Florence. The Widow’s house.
(Helen; Old Widow of Florence)
Helena confesses her identity to the Widow. The Widow, in turn, informs her that Bertram is wooing Diana through the foul agency of Parolles. Helena bribes the widow to make Diana lead Bertram on by agreeing to a rendezvous and getting his ring as a pledge; Helena will then take Diana’s place in bed when the moment of sexual embrace arrives. (54 lines)
Enter Helen and Widow.
If you misdoubt me that I am not she,
I know not how I shall assure you further
But I shall lose the grounds I work upon.
Though my estate be fall’n, I was well born,
Nothing acquainted with these businesses,
And would not put my reputation now
In any staining act.
Nor would I wish you.
First give me trust, the Count he is my husband,
And what to your sworn counsel I have spoken
Is so from word to word; and then you cannot,
By the good aid that I of you shall borrow,
Err in bestowing it.
I should believe you,
For you have show’d me that which well approves
Y’ are great in fortune.
Take this purse of gold,
And let me buy your friendly help thus far,
Which I will over-pay and pay again
When I have found it. The Count he woos your daughter,
Lays down his wanton siege before her beauty,
Resolv’d to carry her. Let her in fine consent,
As we’ll direct her how ’tis best to bear it.
Now his important blood will nought 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.
Now I see
The bottom of your purpose.
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. After,
To marry her, I’ll add three thousand crowns
To what is pass’d already.
I have yielded.
Instruct my daughter how she shall persever,
That time and place with this deceit so lawful
May prove coherent. Every night he comes
With musics of all sorts, and songs compos’d
To her unworthiness. It nothing steads us
To chide him from our eaves, for he persists
As if his life lay on’t.
Why then tonight
Let us assay our plot, which if it speed,
Is wicked meaning in a lawful deed,
And lawful meaning in a lawful act,
Where both not sin, and yet a sinful fact.
But let’s about it.