William Shakespeare: All's Well That Ends Well, Act V, Scene III
Flourish. Enter King, Countess, Lafeu, 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' the blaze of youth; When oil and fire, too strong for reason's force, O'erbears it and burns on.
My honour'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 Offence 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 reconciled, and the first view shall kill All repetition: let him not ask our pardon; The nature of his great offence is dead, And deeper than oblivion we do bury The incensing relics of it: let him approach, A stranger, no offender; and inform him So 'tis our will he should.
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.
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 The 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 favour; Scorn'd a fair colour, or express'd it stolen; Extended or contracted all proportions To a most hideous object: thence it came That she whom all men praised and whom myself, Since I have lost, have loved, was in mine eye The dust that did offend it.
Well excused: 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 offence, 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 shame full late 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 favour from you To sparkle in the spirits of my daughter, That she may quickly come.
Bertram gives a ring
By my old beard, And every 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 at court, I saw upon her finger.
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?
You are deceived, 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 engaged: but when I had subscribed To mine own fortune and inform'd her fully I could not answer in that course of honour As she had made the overture, she ceased In heavy satisfaction and would never Receive the ring again.
Plutus himself, That knows the tinct and multiplying medicine, 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.
Thou speak'st it falsely, as I love mine honour; And makest 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
Gracious sovereign, 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.
Upon his many protestations to marry me when his wife was dead, I blush to say it, he won me. Now is the Count Rousillon a widower: his vows are forfeited to me, and my honour'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.
The heavens have thought well on thee Lafeu, To bring forth this discovery. Seek these suitors: Go speedily and bring again the count. I am afeard the life of Helen, lady, Was foully snatch'd.
Re-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.
Enter Widow and Diana
What woman's that?
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 honour Both suffer under this complaint we bring, And both shall cease, without your remedy.
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.
My lord, this is a fond and desperate creature, Whom sometime I have laugh'd with: let your highness Lay a more noble thought upon mine honour 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 honour Than in my thought it lies.
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 o' the camp, If I be one.
He blushes, and 'tis it: Of six preceding ancestors, that gem, Conferr'd by testament to the sequent issue, Hath it been owed and worn. This is his wife; That ring's a thousand proofs.
Exit an Attendant
What of him? He's quoted for a most perfidious slave, With all the spots o' the 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?
I think she has: certain it is I liked her, And boarded her i' the 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 infinite cunning, with her modern grace, Subdued 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.
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 honourable gentleman: tricks he hath had in him, which gentlemen have.
Yes, so please your majesty. I did go between them, as I said; but more than that, he loved her: for indeed he was mad for her, and talked of Satan 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?
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.
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.
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 abused me, as he knows himself, Though yet he never harm'd me, here I quit him: He knows himself my bed he hath defiled; 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.
Re-enter Widow, with Helena
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,' &c. This is done: Will you be mine, now you are doubly won?
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 courtesies alone, they are scurvy ones.
Let us from point to point this story know, To make the even truth in pleasure flow.
If thou be'st 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 keep'st a wife herself, thyself a maid. Of that and all the progress, more or less, Resolvedly more leisure shall express: All yet seems well; and if it end so meet, The bitter past, more welcome is the sweet.