Act 1, Scene 1: At the court of Count Rossillion, the Countess is morning her husband, who recently died, and sending off her son to the King of France as a ward. Bertram, her son and therefore the new count, does not want to go but knows that he must. Lafew, a minister, and Helena, a young lady who serves the countess, are also present at the farewell. They discuss that the King of France is ill with an ulcer, and they wish that Helena's recently deceased father were still alive to cure him because her father is a world-renowned physician. The Countess tells Helena not to grieve so vehemently for her father, and after the farewell's end, Helena reveals to the audience that her grief is more about the fact that Bertram is leaving because she is in love with him. Her position, however, dictates that she could never have him. Her friend Parolles enters and they have a lively conversation about virginity but he then has to leave to go to the French court with Bertram. Since the King of France needs to be healed, Helena comes up with a plan to help though she doesn't reveal how.
Act 1, Scene 2: Bertram and Parolles arrive at the French court and present themselves to the king. The King praises the dead count and offers positions in the military to the young men. He then asks about the famous physician but is informed that Helena's father is dead.