This page contains the original text of All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 4, Scene 3. Shakespeare’s original All’s Well That Ends Well text is extremely long, so we’ve split the text into one Scene per page. All Acts are listed on the All’s Well That Ends Well text page, or linked to from the bottom of this page.
All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 4, Scene 3: The Florentine camp
Enter the two French Lords and some two or three Soldiers
You have not given him his mother’s letter?
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.
He has much worthy blame laid upon him for shaking
off so good a wife and so sweet a lady.
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.
When you have spoken it, ’tis dead, and I am the
grave of it.
He hath perverted a young gentlewoman 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.
Now, God delay our rebellion! as we are ourselves,
what things are we!
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.
Is it not meant damnable in us, to be trumpeters of
our unlawful intents? We shall not then have his
Not till after midnight; for he is dieted to his hour.
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.
We will not meddle with him till he come; for his
presence must be the whip of the other.
In the mean time, what hear you of these wars?
I hear there is an overture of peace.
Nay, I assure you, a peace concluded.
What will Count Rousillon do then? will he travel
higher, or return again into France?
I perceive, by this demand, you are not altogether
of his council.
Let it be forbid, sir; so should I be a great deal
of his act.
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.
How is this justified?
The stronger part of it by her own letters, which
makes 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.
Hath the count all this intelligence?
Ay, and the particular confirmations, point from
point, so to the full arming of the verity.
I am heartily sorry that he’ll be glad of this.
How mightily sometimes we make us comforts of our losses!
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.
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 Messenger
How now! where’s your master?
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.
They shall be no more than needful there, if they
were more than they can commend.
They cannot be too sweet for the king’s tartness.
Here’s his lordship now.
How now, my lord! is’t not after midnight?
I have to-night dispatched sixteen businesses, a
month’s length a-piece, by an abstract of success:
I have congied 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.
If the business be of any difficulty, and this
morning your departure hence, it requires haste of
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 module, he has deceived
me, like a double-meaning prophesier.
Bring him forth: has sat i’ the stocks all night,
poor gallant knave.
No matter: his heels have deserved it, in usurping
his spurs so long. How does he carry himself?
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?
Nothing of me, has a’?
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.
Enter PAROLLES guarded, and First Soldier
A plague upon him! muffled! he can say nothing of
me: hush, hush!
Hoodman comes! Portotartarosa
He calls for the tortures: what will you say
I will confess what I know without constraint: if
ye pinch me like a pasty, I can say no more.
You are a merciful general. Our general bids you
answer to what I shall ask you out of a note.
And truly, as I hope to live.
[Reads] ‘First demand of him how many horse the
duke is strong.’ What say you to that?
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.
Shall I set down your answer so?
Do: I’ll take the sacrament on’t, how and which way you will.
All’s one to him. What a past-saving slave is this!
You’re deceived, my lord: this is Monsieur
Parolles, the gallant militarist,–that was his own
phrase,–that had the whole theoric of war in the
knot of his scarf, and the practise in the chape of
I will never trust a man again for keeping his sword
clean. nor believe he can have every thing in him
by wearing his apparel neatly.
Well, that’s set down.
Five or six thousand horse, I said,– I will say
true,–or thereabouts, set down, for I’ll speak truth.
He’s very near the truth in this.
But I con him no thanks for’t, in the nature he
Poor rogues, I pray you, say.
Well, that’s set down.
I humbly thank you, sir: a truth’s a truth, the
rogues are marvellous poor.
[Reads] ‘Demand of him, of what strength they are
a-foot.’ What say you to that?
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 and fifty each; mine own
company, Chitopher, Vaumond, Bentii, two hundred and
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 snow from off
their cassocks, lest they shake themselves to pieces.
What shall be done to him?
Nothing, but let him have thanks. Demand of him my
condition, and what credit I have with the duke.
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 revolt.’ What say you to this? what
do you know of it?
I beseech you, let me answer to the particular of
the inter’gatories: demand them singly.
Do you know this Captain Dumain?
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.
Nay, by your leave, hold your hands; though I know
his brains are forfeit to the next tile that falls.
Well, is this captain in the duke of Florence’s camp?
Upon my knowledge, he is, and lousy.
Nay look not so upon me; we shall hear of your
What is his reputation with the duke?
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.
Marry, we’ll search.
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.
Here ’tis; here’s a paper: shall I read it to you?
I do not know if it be it or no.
Our interpreter does it well.
[Reads] ‘Dian, the count’s a fool, and full of gold,’–
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.
Nay, I’ll read it first, by your favour.
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.
Damnable both-sides rogue!
[Reads] ‘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 vowed to thee in thine ear,
He shall be whipped through the army with this rhyme
This is your devoted friend, sir, the manifold
linguist and the armipotent soldier.
I could endure any thing before but a cat, and now
he’s a cat to me.
I perceive, sir, by the general’s looks, we shall be
fain to hang you.
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 any where, so I may live.
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?
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
every thing that an honest man should not have; what
an honest man should have, he has nothing.
I begin to love him for this.
For this description of thine honesty? A pox upon
him for me, he’s more and more a cat.
What say you to his expertness in war?
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.
He hath out-villained villany so far, that the
rarity redeems him.
A pox on him, he’s a cat still.
His qualities being at this poor price, I need not
to ask you if gold will corrupt him to revolt.
Sir, for a quart d’ecu 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.
What’s his brother, the other Captain Dumain?
Why does be ask him of me?
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 outruns any lackey; marry, in coming
on he has the cramp.
If your life be saved, will you undertake to betray
Ay, and the captain of his horse, Count Rousillon.
I’ll whisper with the general, and know his pleasure.
[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?
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.
O Lord, sir, let me live, or let me see my death!
That shall you, and take your leave of all your friends.
So, look about you: know you any here?
Good morrow, noble captain.
God bless you, Captain Parolles.
God save you, noble captain.
Captain, what greeting will you to my Lord Lafeu?
I am for France.
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’ld compel it of you:
but fare you well.
Exeunt BERTRAM and Lords
You are undone, captain, all but your scarf; that
has a knot on’t yet
Who cannot be crushed with a plot?
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 with Soldiers
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.
Read more scenes from All’s Well That Ends Well:
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 1, Scene 1
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 1, Scene 2
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 1, Scene 3
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 2, Scene 1
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 2, Scene 2
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 2, Scene 3
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 2, Scene 4
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 2, Scene 5
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 3, Scene 1
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 3, Scene 2
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 3, Scene 3
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 3, Scene 4
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 3, Scene 5
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 3, Scene 6
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 3, Scene 7
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 4, Scene 1
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 4, Scene 2
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 4, Scene 3
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 4, Scene 4
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 4, Scene 5
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 5, Scene 1
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 5, Scene 2
All’s Well That Ends Well Act 5, Scene 3
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