Home  »  The Oxford Shakespeare  »  All’s Well that Ends Well

William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act IV. Scene III.

All’s Well that Ends Well

The Florentine Camp.

Enter the two French Lords, and two or three Soldiers.

First Lord.You have not given him his mother’s letter?

Sec. Lord.I have delivered it an hour since: there is something in ’t that stings his nature, for on the reading it he changed almost into another man.

First Lord.He has much worthy blame laid upon him for shaking off so good a wife and so sweet a lady.

Sec. Lord.Especially he hath incurred the everlasting displeasure of the king, who had even tuned his bounty to sing happiness to him. I will tell you a thing, but you shall let it dwell darkly with you.

First Lord.When you have spoken it, ’tis dead, and I am the grave of it.

Sec. Lord.He hath perverted a young gentle-woman here in Florence, of a most chaste renown; and this night he fleshes his will in the spoil of her honour: he hath given her his monumental ring, and thinks himself made in the unchaste composition.

First Lord.Now, God delay our rebellion! as we are ourselves, what things are we!

Sec. Lord.Merely our own traitors: and as in the common course of all treasons, we still see them reveal themselves, till they attain to their abhorred ends, so he that in this action contrives against his own nobility, in his proper stream o’erflows himself.

First Lord.Is it not most damnable in us, to be trumpeters of our unlawful intents? We shall not then have his company to-night?

Sec. Lord.Not till after midnight, for he is dieted to his hour.

First Lord.That approaches apace: I would gladly have him see his company anatomized, that he might take a measure of his own judgments, wherein so curiously he had set this counterfeit.

Sec. Lord.We will not meddle with him till he come, for his presence must be the whip of the other.

First Lord.In the meantime what near you of these wars?

Sec. Lord.I hear there is an overture of peace.

First Lord.Nay, I assure you, a peace concluded.

Sec. Lord.What will Count Rousillon do then? will he travel higher, or return again into France?

First Lord.I perceive by this demand, you are not altogether of his council.

Sec. Lord.Let it be forbid, sir; so should I be a great deal of his act.

First Lord.Sir, his wife some two months since fled from his house: her pretence is a pilgrimage to Saint Jaques le Grand; which holy undertaking with most austere sanctimony she accomplished; and, there residing, the tenderness of her nature became as a prey to her grief; in fine, made a groan of her last breath, and now she sings in heaven.

Sec. Lord.How is this justified?

First Lord.The stronger part of it by her own letters, which make her story true, even to the point of her death: her death itself, which could not be her office to say is come, was faithfully confirmed by the rector of the place.

Sec. Lord.Hath the count all this intelligence?

First Lord.Ay, and the particular confirmations, point from point, to the full arming of the verity.

Sec. Lord.I am heartily sorry that he’ll be glad of this.

First Lord.How mightily sometimes we make us comforts of our losses!

Sec. Lord.And how mightily some other times we drown our gain in tears! The great dignity that his valour hath here acquired for him shall at home be encountered with a shame as ample.

First Lord.The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our virtues.

Enter a Servant.

How now! where’s your master?

Serv.He met the duke in the street, sir, of whom he hath taken a solemn leave: his lordship will next morning for France. The duke hath offered him letters of commendations to the king.

Sec. Lord.They shall be no more than needful there, if they were more than they can commend.

First Lord.They cannot be too sweet for the king’s tartness. Here’s his lordship now.


How now, my lord! is ’t not after midnight?

Ber.I have to-night dispatched sixteen businesses, a month’s length a-piece, by an abstract of success: I have conge’d with the duke, done my adieu with his nearest, buried a wife, mourned for her, writ to my lady mother I am returning, entertained my convoy; and between these main parcels of dispatch effected many nicer needs: the last was the greatest, but that I have not ended yet.

Sec. Lord.If the business be of any difficulty, and this morning your departure hence, it requires haste of your lordship.

Ber.I mean, the business is not ended, as fearing to hear of it hereafter. But shall we have this dialogue between the fool and the soldier? Come, bring forth this counterfeit model: he has deceived me, like a double-meaning prophesier.

Sec. Lord.Bring him forth.[Exeunt Soldiers.]

Has sat i’ the stocks all night, poor gallant knave.

Ber.No matter; his heels have deserved it, in usurping his spurs so long. How does he carry himself?

First Lord.I have told your lordship already, the stocks carry him. But to answer you as you would be understood; he weeps like a wench that had shed her milk: he hath confessed himself to Morgan,—whom he supposes to be a friar,—from the time of his remembrance to this very instant disaster of his setting i’ the stocks: and what think you he hath confessed?

Ber.Nothing of me, has a’?

Sec. Lord.His confession is taken, and it shall be read to his face: if your lordship be in ’t, as I believe you are, you must have the patience to hear it.

Re-enter Soldiers with PAROLLES.

Ber.A plague upon him! muffled! he can say nothing of me: hush! hush!

First Lord.Hoodman comes! Porto tartarossa.

First Sold.He calls for the tortures: what will you say without ’em?

Par.I will confess what I know without constraint: if ye pinch me like a pasty, I can say no more.

First Sold.Bosko chimurcho.

First Lord.Boblibindo chicurmurco.

First Sold.You are a merciful general. Our general bids you answer to what I shall ask you out of a note.

Par.And truly, as I hope to live.

First Sold.First, demand of him how many horse the duke is strong. What say you to that?

Par.Five or six thousand; but very weak and unserviceable: the troops are all scattered, and the commanders very poor rogues, upon my reputation and credit, and as I hope to live.

First Sold.Shall I set down your answer so?

Par.Do: I’ll take the sacrament on ’t, how and which way you will.

Ber.All’s one to him. What a past-saving slave is this!

First Lord.You are deceived, my lord: this is Monsieur Parolles, the gallant militarist,—that was his own phrase,—that had the whole theorick of war in the knot of his scarf, and the practice in the chape of his dagger.

Sec. Lord.I will never trust a man again for keeping his sword clean; nor believe he can have everything in him by wearing his apparel neatly.

First Sold.Well, that’s set down.

Par.Five or six thousand horse, I said,—I will say true,—or thereabouts, set down, for I’ll speak truth.

First Lord.He’s very near the truth in this.

Ber.But I con him no thanks for ’t, in the nature he delivers it.

Par.Poor rogues, I pray you, say.

First Sold.Well, that’s set down.

Par.I humbly thank you, sir. A truth’s a truth; the rogues are marvellous poor.

First Sold.Demand of him, of what strength they are a-foot. What say you to that?

Par.By my troth, sir, if I were to live this present hour, I will tell true. Let me see: Spurio, a hundred and fifty; Sebastian, so many; Corambus, so many; Jaques, so many; Guiltian, Cosmo, Lodowick, and Gratii, two hundred fifty each; mine own company, Chitopher, Vaumond, Bentii, two hundred fifty each: so that the muster-file, rotten and sound, upon my life, amounts not to fifteen thousand poll; half of the which dare not shake the snow from off their cassocks, lest they shake themselves to pieces.

Ber.What shall be done to him?

First Lord.Nothing, but let him have thanks. Demand of him my condition, and what credit I have with the duke.

First Sold.Well, that’s set down. You shall demand of him, whether one Captain Dumain be i’ the camp, a Frenchman; what his reputation is with the duke; what his valour, honesty, and expertness in wars; or whether he thinks it were not possible, with well-weighing sums of gold, to corrupt him to a revolt. What say you to this? what do you know of it?

Par.I beseech you, let me answer to the particular of the inter’gatories: demand them singly.

First Sold.Do you know this Captain Dumain?

Par.I know him: a’ was a botcher’s ’prentice in Paris, from whence he was whipped for getting the shrieve’s fool with child; a dumb innocent, that could not say him nay.[DUMAIN lifts up his hand in anger.

Ber.Nay, by your leave, hold your hands; though I know his brains are forfeit to the next tile that falls.

First Sold.Well, is this captain in the Duke of Florence’s camp?

Par.Upon my knowledge he is, and lousy.

First Lord.Nay, look not so upon me; we shall hear of your lordship anon.

First Sold.What is his reputation with the duke?

Par.The duke knows him for no other but a poor officer of mine, and writ to me this other day to turn him out o’ the band: I think I have his letter in my pocket.

First Sold.Marry, we’ll search.

Par.In good sadness, I do not know: either it is there, or it is upon a file with the duke’s other letters in my tent.

First Sold.Here ’tis; here’s a paper; shall I read it to you?

Par.I do not know if it be it or no.

Ber.Our interpreter does it well.

First Lord.Excellently.

First Sold.Dian, the count’s a fool, and full of gold

Par.That is not the duke’s letter, sir; that is an advertisement to a proper maid in Florence, one Diana, to take heed of the allurement of one Count Rousillon, a foolish idle boy, but for all that very ruttish. I pray you, sir, put it up again.

First Sold.Nay, I’ll read it first, by your favour.

Par.My meaning in ’t, I protest, was very honest in the behalf of the maid; for I knew the young count to be a dangerous and lascivious boy, who is a whale to virginity, and devours up all the fry it finds.

Ber.Damnable both-sides rogue!

First Sold.When he swears oaths, bid him drop gold, and take it;

After he scores, he never pays the score:

Half won is match well made; match, and well make it;

He ne’er pays after-debts; take it before,

And say a soldier, Dian, told thee this,

Men are to mell with, boys are not to kiss;

For count of this, the count’s a fool, I know it,

Who pays before, but not when he does owe it.

Thine, as he vow’d to thee in thine ear,


Ber.He shall be whipped through the army with this rime in ’s forehead.

First Lord.This is your devoted friend, sir; the manifold linguist and the armipotent soldier.

Ber.I could endure anything before but a cat, and now he’s a cat to me.

First Sold.I perceive, sir, by our general’s looks, we shall be fain to hang you.

Par.My life, sir, in any case! not that I am afraid to die; but that, my offences being many, I would repent out the remainder of nature. Let me live, sir, in a dungeon, i’ the stocks, or anywhere, so I may live.

First Sold.We’ll see what may be done, so you confess freely: therefore, once more to this Captain Dumain. You have answered to his reputation with the duke and to his valour: what is his honesty?

Par.He will steal, sir, an egg out of a cloister; for rapes and ravishments he parallels Nessus; he professes not keeping of oaths; in breaking ’em he is stronger than Hercules; he will lie, sir, with such volubility, that you would think truth were a fool; drunkenness is his best virtue, for he will be swine-drunk, and in his sleep he does little harm, save to his bed-clothes about him; but they know his conditions, and lay him in straw. I have but little more to say, sir, of his honesty: he has everything that an honest man should not have; what an honest man should have, he has nothing.

First Lord.I begin to love him for this.

Ber.For this description of thine honesty? A pox upon him for me! he is more and more a cat.

First Sold.What say you to his expertness in war?

Par.Faith, sir, he has led the drum before the English tragedians,—to belie him I will not,—and more of his soldiership I know not; except, in that country, he had the honour to be the officer at a place there called Mile-end, to instruct for the doubling of files: I would do the man what honour I can, but of this I am not certain.

First Lord.He hath out-villained villany so far, that the rarity redeems him.

Ber.pox on him! he’s a cat still.

First Sold.His qualities being at this poor price, I need not ask you, if gold will corrupt him to revolt.

Par.Sir, for a cardecu he will sell the fee-simple of his salvation, the inheritance of it; and cut the entail from all remainders, and a perpetual succession for it perpetually.

First Sold.What’s his brother, the other Captain Dumain?

Sec. Lord.Why does he ask him or me?

First Sold.What’s he?

Par.E’en a crow o’ the same nest; not altogether so great as the first in goodness, but greater a great deal in evil. He excels his brother for a coward, yet his brother is reputed one of the best that is. In a retreat he out-runs any lackey; marry, in coming on he has the cramp.

First Sold.If your life be saved, will you undertake to betray the Florentine?

Par.Ay, and the captain of his horse, Count Rousillon.

First Sold.I’ll whisper with the general, and know his pleasure.

Par.[Aside.]I’ll no more drumming; a plague of all drums! Only to seem to deserve well, and to beguile the supposition of that lascivious young boy the count, have I run into this danger. Yet who would have suspected an ambush where I was taken?

First Sold.There is no remedy, sir, but you must die. The general says, you, that have so traitorously discovered the secrets of your army, and made such pestiferous reports of men very nobly held, can serve the world for no honest use; therefore you must die. Come, headsman, off with his head.

Par.O Lord, sir, let me live, or let me see my death!

First Sold.That shall you, and take your leave of all your friends.[Unmuffling him.

So, look about you: know you any here?

Ber.Good morrow, noble captain.

Sec. Lord.God bless you, Captain Parolles.

First Lord.God save you, noble captain.

Sec. Lord.Captain, what greeting will you to my Lord Lafeu? I am for France.

First Lord.Good captain, will you give me a copy of the sonnet you writ to Diana in behalf of the Count Rousillon? an I were not a very coward I’d compel it of you; but fare you well.[Exeunt BERTRAM and Lords.

First Sold.You are undone, captain; all but your scarf; that has a knot on ’t yet.

Par.Who cannot be crushed with a plot?

First Sold.If you could find out a country where but women were that had received so much shame, you might begin an impudent nation. Fare ye well, sir; I am for France too: we shall speak of you there.[Exit.

Par.Yet am I thankful: if my heart were great

’Twould burst at this. Captain I’ll be no more;

But I will eat and drink, and sleep as soft

As captain shall: simply the thing I am

Shall make me live. Who knows himself a braggart,

Let him fear this; for it will come to pass

That every braggart shall be found an ass.

Rust, sword! cool, blushes! and Parolles, live

Safest in shame! being fool’d, by foolery thrive!

There’s place and means for every man alive.

I’ll after them.[Exit.