Study Guide

All's Well That Ends Well Act 5, Scene 3

By William Shakespeare

Act 5, Scene 3

Read the full text of All's Well That Ends Well Act 5 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.


  • In the meantime, the King of France and the Countess of Roussillon talk about everything that has happened.
  • Everyone is sad that Helen is dead but, hey, life goes on.
  • The King and Countess agree that Bertram should be forgiven for his bad behavior; after all, everyone makes mistakes when they're young.
  • Lafeu chimes in that, actually, Bertram's behavior has been pretty despicable.
  • Still, after the King basically pardons Bertram, Lafeu and the King confirm that Bertram will be engaged to Lafeu's daughter. 
  • When Bertram arrives, the King gives a big speech about Bertram's bad behavior, and Bertram apologizes. He says he's realized his mistake and regrets having treated Helen so badly. In fact, he now has come to love her and realize what he lost. 
  • Everyone is satisfied and the King announces that Bertram will now be marrying Lafeu's daughter (Maudlin). But when they ask Bertram to offer up a ring to secure the commitment, Lafeu notices that the ring Bertram removes from his finger is the one that Helen wore. 
  • (Okay. Bertram thinks he got this ring from Diana during the steamy hook-up that never actually happened between them. Remember, Helen took Diana's place in bed without Bertram knowing, so she's the one who put the ring on his finger.)
  • The King looks down and says that, yeah, that's definitely Helen's ring. In fact, he gave it to her after she cured his disease.
  • He wonders if Bertram murdered Helen to get it off her finger.
  • Bertram tries to weasel his way out of it. He makes up a silly story about some girl throwing it to him out her bedroom window back in Italy.
  • The King doesn't believe him one bit. He says that Helen promised never to remove the ring until she had sex with Bertram and could personally put it on his finger while they were in bed. (Yeah, Shakespeare is cracking another dirty ring joke.)
  • The King orders his men to arrest Bertram and drag him off to the slammer.
  • Bertram denies everything.
  • Just then, the austringer shows up and delivers Helen's note to the King, which goes something like this:
  • Dear King,
  • Bertram seduced me, promised to marry me if his wife died, and then stole my virginity. Then he ran away to France. Please make him marry me ASAP like he promised.
  • Thanks,
  • Diana Capilet
  • Now Lafeu has changed his tune about letting Bertram marry his daughter.
  • Suddenly, Diana and her mom show up and Diana claims to be Bertram's wife.
  • Bertram claims that he has no idea what she's talking about and calls her a common prostitute.
  • In response, Diana whips out Bertram's family ring. Booya! Caught red-handed.
  • Bertram confesses to sleeping with Diana, but claims that she's the one who seduced him.
  • Then Paroles comes in and rats out Bertram for seducing Diana.
  • The King turns to Diana and asks her where she got Helen's ring.
  • Diana starts talking in riddles about who she is and how she got the ring, which totally annoys the King. He orders his men to take her away.
  • Before Diana is carted off to jail, she tells her mother to go get her "bail." 
  • The Widow quickly runs out and comes back with Helen, who cracks a joke about being a ghost that has come back to haunt Bertram.
  • In the final gotcha moment, Helen pulls out the letter that Bertram had written, promising to be a husband to Helen if she could (a) get the ring off his finger and (b) get pregnant with his baby.
  • She points to the ring and her belly. She wins.
  • Bertram is stunned but he promises to love Helen "ever dearly." (Huh?!)
  • Lafeu bursts into tears.
  • The King promises Diana that if she's still a virgin, he'll let her choose any husband she likes...because that went so well the last time.
  • Then he concludes, "All yet seems well."