All's Well That Ends Well | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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



This brief scene between the countess and the fool provides the audience with the information the countess is sending the fool to Paris to deliver a paper to Helen and retrieve an answer from her in return. Prior to that command, though, the two once again share a brief humorous exchange in which the fool explains he has no trouble conducting himself appropriately in court. It is simple, he says, because he has one answer that can be used in response to any question, much "like a barber's chair that fits all buttocks." The answer is simply, "O Lord, sir!" delivered with the appropriate expression and gesture.


In many of Shakespeare's plays, short scenes like this one are used as devices to provide comic relief and serve as a "bridge" between more important episodes. In this case the scene is also used to satirize courtly manners. The audience can imagine a foppish gentleman (or shallow lady) in court responding to every question with these words, a fluttering hand gesture, and a slight laugh, gasp of astonishment, or other embellishment that fits the question. Since the comic actors of Shakespeare's day were skilled at improvisation, it is likely the actor playing the fool continued the scene for as long as he could keep people laughing.

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