The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Page 3 of 119


SCENE I. Florence. A room in the Duke’s palace.

Flourish. Enter the Duke of Florence attended; two French Lords, and Soldiers.

So that, from point to point, now have you heard
The fundamental reasons of this war,
Whose great decision hath much blood let forth,
And more thirsts after.

Holy seems the quarrel
Upon your Grace’s part; black and fearful
On the opposer.

Therefore we marvel much our cousin France
Would, in so just a business, shut his bosom
Against our borrowing prayers.

Good my lord,
The reasons of our state I cannot yield,
But like a common and an outward man
That the great figure of a council frames
By self-unable motion; therefore dare not
Say what I think of it, since I have found
Myself in my incertain grounds to fail
As often as I guess’d.

Be it his pleasure.

But I am sure the younger of our nature,
That surfeit on their ease, will day by day
Come here for physic.

Welcome shall they be;
And all the honours that can fly from us
Shall on them settle. You know your places well;
When better fall, for your avails they fell.
Tomorrow to the field.

[Flourish. Exeunt.]

SCENE II. Rossillon. A room in the Countess’s palace.

Enter Countess and Clown.

It hath happen’d all as I would have had it, save that he comes not along with her.

By my troth, I take my young lord to be a very melancholy man.

By what observance, I pray you?

Why, he will look upon his boot and sing; mend the ruff and sing; ask questions and sing; pick his teeth and sing. I know a man that had this trick of melancholy sold a goodly manor for a song.

Let me see what he writes, and when he means to come.

[Opening a letter.]

I have no mind to Isbel since I was at court. Our old lings and our Isbels o’ th’ country are nothing like your old ling and your Isbels o’ th’ court. The brains of my Cupid’s knock’d out, and I begin to love, as an old man loves money, with no stomach.

What have we here?

E’en that you have there.


[Reads.] I have sent you a daughter-in-law; she hath recovered the king and undone me. I have wedded her, not bedded her, and sworn to make the “not” eternal. You shall hear I am run away; know it before the report come. If there be breadth enough in the world, I will hold a long distance. My duty to you.
Your unfortunate son,


This is not well, rash and unbridled boy,
To fly the favours of so good a king,
To pluck his indignation on thy head
By the misprizing of a maid too virtuous
For the contempt of empire.

Enter Clown.

O madam, yonder is heavy news within between two soldiers and my young lady.

What is the matter?

Nay, there is some comfort in the news, some comfort; your son will not be kill’d so soon as I thought he would.

Why should he be kill’d?

So say I, madam, if he run away, as I hear he does; the danger is in standing to’t; that’s the loss of men, though it be the getting of children. Here they come will tell you more. For my part, I only hear your son was run away.


Enter Helena and the two Gentlemen.

Save you, good madam.

Madam, my lord is gone, for ever gone.

Do not say so.

Think upon patience. Pray you, gentlemen,—
I have felt so many quirks of joy and grief
That the first face of neither on the start
Can woman me unto ’t. Where is my son, I pray you?

Madam, he’s gone to serve the Duke of Florence;
We met him thitherward, for thence we came,
And, after some despatch in hand at court,
Thither we bend again.

Look on this letter, madam; here’s my passport.

[Reads.] When thou canst get the ring upon my finger, which never shall come off, and show me a child begotten of thy body that I am father to, then call me husband; but in such a “then” I write a “never”.
This is a dreadful sentence.

Brought you this letter, gentlemen?

Ay, madam; And for the contents’ sake, are sorry for our pains.

I pr’ythee, lady, have a better cheer;
If thou engrossest all the griefs are thine,
Thou robb’st me of a moiety. He was my son,
But I do wash his name out of my blood,
And thou art all my child. Towards Florence is he?

Ay, madam.

And to be a soldier?

Such is his noble purpose, and, believe’t,
The duke will lay upon him all the honour
That good convenience claims.

Return you thither?

Ay, madam, with the swiftest wing of speed.

[Reads.] Till I have no wife, I have nothing in France.
’Tis bitter.

Find you that there?

Ay, madam.

’Tis but the boldness of his hand haply, which his heart was not consenting to.

Nothing in France until he have no wife!
There’s nothing here that is too good for him
But only she, and she deserves a lord
That twenty such rude boys might tend upon,
And call her hourly mistress. Who was with him?

A servant only, and a gentleman which I have sometime known.

Parolles, was it not?

Ay, my good lady, he.

A very tainted fellow, and full of wickedness.
My son corrupts a well-derived nature
With his inducement.

Indeed, good lady,
The fellow has a deal of that too much,
Which holds him much to have.

Y’are welcome, gentlemen.
I will entreat you, when you see my son,
To tell him that his sword can never win
The honour that he loses: more I’ll entreat you
Written to bear along.

We serve you, madam,
In that and all your worthiest affairs.

Not so, but as we change our courtesies.
Will you draw near?

[Exeunt Countess and Gentlemen.]

“Till I have no wife, I have nothing in France.”
Nothing in France until he has no wife!
Thou shalt have none, Rossillon, none in France;
Then hast thou all again. Poor lord, is’t I
That chase thee from thy country, and expose
Those tender limbs of thine to the event
Of the none-sparing war? And is it I
That drive thee from the sportive court, where thou
Wast shot at with fair eyes, to be the mark
Of smoky muskets? O you leaden messengers,
That ride upon the violent speed of fire,
Fly with false aim; move the still-peering air,
That sings with piercing; do not touch my lord.
Whoever shoots at him, I set him there;
Whoever charges on his forward breast,
I am the caitiff that do hold him to’t;
And though I kill him not, I am the cause
His death was so effected. Better ’twere
I met the ravin lion when he roar’d
With sharp constraint of hunger; better ’twere
That all the miseries which nature owes
Were mine at once. No; come thou home, Rossillon,
Whence honour but of danger wins a scar,
As oft it loses all. I will be gone;
My being here it is that holds thee hence.
Shall I stay here to do’t? No, no, although
The air of paradise did fan the house,
And angels offic’d all. I will be gone,
That pitiful rumour may report my flight
To consolate thine ear. Come, night; end, day;
For with the dark, poor thief, I’ll steal away.


SCENE III. Florence. Before the Duke’s palace.

Flourish. Enter the Duke of Florence, Bertram, drum and trumpets, Soldiers, Parolles.

The general of our horse thou art, and we,
Great in our hope, lay our best love and credence
Upon thy promising fortune.

Sir, it is
A charge too heavy for my strength; but yet
We’ll strive to bear it for your worthy sake
To th’extreme edge of hazard.

Then go thou forth;
And fortune play upon thy prosperous helm,
As thy auspicious mistress!

This very day,
Great Mars, I put myself into thy file;
Make me but like my thoughts, and I shall prove
A lover of thy drum, hater of love.


SCENE IV. Rossillon. A room in the Countess’s palace.

Enter Countess and Steward.

Alas! and would you take the letter of her?
Might you not know she would do as she has done,
By sending me a letter? Read it again.

[Reads.] I am Saint Jaques’ pilgrim, thither gone.
Ambitious love hath so in me offended
That barefoot plod I the cold ground upon,
With sainted vow my faults to have amended.
Write, write, that from the bloody course of war
My dearest master, your dear son, may hie.
Bless him at home in peace, whilst I from far
His name with zealous fervour sanctify.
His taken labours bid him me forgive;
I, his despiteful Juno, sent him forth
From courtly friends, with camping foes to live,
Where death and danger dog the heels of worth.
He is too good and fair for death and me;
Whom I myself embrace to set him free.

Ah, what sharp stings are in her mildest words!
Rynaldo, you did never lack advice so much
As letting her pass so; had I spoke with her,
I could have well diverted her intents,
Which thus she hath prevented.

Pardon me, madam;
If I had given you this at over-night,
She might have been o’erta’en; and yet she writes
Pursuit would be but vain.

What angel shall
Bless this unworthy husband? He cannot thrive,
Unless her prayers, whom heaven delights to hear
And loves to grant, reprieve him from the wrath
Of greatest justice. Write, write, Rynaldo,
To this unworthy husband of his wife;
Let every word weigh heavy of her worth,
That he does weigh too light; my greatest grief,
Though little he do feel it, set down sharply.
Dispatch the most convenient messenger.
When haply he shall hear that she is gone
He will return; and hope I may that she,
Hearing so much, will speed her foot again,
Led hither by pure love. Which of them both
Is dearest to me I have no skill in sense
To make distinction. Provide this messenger.
My heart is heavy, and mine age is weak;
Grief would have tears, and sorrow bids me speak.


SCENE V. Without the walls of Florence.

Enter an old Widow of Florence, Diana, Violenta, Mariana and other Citizens.

Nay, come; for if they do approach the city, we shall lose all the sight.

They say the French count has done most honourable service.

It is reported that he has taken their great’st commander, and that with his own hand he slew the duke’s brother.

[A tucket afar off.]

We have lost our labour; they are gone a contrary way. Hark! you may know by their trumpets.

Come, let’s return again, and suffice ourselves with the report of it. Well, Diana, take heed of this French earl; the honour of a maid is her name; and no legacy is so rich as honesty.

I have told my neighbour how you have been solicited by a gentleman his companion.

I know that knave; hang him! one Parolles; a filthy officer he is in those suggestions for the young earl. Beware of them, Diana; their promises, enticements, oaths, tokens, and all these engines of lust, are not the things they go under; many a maid hath been seduced by them; and the misery is, example, that so terrible shows in the wreck of maidenhood, cannot for all that dissuade succession, but that they are limed with the twigs that threaten them. I hope I need not to advise you further; but I hope your own grace will keep you where you are, though there were no further danger known but the modesty which is so lost.

You shall not need to fear me.

Enter Helena in the dress of a pilgrim.

I hope so. Look, here comes a pilgrim. I know she will lie at my house; thither they send one another; I’ll question her. God save you, pilgrim! Whither are bound?

To Saint Jaques le Grand.
Where do the palmers lodge, I do beseech you?

At the Saint Francis here, beside the port.

Is this the way?

[A march afar.]

Ay, marry, is’t. Hark you, they come this way.
If you will tarry, holy pilgrim,
But till the troops come by,
I will conduct you where you shall be lodg’d;
The rather for I think I know your hostess
As ample as myself.

Is it yourself?

If you shall please so, pilgrim.

I thank you, and will stay upon your leisure.

You came, I think, from France?

I did so.

Here you shall see a countryman of yours
That has done worthy service.

His name, I pray you.

The Count Rossillon. Know you such a one?

But by the ear, that hears most nobly of him;
His face I know not.

Whatsome’er he is,
He’s bravely taken here. He stole from France,
As ’tis reported, for the king had married him
Against his liking. Think you it is so?

Ay, surely, mere the truth; I know his lady.

There is a gentleman that serves the count
Reports but coarsely of her.

What’s his name?

Monsieur Parolles.

O, I believe with him,
In argument of praise, or to the worth
Of the great count himself, she is too mean
To have her name repeated; all her deserving
Is a reserved honesty, and that
I have not heard examin’d.

Alas, poor lady!
’Tis a hard bondage to become the wife
Of a detesting lord.

Ay, right; good creature, wheresoe’er she is,
Her heart weighs sadly. This young maid might do her
A shrewd turn, if she pleas’d.

How do you mean?
Maybe the amorous count solicits her
In the unlawful purpose.

He does indeed,
And brokes with all that can in such a suit
Corrupt the tender honour of a maid;
But she is arm’d for him, and keeps her guard
In honestest defence.

Enter, with a drum and colours, a party of the Florentine army, Bertram and Parolles.

The gods forbid else!

So, now they come.
That is Antonio, the Duke’s eldest son;
That Escalus.

Which is the Frenchman?

That with the plume; ’tis a most gallant fellow.
I would he lov’d his wife; if he were honester
He were much goodlier. Is’t not a handsome gentleman?

I like him well.

’Tis pity he is not honest. Yond’s that same knave
That leads him to these places. Were I his lady
I would poison that vile rascal.

Which is he?

That jack-an-apes with scarfs. Why is he melancholy?

Perchance he’s hurt i’ the battle.

Lose our drum! Well.

He’s shrewdly vex’d at something. Look, he has spied us.

Marry, hang you!

And your courtesy, for a ring-carrier!

[Exeunt Bertram, Parolles, Officers and Soldiers.]

The troop is past. Come, pilgrim, I will bring you
Where you shall host; of enjoin’d penitents
There’s four or five, to great Saint Jaques bound,
Already at my house.

I humbly thank you.
Please it this matron and this gentle maid
To eat with us tonight; the charge and thanking
Shall be for me; and, to requite you further,
I will bestow some precepts of this virgin,
Worthy the note.

We’ll take your offer kindly.


SCENE VI. Camp before Florence.

Enter Bertram and the two French Lords.

Nay, good my lord, put him to’t; let him have his way.

If your lordship find him not a hilding, hold me no more in your respect.

On my life, my lord, a bubble.

Do you think I am so far deceived in him?

Believe it, my lord, in mine own direct knowledge, without any malice, but to speak of him as my kinsman, he’s a most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise-breaker, the owner of no one good quality worthy your lordship’s entertainment.

It were fit you knew him; lest, reposing too far in his virtue, which he hath not, he might at some great and trusty business, in a main danger fail you.

I would I knew in what particular action to try him.

None better than to let him fetch off his drum, which you hear him so confidently undertake to do.

I with a troop of Florentines will suddenly surprise him; such I will have whom I am sure he knows not from the enemy; we will bind and hoodwink him so that he shall suppose no other but that he is carried into the leaguer of the adversaries when we bring him to our own tents. Be but your lordship present at his examination; if he do not for the promise of his life, and in the highest compulsion of base fear, offer to betray you, and deliver all the intelligence in his power against you, and that with the divine forfeit of his soul upon oath, never trust my judgment in anything.

O, for the love of laughter, let him fetch his drum; he says he has a stratagem for’t. When your lordship sees the bottom of his success in’t, and to what metal this counterfeit lump of ore will be melted, if you give him not John Drum’s entertainment, your inclining cannot be removed. Here he comes.

Enter Parolles.

O, for the love of laughter, hinder not the honour of his design: let him fetch off his drum in any hand.

How now, monsieur! This drum sticks sorely in your disposition.

A pox on ’t; let it go; ’tis but a drum.

But a drum! Is’t but a drum? A drum so lost! There was excellent command, to charge in with our horse upon our own wings, and to rend our own soldiers.

That was not to be blam’d in the command of the service; it was a disaster of war that Caesar himself could not have prevented, if he had been there to command.

Well, we cannot greatly condemn our success: some dishonour we had in the loss of that drum, but it is not to be recovered.

It might have been recovered.

It might, but it is not now.

It is to be recovered. But that the merit of service is seldom attributed to the true and exact performer, I would have that drum or another, or hic jacet.

Why, if you have a stomach, to’t, monsieur, if you think your mystery in stratagem can bring this instrument of honour again into his native quarter, be magnanimous in the enterprise, and go on; I will grace the attempt for a worthy exploit; if you speed well in it, the duke shall both speak of it and extend to you what further becomes his greatness, even to the utmost syllable of your worthiness.

By the hand of a soldier, I will undertake it.

But you must not now slumber in it.

I’ll about it this evening; and I will presently pen down my dilemmas, encourage myself in my certainty, put myself into my mortal preparation; and by midnight look to hear further from me.

May I be bold to acquaint his grace you are gone about it?

I know not what the success will be, my lord, but the attempt I vow.

I know th’art valiant; and to the possibility of thy soldiership, will subscribe for thee. Farewell.

I love not many words.


No more than a fish loves water. Is not this a strange fellow, my lord, that so confidently seems to undertake this business, which he knows is not to be done; damns himself to do, and dares better be damn’d than to do’t.

You do not know him, my lord, as we do; certain it is that he will steal himself into a man’s favour, and for a week escape a great deal of discoveries, but when you find him out, you have him ever after.

Why, do you think he will make no deed at all of this, that so seriously he does address himself unto?

None in the world; but return with an invention, and clap upon you two or three probable lies; but we have almost embossed him; you shall see his fall tonight; for indeed he is not for your lordship’s respect.

We’ll make you some sport with the fox ere we case him. He was first smok’d by the old Lord Lafew; when his disguise and he is parted, tell me what a sprat you shall find him; which you shall see this very night.

I must go look my twigs. He shall be caught.

Your brother, he shall go along with me.

As’t please your lordship. I’ll leave you.


Now will I lead you to the house, and show you
The lass I spoke of.

But you say she’s honest.

That’s all the fault. I spoke with her but once,
And found her wondrous cold, but I sent to her
By this same coxcomb that we have i’ the wind
Tokens and letters which she did re-send,
And this is all I have done. She’s a fair creature;
Will you go see her?

With all my heart, my lord.


SCENE VII. Florence. A room in the Widow’s house.

Enter Helena 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 naught 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.


Free Learning Resources