Follow All's Well that Ends Well with our scene by scene synopsis.
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Countess of Roussillon
Bertram, Count of Roussillon, son to the Countess
Helen, ward to the Countess
Rinaldo, Steward to the Countess
Lavache the Clown, servant to the Countess
Parolles, companion to Bertram
Lafeu, a French Lord
At the French Court:
Four young Lords
First Lord Dumaine
Second Lord Dumaine
Diana, daughter to Widow
Mariana, neighbour to Widow
Scene by Scene
Act 1 Scene 1 – ‘Farewell, my lord’
The Countess of Roussillon mourns the loss of her husband and expresses her concern that her son,
Count Bertram, will soon be leaving for Paris to serve the gravely ill King of France. Her ward, Helena, is
in love with Bertram, but knows he will never marry her because of her low social status. Alone, Parolles
advises Helena that she should marry and lose her virginity as soon as possible before heading off to
Paris with Bertram. Helena, alone, reveals her determination to gain Bertram’s hand in marriage.
Act 1 Scene 2 – ‘Welcome Count. / My son’s no dearer’
The King of France discusses his decision to remain neutral in the war between Austria and the Duke of
Florence, and welcomes Bertram to his court. The king is sure he will soon die, due to his severe illness.
Act 1 Scene 3 – ‘Do you love my son?’
Back in Rousillion, a Steward tells the Countess about Helena’s affection for Bertram. The Countess calls
for Helena, who confirms her feelings and reveals her plan to go to Paris and use her father’s techniques
to cure the dying king. Though the Countess is doubtful that the king will accept her services, she wishes
her luck and Helena leaves for Paris.
Act 2 Scene 1 – ‘But if I help, what do you promise me?’
In the king’s court, a number of noblemen prepare to go to war in Florence. Two lords try to convince
Bertram to join the war effort, but Bertram has been commanded by the king to remain by his side. The
king learns that a female doctor, Helena, has arrived in court, claiming that she can cure him. The king
is doubtful, but Helena offers a bargain: if she fails, the king may execute her; if she succeeds, she may
choose whoever she wishes to be her husband. The king agrees to try the cure at once.
Act 2 Scene 2 – ‘Give Helen this, and urge her to a present answer back’
In Rousillon, the Countess instructs her clown, Lavache, to deliver a message to Helena in Paris.
Act 2 Scene 3 – ‘Thou hast the power to choose, and they none to forsake’
Back in Paris, the king and court are overjoyed by his full recovery to good health. The king finds five
worthy gentlemen as potential matches for Helena, but she chooses Bertram. Bertram is appalled,
rejecting Helena as an improper match. The king scolds Bertram, who finally agrees. The couple weds
immediately, but Bertram refuses to consummate their marriage, planning instead to send Helena home
to Rousillon while he leaves for war.
Act 2 Scene 4 – ‘Madam, my lord will go away tonight’
Lavache arrives in Paris with the message from the Countess. Speaking on Bertram’s behalf, Parolles
informs Helena that her husband must leave on ‘serious business’ and cannot consummate the marriage.
Act 2 Scene 5 – ‘Go toward home, where I shall never come’
Lafew warns Bertram that Parolles is a coward who greatly exaggerates his abilities as a soldier. Helena
arrives to say goodbye to her husband, who commands her to return to Rousillon before himself departing
Act 3 Scene 1 – ‘Holy seems the quarrel’
The Duke of Florence expresses his disappointment at the French King’s neutrality in the war.
Act 3 Scene 2 – ‘I have wedded her, not bedded her’
Helena returns to Rousillon and learns that the Countess has received a letter from Bertram, telling her that
he would rather spend his days abroad than married to Helena. Helena also receives a letter from Bertram,
declaring that he will never be her true husband until she both possesses his family ring (which he will never
remove) and becomes pregnant with his child (which he will never allow). Devastated, Helena decides to
Act 3 Scene 3 – ‘The general of our horse thou art’
The Duke of Florence welcomes Bertram into his home and names him general of his cavalry.
Act 3 Scene 4 – ‘What angel shall / Bless this unworthy husband?’
The Countess receives a letter from Helena stating her plans to make pilgrimage to a monastery. Infuriated
by her son’s behavior and hoping to reconcile the couple, the Countess sends a letter to Bertram, urging
him to come home.
Act 3 Scene 5 – ‘Beware of them, Diana’
Helena makes her pilgrimage to Florence and makes a discovery: Bertram is also in Florence and has
been trying to seduce Diana, the young daughter of a widow. Not revealing her identity, Helena meets
with Diana, her mother, and their friend, who urge Diana to maintain her chastity. Helena is invited to
stay with them.
Act 3 Scene 6 – ‘He’s a most notable coward’
Back at the Duke’s camp, the Lords of Dumaine warn Bertram not to trust Parolles. They devise a plan to
expose his cowardice: disguised as enemy soldiers they will kidnap and interrogate Parolles, showing just
how quickly he will give up his friends.
Act 3 Scene 7 – ‘Deceit so lawful’
Helena confides in the Widow and reveals that she is Bertram’s wife. Together they agree on a plan to
fulfill Bertram’s unreasonable preconditions: Diana will ask Bertram for his family ring as a love token
and invite him to come to bed with her. Under the cover of night, Helena and Diana will switch places,
allowing Helena to consummate her marriage with Bertram and hopefully fall pregnant.
Act 4 Scene 1 – ‘O, let me live / And all the secrets of our camp I’ll show’
On the outskirts of the army camp, the Lords of Dumaine and a group of their men dress as the enemy and
‘capture’ Parolles. Convinced he has been taken hostage, Parolles instantly reveals his cowardice and offers
to give them any information they desire.
Act 4 Scene 2 – ‘When midnight comes, knock at my chamber window’
Bertram again declares his love to Diana, and she agrees that he may come to her in the middle of the
night. In return, she asks that he give her his ring as proof of his love, and that he wear her ring (which is
in fact the ring that the King of France gave to Helena for saving his life).
Act 4 Scene 3 – ‘A plague upon him!’
In the army camp, the Lords of Dumaine have a letter from Bertram’s mother condemning her son’s
recent behavior. There are also rumours that Helena has died. When Bertram returns to camp from
Diana’s bedroom, the Lords lead him to Parolles, who is bound and blindfolded. When the soldiers (who
Parolles believes to be enemy soldiers) threaten torture, Parolles immediately reveals army secrets as
well as delivering a harsh report of Bertram and the Lords of Dumaine. When the Lords remove the
blindfold and reveal the ruse, Parolles is ridiculed and left behind friendless.
Act 4 Scene 4 – ‘All’s well that ends well’
Helena, Diana, and her mother discuss their success, having tricked Bertram into consummating his
marriage. Believing his wife to be dead, Bertram intends to return to France. Helena thanks the ladies for
their help, and asks them to accompany her to the French King’s court where she will reveal herself to
Act 4 Scene 5 – ‘My son will be here tonight’
Back in Rousillion, the Countess mourns the news of Helena’s supposed death. Lafeu suggests that
Bertram marry his daughter, and the Countess agrees. The Clown confirms that Bertram has indeed
Act 5 Scene 1 – ‘The King’s not here’
Helena, Diana and her mother arrive in Marseilles to find that the king has moved his court to Rousillion
and change course in that direction.
Act 5 Scene 2 – ‘Give me your hand’
Parolles arrives in the home of the Countess dressed as a beggar. Lafeu takes him in, offering him a meal.
Act 5 Scene 3 – 5.3 ‘O, pardon!’
At court in Rousillion, the king is about to announce Bertram’s engagement to Lafeu’s daughter when he
notices the ring he gave to Helena on Bertram’s finger. Convinced that Bertram stole the ring, the king
is furious. At that moment Diana and her mother enter, and Diana reveals that Bertram seduced her and
that she gave him the ring. The king demands to know how she acquired the ring, at which point Diana’s
mother brings in Helena, who reveals the whole story. She also proves how she has met Bertram’s
unreasonable conditions – now having both his ring and being pregnant with his child. Bertram repents
his behavior and promises to love and respect Helena as her husband. The king offers Diana her choice
of husband, and all ends well.