Rossillion. The Count’s palace.
(King; Countess of Roussillion; Lafew; two French Lords; Attendant; Bertram; Gentleman; Old Widow of Florence; Diana; Parolles; Helena)
The King commands Bertram to marry Lafew’s daughter. He gives Lafew a ring for her, which all except Bertram recognize as Helena’s. The King suspects that Bertram has gained the ring at some harm to Helena and packs him off to jail. A petition from Diana is brought in. Entering, she claims that the Count seduced her on the promise to marry her when his wife was dead. She now demands fulfillment. Bertram basely claims that Diana is a common whore and that he did not steal her virginity, but she points to the ancestral ring he gave her as proof to the contrary. She asks for her own ring back, the one that even now Bertram gave to Lafew. The King is anxious to know how Diana got Helena’s ring, and in answer she produces Helena. Helena claims that she has fulfilled Bertram’s challenge to get his ring and became pregnant by him — she has done both. Bertram promises to love her ever after, providing she can explain how this occurred. (344 lines)
Flourish. Enter King, old Lady Countess, Lafew, the two French Lords, with Attendants.
We lost a jewel of her, and our esteem
Was made much poorer by it; but your son,
As mad in folly, lack’d the sense to know
Her estimation home.
’Tis past, my liege,
And I beseech your Majesty to make it
Natural rebellion, done i’ th’ blade of youth,
When oil and fire, too strong for reason’s force,
O’erbears it, and burns on.
My honor’d lady,
I have forgiven and forgotten all,
Though my revenges were high bent upon him,
And watch’d the time to shoot.
This I must say—
But first I beg my pardon—the young lord
Did to his Majesty, his mother, and his lady
Offense of mighty note; but to himself
The greatest wrong of all. He lost a wife
Whose beauty did astonish the survey
Of richest eyes, whose words all ears took captive,
Whose dear perfection hearts that scorn’d to serve
Humbly call’d mistress.
Praising what is lost
Makes the remembrance dear. Well, call him hither,
We are reconcil’d, and the first view shall kill
All repetition. Let him not ask our pardon,
The nature of his great offense is dead,
And deeper than oblivion we do bury
Th’ incensing relics of it. Let him approach
A stranger, no offender; and inform him
So ’tis our will he should.
I shall, my liege.
What says he to your daughter? Have you spoke?
All that he is hath reference to your Highness.
Then shall we have a match. I have letters sent me
That sets him high in fame.
Enter Count Bertram.
He looks well on’t.
I am not a day of season,
For thou mayst see a sunshine and a hail
In me at once. But to the brightest beams
Distracted clouds give way, so stand thou forth,
The time is fair again.
My high-repented blames,
Dear sovereign, pardon to me.
All is whole,
Not one word more of the consumed time.
Let’s take the instant by the forward top;
For we are old, and on our quick’st decrees
Th’ inaudible and noiseless foot of time
Steals ere we can effect them. You remember
The daughter of this lord?
Admiringly, my liege. At first
I stuck my choice upon her, ere my heart
Durst make too bold a herald of my tongue;
Where the impression of mine eye infixing,
Contempt his scornful perspective did lend me,
Which warp’d the line of every other favor,
Scorn’d a fair color, or express’d it stol’n,
Extended or contracted all proportions
To a most hideous object. Thence it came
That she whom all men prais’d, and whom myself,
Since I have lost, have lov’d, was in mine eye
The dust that did offend it.
That thou didst love her, strikes some scores away
From the great compt; but love that comes too late,
Like a remorseful pardon slowly carried,
To the great sender turns a sour offense,
Crying, “That’s good that’s gone.” Our rash faults
Make trivial price of serious things we have,
Not knowing them until we know their grave.
Oft our displeasures, to ourselves unjust,
Destroy our friends, and after weep their dust;
Our own love waking cries to see what’s done,
While shameful hate sleeps out the afternoon.
Be this sweet Helen’s knell, and now forget her.
Send forth your amorous token for fair Maudlin.
The main consents are had, and here we’ll stay
To see our widower’s second marriage-day.
Which better than the first, O dear heaven, bless!
Or, ere they meet, in me, O nature, cesse!
Come on, my son, in whom my house’s name
Must be digested; give a favor from you
To sparkle in the spirits of my daughter,
That she may quickly come.
Bertram gives a ring.
By my old beard,
And ev’ry hair that’s on’t, Helen, that’s dead,
Was a sweet creature; such a ring as this,
The last that e’er I took her leave at court,
I saw upon her finger.
Hers it was not.
Now pray you let me see it; for mine eye,
While I was speaking, oft was fasten’d to’t.
This ring was mine, and when I gave it Helen,
I bade her, if her fortunes ever stood
Necessitied to help, that by this token
I would relieve her. Had you that craft to reave her
Of what should stead her most?
My gracious sovereign,
Howe’er it pleases you to take it so,
The ring was never hers.
Son, on my life,
I have seen her wear it, and she reckon’d it
At her live’s rate.
I am sure I saw her wear it.
You are deceiv’d, my lord, she never saw it.
In Florence was it from a casement thrown me,
Wrapp’d in a paper, which contain’d the name
Of her that threw it. Noble she was, and thought
I stood engag’d; but when I had subscrib’d
To mine own fortune, and inform’d her fully
I could not answer in that course of honor
As she had made the overture, she ceas’d
In heavy satisfaction, and would never
Receive the ring again.
That knows the tinct and multiplying med’cine,
Hath not in nature’s mystery more science
Than I have in this ring. ’Twas mine, ’twas Helen’s,
Whoever gave it you. Then if you know
That you are well acquainted with yourself,
Confess ’twas hers, and by what rough enforcement
You got it from her. She call’d the saints to surety
That she would never put it from her finger,
Unless she gave it to yourself in bed,
Where you have never come, or sent it us
Upon her great disaster.
She never saw it.
Thou speak’st it falsely, as I love mine honor,
And mak’st conjectural fears to come into me,
Which I would fain shut out. If it should prove
That thou art so inhuman—’twill not prove so;
And yet I know not: thou didst hate her deadly,
And she is dead, which nothing but to close
Her eyes myself could win me to believe,
More than to see this ring. Take him away.
Guards seize Bertram.
My fore-past proofs, howe’er the matter fall,
Shall tax my fears of little vanity,
Having vainly fear’d too little. Away with him!
We’ll sift this matter further.
If you shall prove
This ring was ever hers, you shall as easy
Prove that I husbanded her bed in Florence,
Where yet she never was.
Enter a Gentleman, the astringer.
I am wrapp’d in dismal thinkings.
Whether I have been to blame or no, I know not.
Here’s a petition from a Florentine,
Who hath for four or five removes come short
To tender it herself. I undertook it,
Vanquish’d thereto by the fair grace and speech
Of the poor suppliant, who by this I know
Is here attending. Her business looks in her
With an importing visage, and she told me,
In a sweet verbal brief, it did concern
Your Highness with herself.
Reads a letter.
“Upon his many protestations to marry me when his wife was dead, I blush to say it, he won me. Now is the Count Roussillion a widower, his vows are forfeited to me, and my honor’s paid to him. He stole from Florence, taking no leave, and I follow him to his country for justice. Grant it me, O King, in you it best lies; otherwise a seducer flourishes, and a poor maid is undone. Diana Capilet.”
I will buy me a son-in-law in a fair, and toll for this. I’ll none of him.
The heavens have thought well on thee, Lafew,
To bring forth this discov’ry. Seek these suitors.
Go speedily, and bring again the Count.
Exeunt some Attendants.
I am afeard the life of Helen, lady,
Was foully snatch’d.
Now, justice on the doers!
Enter Bertram guarded.
I wonder, sir, sith wives are monsters to you,
And that you fly them as you swear them lordship,
Yet you desire to marry. What woman’s that?
Enter Widow, Diana.
I am, my lord, a wretched Florentine,
Derived from the ancient Capilet.
My suit, as I do understand, you know,
And therefore know how far I may be pitied.
I am her mother, sir, whose age and honor
Both suffer under this complaint we bring,
And both shall cease, without your remedy.
Come hither, Count, do you know these women?
My lord, I neither can nor will deny
But that I know them. Do they charge me further?
Why do you look so strange upon your wife?
She’s none of mine, my lord.
If you shall marry,
You give away this hand, and that is mine;
You give away heaven’s vows, and those are mine;
You give away myself, which is known mine;
For I by vow am so embodied yours,
That she which marries you must marry me,
Either both or none.
Your reputation comes too short for my daughter, you are no husband for her.
My lord, this is a fond and desp’rate creature,
Whom sometime I have laugh’d with. Let your Highness
Lay a more noble thought upon mine honor
Than for to think that I would sink it here.
Sir, for my thoughts, you have them ill to friend
Till your deeds gain them; fairer prove your honor
Than in my thought it lies.
Good my lord,
Ask him upon his oath, if he does think
He had not my virginity.
What say’st thou to her?
She’s impudent, my lord,
And was a common gamester to the camp.
He does me wrong, my lord; if I were so,
He might have bought me at a common price.
Do not believe him. O, behold this ring,
Whose high respect and rich validity
Did lack a parallel; yet for all that
He gave it to a commoner a’ th’ camp,
If I be one.
He blushes, and ’tis hit.
Of six preceding ancestors, that gem,
Conferr’d by testament to th’ sequent issue,
Hath it been owed and worn. This is his wife,
That ring’s a thousand proofs.
Methought you said
You saw one here in court could witness it.
I did, my lord, but loath am to produce
So bad an instrument. His name’s Parolles.
I saw the man today, if man he be.
Find him, and bring him hither.
Exit an Attendant.
What of him?
He’s quoted for a most perfidious slave,
With all the spots a’ th’ world tax’d and debosh’d,
Whose nature sickens but to speak a truth.
Am I or that or this for what he’ll utter,
That will speak any thing?
She hath that ring of yours.
I think she has. Certain it is I lik’d her,
And boarded her i’ th’ wanton way of youth.
She knew her distance, and did angle for me,
Madding my eagerness with her restraint,
As all impediments in fancy’s course
Are motives of more fancy, and in fine,
Her inf’nite cunning, with her modern grace,
Subdu’d me to her rate. She got the ring,
And I had that which any inferior might
At market-price have bought.
I must be patient.
You that have turn’d off a first so noble wife,
May justly diet me. I pray you yet
(Since you lack virtue, I will lose a husband)
Send for your ring, I will return it home,
And give me mine again.
I have it not.
What ring was yours, I pray you?
Sir, much like
The same upon your finger.
Know you this ring? This ring was his of late.
And this was it I gave him, being a-bed.
The story then goes false, you threw it him
Out of a casement.
I have spoke the truth.
My lord, I do confess the ring was hers.
You boggle shrewdly, every feather starts you.
Is this the man you speak of?
Ay, my lord.
Tell me, sirrah—but tell me true, I charge you,
Not fearing the displeasure of your master,
Which on your just proceeding I’ll keep off—
By him and by this woman here what know you?
So please your Majesty, my master hath been an honorable gentleman. Tricks he hath had in him, which gentlemen have.
Come, come, to th’ purpose. Did he love this woman?
Faith, sir, he did love her, but how?
How, I pray you?
He did love her, sir, as a gentleman loves a woman.
How is that?
He lov’d her, sir, and lov’d her not.
As thou art a knave, and no knave. What an equivocal companion is this!
I am a poor man, and at your Majesty’s command.
He’s a good drum, my lord, but a naughty orator.
Do you know he promis’d me marriage?
Faith, I know more than I’ll speak.
But wilt thou not speak all thou know’st?
Yes, so please your Majesty. I did go between them as I said, but more than that, he lov’d her, for indeed he was mad for her, and talk’d of Sathan and of Limbo and of Furies and I know not what. Yet I was in that credit with them at that time that I knew of their going to bed, and of other motions, as promising her marriage, and things which would derive me ill will to speak of; therefore I will not speak what I know.
Thou hast spoken all already, unless thou canst say they are married. But thou art too fine in thy evidence, therefore stand aside.
This ring you say was yours?
Ay, my good lord.
Where did you buy it? Or who gave it you?
It was not given me, nor I did not buy it.
Who lent it you?
It was not lent me neither.
Where did you find it then?
I found it not.
If it were yours by none of all these ways,
How could you give it him?
I never gave it him.
This woman’s an easy glove, my lord, she goes off and on at pleasure.
This ring was mine, I gave it his first wife.
It might be yours or hers for aught I know.
Take her away, I do not like her now,
To prison with her; and away with him.
Unless thou tell’st me where thou hadst this ring,
Thou diest within this hour.
I’ll never tell you.
Take her away.
I’ll put in bail, my liege.
I think thee now some common customer.
By Jove, if ever I knew man, ’twas you.
Wherefore hast thou accus’d him all this while?
Because he’s guilty, and he is not guilty.
He knows I am no maid, and he’ll swear to’t;
I’ll swear I am a maid, and he knows not.
Great King, I am no strumpet, by my life;
I am either maid, or else this old man’s wife.
Pointing to Lafew.
She does abuse our ears. To prison with her!
Good mother, fetch my bail.
Stay, royal sir.
The jeweller that owes the ring is sent for,
And he shall surety me. But for this lord,
Who hath abus’d me, as he knows himself,
Though yet he never harm’d me, here I quit him.
He knows himself my bed he hath defil’d,
And at that time he got his wife with child.
Dead though she be, she feels her young one kick.
So there’s my riddle: one that’s dead is quick—
And now behold the meaning.
Enter Widow and Helen.
Is there no exorcist
Beguiles the truer office of mine eyes?
Is’t real that I see?
No, my good lord,
’Tis but the shadow of a wife you see,
The name, and not the thing.
Both, both. O, pardon!
O my good lord, when I was like this maid,
I found you wondrous kind. There is your ring,
And look you, here’s your letter. This it says:
“When from my finger you can get this ring,
And are by me with child, etc.” This is done.
Will you be mine now you are doubly won?
If she, my liege, can make me know this clearly,
I’ll love her dearly, ever, ever dearly.
If it appear not plain and prove untrue,
Deadly divorce step between me and you!
O my dear mother, do I see you living?
Mine eyes smell onions, I shall weep anon.
Good Tom Drum, lend me a handkercher. So, I thank thee; wait on me home, I’ll make sport with thee. Let thy curtsies alone, they are scurvy ones.
Let us from point to point this story know,
To make the even truth in pleasure flow.
If thou beest yet a fresh uncropped flower,
Choose thou thy husband, and I’ll pay thy dower,
For I can guess that by thy honest aid
Thou kept’st a wife herself, thyself a maid.
Of that and all the progress, more and less,
Resolvedly more leisure shall express.
All yet seems well, and if it end so meet,
The bitter past, more welcome is the sweet.