Synopses & Reviews
The play relates the efforts of Helena, daughter of a renowned physician, to make Bertram, the Count of Rousillon, her husband. When the gravely ill king of France summons Bertram, Helena follows and administers a cure that had been provided by her father. In return, the king invites her to select a husband, her choice being the evasive Bertram. He concedes to the royal imperative but promptly flees to Tuscany. By letter Bertram informs Helena that she may not consider him her husband until she has taken the ring from his finger and conceived child by him. Disguised as a pilgrim, Helena follows Bertram to Florence only to discover that he has been courting the daughter of her hostess. Helena spreads a rumour of her own death and has a rendezvous with Bertram in the daughter's stead. In exchange for his ring, she gives him one that the king has given her. When Bertram returns to Rousillon, where the king is visiting the countess, the royal guest recognizes the ring and suspects foul play. Helena then appears to explain her machinations and claim her rightful spouse.
As a reward for her service, the King of France allows Helena to choose a husband from among his court, but Count Bertram heads off to battle rather than marry beneath his station. Helena's daring plan to win the man she loves highlights this dark comedy.