Act I - Act I, Scene 2

SCENE 2. Paris. A room in the King's palace.

[Flourish of cornets. Enter the KING OF FRANCE, with letters;
Lords and others attending.]

The Florentines and Senoys are by the ears;
Have fought with equal fortune, and continue
A braving war.

So 'tis reported, sir.

Nay, 'tis most credible; we here receive it,
A certainty, vouch'd from our cousin Austria,
With caution, that the Florentine will move us
For speedy aid; wherein our dearest friend
Prejudicates the business, and would seem
To have us make denial.

His love and wisdom,
Approv'd so to your majesty, may plead
For amplest credence.

He hath arm'd our answer,
And Florence is denied before he comes:
Yet, for our gentlemen that mean to see
The Tuscan service, freely have they leave
To stand on either part.

It well may serve
A nursery to our gentry, who are sick
For breathing and exploit.

What's he comes here?


It is the Count Rousillon, my good lord,
Young Bertram.

Youth, thou bear'st thy father's face;
Frank nature, rather curious than in haste,
Hath well compos'd thee. Thy father's moral parts
Mayst thou inherit too! Welcome to Paris.

My thanks and duty are your majesty's.

I would I had that corporal soundness now,
As when thy father and myself in friendship
First tried our soldiership! He did look far
Into the service of the time, and was
Discipled of the bravest: he lasted long;
But on us both did haggish age steal on,
And wore us out of act. It much repairs me
To talk of your good father. In his youth
He had the wit which I can well observe
To-day in our young lords; but they may jest
Till their own scorn return to them unnoted,
Ere they can hide their levity in honour
So like a courtier: contempt nor bitterness
Were in his pride or sharpness; if they were,
His equal had awak'd them; and his honour,
Clock to itself, knew the true minute when
Exception bid him speak, and at this time
His tongue obey'd his hand: who were below him
He us'd as creatures of another place;
And bow'd his eminent top to their low ranks,
Making them proud of his humility,
In their poor praise he humbled. Such a man
Might be a copy to these younger times;
Which, follow'd well, would demonstrate them now
But goers backward.

His good remembrance, sir,
Lies richer in your thoughts than on his tomb;
So in approof lives not his epitaph
As in your royal speech.

Would I were with him! He would always say,--
Methinks I hear him now; his plausive words
He scatter'd not in ears, but grafted them
To grow there, and to bear,--'Let me not live,'--
This his good melancholy oft began,
On the catastrophe and heel of pastime,
When it was out,--'Let me not live' quoth he,
'After my flame lacks oil, to be the snuff
Of younger spirits, whose apprehensive senses
All but new things disdain; whose judgments are
Mere fathers of their garments; whose constancies
Expire before their fashions:'--This he wish'd:
I, after him, do after him wish too,
Since I nor wax nor honey can bring home,
I quickly were dissolved from my hive,
To give some labourers room.

You're lov'd, sir;
They that least lend it you shall lack you first.

I fill a place, I know't.--How long is't, Count,
Since the physician at your father's died?
He was much fam'd.

Some six months since, my lord.

If he were living, I would try him yet;--
Lend me an arm;--the rest have worn me out
With several applications:--nature and sickness
Debate it at their leisure. Welcome, count;
My son's no dearer.

Thank your majesty.

[Exeunt. Flourish.]


  1. The King's welcome of Bertram includes the confidences about Bertram's father and about the physician Narbon plus the assertion that Bertram is as dear to him as his own son is.

    — Kay Morse
  2. The King confides that if Helena's father, Gerard de Narbon, were still living, he would try one more time to find a cure for his fistula by consulting Narbon. This is important background for the plot development to come in Act II.

    — Kay Morse
  3. This tells us approximately how long** Helena had been in mourning** for her father in I.i when Bertram left Rousillon to travel to the court of the King of France. Bear in mind that the late Count of Rousillon, Bertram's father had died before "the physician," so the Countess and Bertram had been in mourning longer while the Countess had renewed mourning at the physician's death.

    — Kay Morse
  4. Paraphrase: You are beloved by courtiers and common people alike, and those that give you the least love (the commoners who know you least) will miss you the most when your life ends (they will lose the benevolent king who governs them).

    — Kay Morse
  5. In a bee metaphor in which the King compares himself to a productive laborer bee, he says that since he is no longer productive ("nor wax nor honey can bring home"), he wishes for his life to end sooner than later so that a productive might take over the monarchy: "quickly dissolve ... to give some labourers room."

    — Kay Morse
  6. Paraphrase: Since I can no longer be a productive bee, adding neither honey nor beeswax ...

    — Kay Morse
  7. after, preposition: according to same nature of someone or something; in conformity, agreement, unison with someone or something

    — Kay Morse
  8. whose loyalties end before their clothes go out of fashion

    In other words, these young lords cannot be depended upon to be loyal friends or courtiers any longer than their clothes are in fashion, and fashions seemingly changed almost as quickly then as now.

    — Kay Morse
  9. whose judgements tend only to the superficialities of appearance and have no depth of thought, meaning, or feeling; whose judgements are those of shallow unthinking, unuseful, unfeeling men

    — Kay Morse
  10. The late Count's remarks mean he wishes that his life will be over before young lords, who value only what is new and novel and in fashion, could disdain him and show contempt for him as a feeble, weak, meaningless old man. In other words, he wishes that his life will end while he still commands respect and while his worth is still recognized.

    Though the King uses the word "melancholy," it does not signify that the late Count was depressed but rather that the*** remark was a melancholy one because it dealt with the possibility of being despised and disrespected in old age***.

    — Kay Morse
  11. Following the pattern of meaning delivered pregnant pause established in Scene I, the meaning of this [incorrectly] seemingly depressed remark is delivered after a pregnant pause.

    — Kay Morse
  12. The late Count's words were taken to heart and bore the fruit of good council.

    — Kay Morse
  13. Bertram praises the King's remarks about his departed father and, by inference, agrees with the King's remarks.

    — Kay Morse
  14. The King says that if the late Count Rousillon were followed as a role model by the young lords, they would see that their behavior represented a regression to a cruder, less humble and less civilized form of society: "goers backward."

    — Kay Morse
  15. The King says that the late Count Rousillon would be the right kind of** role model** to the young lords of the then present times.

    — Kay Morse
  16. From "who were below him" to "he humbled":

    The late Count is described as a** truly chivalrous lord** in that, in humility, he lowered himself to the rank of servants and peasants and dealt with them gently and without pride of position. The result is that servants and peasants, the "lowly,"** praised him for his kind and gentle humility**: "Making them proud of his humility."

    — Kay Morse
  17. From "if they were" to "obeyed his hand":

    The King is describing the late Count as one who only reprimanded those who were of equal station--equally lords--with him and as one who did not act rashly but only at necessary times (in other words, he overlooked what could be over looked and only reprimanded where it was absolutely necessary), and, in these times, his sword did his speaking for him (in other words, he fought duels of honor).

    [It is good to know that he was an honorable and cautious man if duels were the result of necessary action on his part.]

    — Kay Morse
  18. The late Count, Bertram's father, was neither contemptuous of others nor bitter toward them: he was neither proud nor sharp to others.

    This character sketch of the late Count provides a comparison to measure Bertram against as Bertram's character becomes better known throughout the play.

    At this point, we don't know why this comparison might be important or what purpose it might serve.

    — Kay Morse
  19. From "which I can well observe" to "So like a courtier":

    The King is observing that the young lords--like Bertram, Parolles, and the first Lord and second Lord--have the same wit and ability to jest but that they lack control and subtlety so that their jests and wit come back to hurt them and bring scorn from others upon them so quickly that they don't have a chance to make amends and behave with courtly courtesy that would honorably smooth over any rough or insulting joking. In other words, young lords are coarser, less noble and less honorable than he and the late Count were.

    — Kay Morse
  20. Intelligence and readiness of mind in clever repartee and jest against other soldiers: an ability in word play, irony and jest.

    repartee, noun: clever, quick replies or comments intended to amuse and give merriment

    jest, noun: a mild, intelligent form of joking; an attempt to amuse with clever words

    — Kay Morse
  21. It cheers him up and gives him** renewed spirit **to talk of his old friend, the Count, Bertram's father.

    — Kay Morse
  22. Made us too old to act valorously in war as young men do. The King is alluding in part to his fistula, the result of war injury.

    — Kay Morse
  23. Both did old age creep up on; they both became old men together (and now the Count is dead making Bertram the new Count).

    — Kay Morse
  24. Bertram's father, the former Count of Rousillon, and the King have been long-time friends, since they were young men going to war for the first time, and the Count had been a trusted adviser to the King upon whom the King had depended. He wishes he could call upon the deceased Count's advice in the present hour in regard to the conflict between Florence and Senoy and in regard to his present adviser's recommendation that has "arm'd our answer."

    — Kay Morse
  25. The sound advice and counsel and moral guidance of Bertram's father.

    — Kay Morse
  26. The King gives a blessing to Bertram admonishing him to take on his father's moral character also as it was a worthy one.

    — Kay Morse
  27. Bertram, like his father, is a curious man, not a hasty one, according to the King's quick observation.

    — Kay Morse
  28. Bertram, the King seems to instantly notice, has a frank, open, direct, sincere nature to his being, which is also like his father.

    — Kay Morse
  29. Those entering are the three in the group that left Rousillon to accompany Bertram to the court of the King of France who is now guardian to Bertram (who is conversely the ward of the King): Bertram, Parolles and Lafeu.

    — Kay Morse
  30. Today, we would say "Who's he who comes here?"

    The King sees someone approaching before the audience does and asks those attending him who the approaching people are.

    — Kay Morse
  31. The second Lord is suggesting that France has gone** too long without adventure and exploits** that can bring honor to French gentry and that participating in a foreign war will bring them into full maturity as warriors.

    gentry, noun: the ruling aristocratic class

    — Kay Morse
  32. French nobles and warriors have permission to fight on either side, either for the Florentines or for the Senoys.

    This is a concept that seems foreign to contemporary people because alliances between modern states are strictly spelled out by detailed and intricate treaties.

    — Kay Morse
  33. Florence is in Tuscany. "Tuscan service" means the war between Florentine and Senoy.

    — Kay Morse
  34. [Note: the King speaks in the monarchical plural as the God given head of all the people of his state; the King is in the plural as the representative authority of all souls in France.]

    ** military allusion** (allusion: reference to something to make a complex point in a simple way): the prejudicated reaction to Florentine's request has put the King in an offensive position, as if with a fuse to an explosion, that presupposes an outcome

    — Kay Morse
  35. noun: support for a belief, recommendation, credential as true or trustworthy

    Since the "dearest friend" (adviser) has the King's trust, his recommendation against aiding Florentine in their war should generate ***support for the belief in the "friend's" truth and trustworthiness. ***

    — Kay Morse
  36. to form (usually) negative opinions before examination of facts and circumstances

    The King's "dearest friend" has determined without due consideration that going to the aid of the Florentines' aid in war would be an ill-advised course of action.

    Australia has sent word that the Florentines will ask France's urgent aid in the war against the Senoys, and the King's adviser says to deny the request for help.

    — Kay Morse
  37. This refers to the King of Australia as "cousin." It was the common practice to refer to monarchs by their country name as it is still the practice to refer to nobles by their county of power, as in "Surrey" rather than "Henry Howard": Henry Howard Earl of Surrey, or simply Surrey.

    — Kay Morse
  38. The palace of the King of France to whom Bertram is traveling as he is now Bertram's guardian and Bertram the King's ward.

    — Kay Morse
  39. Both sides are equal in might and the war continues with neither side backing down.

    — Kay Morse
  40. Renaissance idiom: to be overwhelmed so as to be pulled along by the ears; to be tormented; to be baited (i.e., deliberately taunted, bullied)

    — Kay Morse
  41. The warring states of *Florentine *and Senoi, or Sanesi, the republic of which Sienna was the capital.

    — Kay Morse
  42. Elaborate ceremonial trumpeting of cornets.

    flourish, noun: a fanfare played by cornets

    cornet, noun: a trumpet, sometimes very long, that has no valves, such as a modern trumpet does, that was used for heralding, or announcing, the entry of important persons, especially a monarch

    — Kay Morse