All's Well That Ends Well | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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All's Well That Ends Well | Act 3, Scenes 3–4 | Summary

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Summary

Act 3, Scene 3

The Duke of Florence appears with Bertram and Parolles. Bertram has been named the "general of our horse," and the Duke of Florence says he has great hopes Bertram will have a promising future. Bertram modestly replies he is not strong enough for a position of such responsibility but swears he will fulfill his duties "[t]o th' extreme edge of hazard." He then asks Mars, the god of war, "Make me ... / A lover of thy drum."

Act 3, Scene 4

The countess receives a letter from Helen, who says she is repenting for her "[a]mbitious love" by plodding the ground as a barefoot pilgrim. She begs the countess to write to Bertram and let him know she has left, so he might return to Rossillion and be safe. Helen ends her letter saying, "He is too good and fair for death and me." The countess wonders what angel will protect "this unworthy husband" unless Helen herself will pray for him. She asks her steward, who delivered Helen's note, to write back to Bertram telling him what Helen has done, praising her worth, and letting the young count know he has caused his mother great grief. She hopes, she says, the letter will bring him home and Helen, hearing he is safe, will return as well.

Analysis

These two short scenes prepare the audience for the next key plot points. Bertram is at war and, surprisingly, seems to have earned the respect of the duke, who has made him "general of our horse," or cavalry. Bertram shows surprising humility and bravery, perhaps indicating he needed to stop being treated like a boy in order to begin acting like a man. In Rossillion the countess learns Helen has done something equally courageous and self-sacrificing. She has set off alone, as a pilgrim, to clear the way for Bertram to return home. Her love for him is so great she is blind to any of his faults, saying she is not worthy of him but can at least serve as his Juno, or protector. The one suffering the most, however, seems to be the countess. At this point she has lost her biological son and the daughter of her heart, and she frantically maneuvers the situation, trying to ensure the safety of both.

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