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All's Well That Ends Well | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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All's Well That Ends Well | Act 1, Scene 2 | Summary



This brief scene introduces the audience to the king of France, who appears to be not only a strong leader, but also a wise and generous man. He greets the newly arrived Bertram with tremendous warmth, saying, "My son's no dearer." He then shares his own memories of Bertram's father, the Count of Rossillion. According to the king of France, the count was strong, courageous, and honorable. He was also a humble man who valued the respect of those who were of much more common birth. His father's one wish, the king tells Bertram, was to not live "[a]fter [his] flame lacks oil," or "to be the snuff / Of younger spirits." The king shares a similar sentiment, telling Bertram he wishes soon to be "dissolvèd from [his] hive," since his illness has drained him of his usefulness. He also says he wishes Gerard de Narbon—Helen's father—were still alive, since the brilliant doctor may have been able to cure him.


Like the countess, Lafew, Gerard de Narbon, and Bertram's father, the Count of Rossillion, the king of France is a member of a wiser, older generation that is nearing the end of its time. All of them appear to share similar virtues, such as wisdom, compassion, humility, and the willingness to teach the younger people how to live a good life. Bertram, in particular, seems to have been the lucky beneficiary of the lion's share of those lessons. Both the countess and Lafew have shown themselves to be admirable advisers, and Bertram's father was clearly an excellent role model as well. Whether Bertram has learned what his elders have tried to teach him is not yet clear, although early hints of his character suggest he has not.

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