Shakespeare at Winedale

All's Well That Ends Well Play Synopsis

All's Well That Ends Well Graphic

The play begins with the recent death of the Count of Rossillion. His son, Bertram, is leaving home to attend the sickly King in Paris. He bids farewell to his mother the Countess and to her ward Helena, the orphaned daughter of a famous physician. With the help of her steward, Reynaldo, the Countess learns that Helena is in love with her son. Helena confesses her love to the Countess, and they agree that Helena should travel to Paris to attempt to cure the King.

Helena arrives at court and persuades the King to let her try to cure him. Miraculously, she succeeds. As a reward she is presented with the King’s ring and his blessing to wed any man of her choice.  She chooses Bertram, who initially balks, and only consents when threatened by the King. Bertram bemoans his situation to his hanger-on Parolles, confiding that he intends to sneak away to the Tuscan Wars. Bertram sends Helena back to his mother, telling her that he will meet her there in two days, after attending to some urgent business.

In Rossillion, the Countess learns of the marriage between Bertram and Helena, and Bertram's flight. Helena shares Bertram's dismissive letter, which asserts that he will only wed her once she gets his family ring and bears his child. Helena sneaks away in the night, leaving the Countess a letter that claims she is going to Saint Jaques. However, she arrives in Florence disguised as a pilgrim. Helena meets a widow and her daughter, Diana, who tell her of Bertram’s success in battle and advances toward Diana. Meanwhile, at the prompting of his men, Bertram agrees to let his men test Parolles’ honor by capturing him, disguised as a group of Muscovites. Helena reveals her true identity to Diana and her mother and seeks their help in winning her husband back.

The disguised French lords ambush Parolles, who panics and offers to reveal all the Florentine secrets. Bertram woos Diana by giving her his family ring, and Diana promises Bertram her virginity. Bertram returns to camp, where Parolles has been captured and blindfolded. Parolles further betrays his comrades when Bertram questions him. The men reveal themselves, shaming Parolles to silence. Offstage, Helena switches places with Diana when Bertram comes to her bed, and gives Bertram a new ring. Having heard false news of Helena’s death, Bertram returns to the Parisian court.

The King and Countess mourn the death of Helena as they await the arrival of Bertram. He returns to court, begs forgiveness from the king, and prepares to marry Lafeu's daughter as penance for his behavior towards Helena. As a token of love, Bertram gives Lafeu the ring he traded with Diana. The King recognizes it as the ring he gave Helena. A letter arrives, claiming that Bertram pledged to marry Diana as soon as Helena had died. Diana enters, and identifies Helena's ring as the one she gave Bertram in bed. Bertram denies Diana’s claims. Parolles admits that Bertram seduced and bedded Diana. Diana’s increasingly cryptic answers to the King’s questions lead him to demand that she be sent to prison. Diana finally presents an answer to this riddle: Helena. Helena explains everything and proves that she has fulfilled the conditions of Bertram's challenge. She has his ring and is pregnant with his child. Bertram swears to love her, leaving everyone to wonder if “all yet seems well”.