care.
God’s mercy, maiden! Does it curd thy blood
To say I am thy mother? What’s the matter,
That this distempered messenger of wet,
The many-color’d Iris, rounds thine eye?
—Why, that you are my daughter?
That I am not.
I say I am your mother.
The Count Roussillion 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.
Nor I your mother?
You are my mother, madam; would you were—
So that my lord your son were not my brother—
Indeed my mother! Or were you both our mothers,
I care no more for than I do for heaven,
So I were not his sister. Can’t no other,
But, I your daughter, he must be my brother?
Yes, Helen, you might be my daughter-in-law.
God shield you mean it not! “daughter” and “mother”
So strive upon your pulse. What, pale again?
My fear hath catch’d your fondness! Now I see
The myst’ry of your loneliness, and find
Your salt tears’ head, now to all sense ’tis gross:
You love my son. Invention is asham’d,
Against the proclamation of thy passion,
To say thou dost not: therefore tell me true,
But tell me then ’tis so; for look, thy cheeks
Confess it, t’ one to th’ other, and thine eyes
See it so grossly shown in thy behaviors
That in their kind they speak it. Only sin
And hellish obstinacy tie thy tongue,
That truth should be suspected. Speak, is’t so?
If it be so, you have wound a goodly clew;
If it be not, forswear’t; howe’er, I charge thee,
As heaven shall work in me for thine avail,
To tell me truly.
Good madam, pardon me!
Do you love my son?
Your pardon, noble mistress!
Love you my son?
Do not you love him, madam?
Go not about; my love hath in’t a bond
Whereof the world takes note. Come, come, disclose
The state of your affection, for your passions
Have to the full appeach’d.
Then I confess
Here on my knee, before high heaven and you,
That before you, and next unto high heaven,
I love your son.
My friends were poor, but honest, so’s my love.
Be not offended, for it hurts not him
That he is lov’d of me; I follow him not
By any token of presumptuous suit,
Nor would I have him till I do deserve him,
Yet never know how that desert should be.
I know I love in vain, strive against hope;
Yet in this captious and intenible sieve
I still pour in the waters of my love
And lack not to lose still. Thus Indian-like,
Religious in mine error, I adore
The sun, that looks upon his worshipper,
But knows of him no more. My dearest madam,
Let not your hate encounter with my love
For loving where you do; but if yourself,
Whose aged honor cites a virtuous youth,
Did ever in so true a flame of liking
Wish chastely, and love dearly, that your Dian
Was both herself and Love, O then give pity
To her whose state is such that cannot choose
But lend and give where she is sure to lose;
That seeks not to find that her search implies,
But riddle-like lives sweetly where she dies.
Had you not lately an intent—speak truly—
To go to Paris?
Madam, I had.
Wherefore? Tell true.
I will tell truth, by grace itself I swear.
You know my father left me some prescriptions
Of rare and prov’d effects, such as his reading
And manifest experience had collected
For general sovereignty; and that he will’d me
In heedfull’st reservation to bestow them,
As notes whose faculties inclusive were
More than they were in note. Amongst the rest,
There is a remedy, approv’d, set down,
To cure the desperate languishings whereof
The King is render’d lost.
This was your motive
For Paris, was it? Speak.
My lord your son made me to think of this;
Else Paris, and the medicine, and the King,
Had from the conversation of my thoughts
Happily been absent then.
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,
Embowell’d of their doctrine, have left off
The danger to itself?
There’s something in’t
More than my father’s skill, which was the great’st
Of his profession, that his good receipt
Shall for my legacy be sanctified
By th’ luckiest stars in heaven, and would your honor
But give me leave to try success, I’d venture
The well-lost life of mine on his Grace’s cure
By such a day, an hour.
Dost thou believe’t?
Ay, madam, knowingly.
Why, Helen, thou shalt have my leave and love,
Means and attendants, and my loving greetings
To those of mine in court. I’ll stay at home
And pray God’s blessing into thy attempt.
Be gone tomorrow, and be sure of this,
What I can help thee to thou shalt not miss.