All's Well That Ends Well | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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All's Well That Ends Well | Act 5, Scenes 1–2 | Summary

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Summary

Act 5, Scene 1

Helen, the widow of Florence, and Diana arrive in Marseilles. Helen sees a gentleman she recognizes from the French court. He tells her the king of France has gone to Rossillion where the gentleman is also heading. Helen asks if he would deliver a message for her and tells the man she will follow shortly. He agrees. The widow of Florence laments their journey may have been for nothing, but Helen reassures her, "All's well that ends well yet."

Act 5, Scene 2

Parolles has returned to Rossillion, quite a bit the worse for wear. He encounters the fool, who at first doesn't recognize him. Parolles says he is not surprised since he is "muddied in Fortune's mood, and smell[s] / somewhat strong of her strong displeasure." He asks the fool to deliver a message to Lafew, but the fool has no desire to help Parolles in any way. Luckily for Parolles, Lafew himself appears. At first Lafew does not recognize Parolles either, but Parolles quickly reveals himself. Lafew asks him how his drum is, making it clear news of Parolles's foolishness is already being talked about. Parolles throws himself on Lafew's mercy, saying only Lafew has the power to bring Parolles some grace since he was the first to recognize Parolles's shortcomings. Lafew hears trumpets announcing the arrival of the king of France but, before he leaves, tells Parolles they will talk more and although he is a fool and a knave, he will be given something to eat and a place to stay.

Analysis

These two brief scenes are setups for the final confrontation in the play where all story lines will be resolved. In Act 5, Scene 1 Helen continues to demonstrate her resourcefulness and pluck and also shows her unwavering optimism.

Parolles, too, has arrived at Rossillion. Although his disgraced reputation precedes him, he has not given up. He cheerfully admits to the fool he looks and smells bad, but he still has the audacity to appeal to Lafew's good nature in the hopes of being forgiven by the people he betrayed. In that hope he is fortunate, for once again Lafew proves himself to be a good and kind man who will forgive even Parolles for his follies.

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