At the end of 4.5 in All’s Well That Ends Well, Lavatch and Lafew engage in a conversation that includes Lavatch’s mention of a “patch of velvet” covering Bertram’s left cheek as he approaches Rossillion. Lavatch supposes the patch covers a syphilitic wound, while Lafew assumes the hidden scar is a war wound. The patch and its supposed scar beneath are almost universally ignored by critics and editors, as well as by directors and actors. This essay proposes that the patch, however, should be visible in act five as it symbolizes not only Bertram’s war wound but also his internal, spiritual wounds resulting from his many selfish acts throughout the play, especially his abandoning Helena and trying to seduce Diana. If Bertram’s velvet patch is visible to spectators in act five when he returns to the court of Rossillion, it symbolizes his need for curing and links the end of act five with Helena’s healing of the King at the end of act two. This essay concludes with a staging proposal that has Helena gently remove Bertram’s patch and touch his scar, or wound, to signify her willingness to help cure his faults just as she has cured the King’s fistula with her magical touch earlier in the play. Rossillion thus becomes, like Paris earlier, a court of healing, and the short dialogue between Lavatch and Lafew in 4.5 introduces a potent symbol that directors must not ignore.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 391-407
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.