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The folio is the only source of the text, which appears there in a very unsatisfactory state. Indeed, there is no play of Shakespeare which gives the reader and the editor more fruitless trouble than this. No other is more deformed by the corruption of important passages: and this corruption is doubtless chiefly due to two reasons; — first, the involved, disjointed, and elliptical style in which the author wrote much of the matter which he added at the revision of the play; — and next, the fact that the play was printed from the very copy in which the author himself had made these alterations and additions, which, there can be little doubt in the mind of any man of letters, or any printer of experience, were in many cases interlined in a manner that, however clear to the poet himself, was obscure enough to a compositor who did not know exactly what his author would be at: — and as to proof-reading, the folio had none of it. Consequently there are some passages in which conjectural criticism is entirely at fault; and in these the original text is given in this edition in its corrupted form. For only the reasonble certainty that we are restoring the poet's own words justifies a change in that text: and the reader of Shakespeare can better pass by a line as incomprehensible, than accept a comprehensible line which is not Shakespeare's.
The period of the action of this play is not determinable with any approach to probability, not to say accuracy. Indeed it is more than likely that Shakespeare himself had no clear idea upon the subject. Boccaccio wrote about 1350; but the Florentines and Siennese were constantly at petty war during the middle ages. The allusion to Austria and its Duke, as the latter has no influence on the action of the play, is a mere touch of local color, and is of no value in the consideration of this question. The incidents upon which the action does turn are such as could have happened only in the society of an early feudal period; but the comic Scenes have all the stamp of Shakespeare's own time; and dramatic propriety will be entirely preserved by adopting the costume of that day — authority for which exists in Vecelli and MontfauQon.
King of France. Duke of Florence.
Bertram, Count of Rousillon.
Lafeu, an old Lord.
Parolles, a follower of Bertram. French Lords serving in the Florentine Army.
Clown C io ^e Dowager Countess of Rousillon.
Dowager Countess of Rousillon.
Helena, a Gentlewoman protected by the Countess.
A Widow of Florence.
Diana, her Daughter.
Mariana f Neighbors and Friends.
Lords attending on the King. French and Florentine Officers and Soldiers.
SCENE: partly in France, partly in Tuscany.
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.
Scene I.—Rousillon. A Room in the Countess's
Enter Bertram, the Countess of Rousillon,
IN delivering my son from me, I bury a second husband.
Bertram. And I, in going, Madam, weep o'er my father's death anew: but I must attend his Majesty's command, to whom I am now in ward, evermore in subjection.
Lafeu. You shall find of the King a husband, Madam ; — you, sir, a father. He that so generally is at all times good, must of necessity hold his virtue to you, whose worthiness would stir it up where it wanted, rather than lack it where there is such abundance.
Count. What hope is there of his Majesty's amendment?
Laf. He hath abandon'd his physicians, Madam;
under whose practices he hath persecuted time with hope, and finds no other advantage in the process but only the losing of hope by time.
Count. This young gentlewoman had a father (O, that had! how sad a passage 'tis!) whose skill was almost as great as his honesty; had it stretch'd so far, would have made Nature immortal, and Death should have play for lack of work. 'Would, for the King's sake, he were living! I think it would be the death of the King's disease.
Laf. How call'd you the man you speak of, Madam?
Count. He was famous, sir, in his profession, and it was his great right to be so: Gerard de Narbon.
Laf. He was excellent, indeed, Madam; the King very lately spoke of him admiringly and mourningly: he was skilful enough to have liv'd still, if knowledge could be set up against mortality.
Ber. What is it, my good lord, the King languishes of?
Laf. A fistula, my lord.
Ber. I heard not of it before.
Laf I would it were not notorious. — Was this gentlewoman the daughter of Gerard de Narbon?
Count. His sole child, my lord; and bequeathed to my overlooking. I have those hopes of her good that her education promises: her dispositions she inherits, which make fair gifts fairer; for where an unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, there commendations go with pity, — they are virtues and traitors too: in her they are the better for their simpleness; she derives her honesty, and achieves her goodness.
Laf. Your commendations, Madam, get from her tears.
Count. 'Tis the best brine a maiden can season her praise in. The remembrance of her father never approaches her heart but the tyranny of her sorrows takes all livelihood from her cheek. No more of this, Helena: go to, no more; lest it be rather thought you affect a sorrow than to have.
Helena. I do affect a sorrow, indeed, but I have it too.
Laf. Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead; excessive grief, the enemy to the living.
Count. If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it soon mortal.
Ber. Madam, I desire your holy wishes.
Laf. How understand we that?
Count. Be thou blest, Bertram! and succeed thy father In manners as in shape! thy blood and virtue Contend for empire in thee; and thy goodness Share with thy birthright! Love all, trust a few, Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy Rather in power than use; and keep thy friend Under thy own life's key: be check'd for silence, But never tax'd for speech. What Heaven more will, That thee may furnish, and my prayers pluck down, Fall on thy head! Farewell. — My lord, 'Tis an unseason'd courtier; good my lord, Advise him.
Laf. He cannot want the best
That shall attend his love.
Count. Heaven bless him! — Farewell, Bertram.
Ber. [To Helena.] The best wishes that can be forg'd in your thoughts be servants to you! Be comfortable to my mother, your mistress, and make much of her.