Study Guide

All's Well That Ends Well Act 2, Scene 3

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Act 2, Scene 3

Read the full text of All's Well That Ends Well Act 2 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.

  • Back at the royal palace, Lafeu and Paroles talk about the king's miraculous recovery. Ever since Helen cured the King, he's been downright frisky (if you know what we mean).
  • Just then, Helen and the king come dancing into the room. Lafeu and Paroles can't believe their eyes.
  • The king is thrilled that he's been cured (and that he doesn't have to be carried around on a chair anymore).
  • He invites Helen to sit beside him and says she now gets to choose any husband she wants.
  • The king orders all the hottest and richest bachelors in Paris to line up in a row and tells Helen to go ahead and take her pick. She's earned it.
  • At this point, Helen takes us through the Shakespearean version of The Bachelorette. She starts by telling the King she's pretty much already made her choice, but then she goes down the line of potential husbands and rejects them one by one anyway. 
  • Lafeu is totally annoyed with how inept all these guys are. He says they must be English. They can't possibly be Frenchmen. He also says if they were his sons, he'd whip them. Or have them turned into eunuchs.
  • Finally, Helen gets to her crush, Bertram, who she chooses.
  • The king is thrilled, and he announces that Bertram and Helen will be married ASAP.
  • Before Helen can call a wedding planner and pick out a big triple-layered wedding cake, though, Bertram speaks up. Why should he have to marry Helen just because she cured the king's nasty fistula? (Hmm. He's got a point there, Shmoopers.)
  • Then Bertram throws a tantrum and insists that Helen's not good enough for him. If he marries her, she'll bring him down. (Okay. Bertram just lost our sympathy vote.)
  • The king orders him to pipe down, or else.
  • Bertram insists that Helen is nothing but a lowly physician's daughter.
  • (In Shakespeare's day, doctors weren't part of the social elite. Bertram is a count, an aristocratic nobleman, and he doesn't want to marry outside his social class.)
  • The king is losing his patience fast.
  • He lectures Bertram about being a snob and promises to make Helen a higher social rank so that Bertram doesn't feel like he's marrying beneath him. To sweeten the pot, the king also promises to give Helen a bunch of money so that she'll be rich.
  • Then he points out that Helen has everything going for her: she's young, crazy smart, and smokin' hot. What else could Bertram ask for?
  • When Bertram declares that he can't and won't love her, Helen says something like, "That's okay, I'm just glad the king is feeling better."
  • At this point, the king loses his cool and basically orders Bertram to marry Helen.
  • Bertram gets on his knees and begs the king's forgiveness. Then he stands up and takes Helen's hand, agreeing to make her his bride.
  • The king is psyched and wants the wedding to happen right away. Like tonight.
  • Everyone exits the stage except Lafeu and Paroles.
  • Lafeu refers to Bertram as Paroles' master. Paroles gets all bent out of shape by this.
  • At this, Lafeu accuses Paroles of being a poser and a wannabe, acting like he's more noble than he really is.
  • (Paroles seems to be a gentleman that serves Bertram but he refuses to acknowledge that there's any difference between Bertram's rank and his own social status.)
  • Paroles then goes on the offensive. He basically says, "Watch it grandpa, you're way too old and senile to try to pick a fight with me."
  • Lafeu says that Paroles is not a man, and proceeds to tell him that he's nothing but a loud mouth jerk who's too afraid to put his money where his mouth is.
  • (We think now's a good time to tell you that Paroles' name literally means "words." Maybe Lafeu is onto something here.)
  • Paroles repeats that Lafeu is too old to fight, but we sort of get the idea that Paroles is afraid to go toe-to-toe with him.
  • Lafeu leaves the room, and Paroles continues to talk trash until Lafeu comes back and announces that Bertram and Helen have been married. That was quick.
  • More trash talk ensues. Lafeu informs Paroles that, if he were younger, he'd kick his sorry butt all over France. No way, says Paroles. At this, Lafeu exits the stage.
  • Bertram shows up and immediately begins to act like a drama queen, boo-hooing that he's been forced to marry Helen.
  • He declares he'll never, ever sleep with his new wife. Instead, he's going to run off to fight the war in Italy.
  • Paroles eggs him on and says that staying home and having sex with your "kicky wicky" (2.3.264) (wife) is for sissies – real men go off to war.
  • (Hmm. Is it just us, or is this guy channeling Hotspur from Henry IV Part 1?)
  • Bertram decides he's going to trick Helen into going back home to live with his mom, the countess of Roussillon. Then he'll run away to Italy and write the king a letter explaining everything.

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