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The King is properly made an instrument in the denouement of the plot of the play, and this a most striking and judicious deviation from the novel: his gratitude and esteem for Helen are consistent and honourable to him as a man and a monarch.
Johnson has expressed his dislike of the character of Bertram, and most fair readers have manifested their abhorrence of him, and have thought with Johnson that he ought not to have gone unpunished, for the sake not only of poetical but of moral justice. Schlegel has remarked that “Shakspeare never attempts to mitigate the impression of his unfeeling pride and giddy dissipation. He intended merely to give us a military portrait ; and paints the true way of the world, according to which the in. justice of men towards women is not considered in a very serious light, if they only maintain what is called the honour of the family. The fact is, that the construction of his plot prevented him. Helen was to be rewarded for her heroic and persevering affection, and any more serious punishment than the temporary shame and remorse that awaits Bertram would have been inconsistent with comedy. It should also be remembered that he was constrained to marry Helen against his will. Shakspeare was a good-natured moralist; and, like his own creation old Lafeu, though he was delighted to strip off the mask of pretension, he thought that punishment might be carried too far. Who that has been diverted with the truly comic scenes in which Parolles is made to appear in his true character could have wished him to have been otherwise dismissed ?
• Though you are a fool and a knave, you shall eat.'
It has been remarked that the style of the whole play is more conspicuous for sententiousness than imagery:' and that “the glowing colours of fancy could not have been introduced into such a subject.' May not the period of life at which it was produced have something to do with this ? Malone places the
date of its composition in 1606, and observes that a beautiful speech of the sick king has much the air of that moral and judicious reflection that accompanies an advanced period of life.
let me not live
Expire before their fashions.' It appears probable that the original title of this play was Love's Labours Wonne:' at least a piece under that title is mentioned by Meres in his Wits Treasurie,' 1598; but if this was the play referred to, what becomes of Malone's hypothesis relating to the date of its composition ?
King of France.
tram in the Florentine war. Steward,
Servants to the Countess of Rousillon.
Neighbours and Friends to the Widow.
&c. French and Florentine.
SCENE, partly in France, and partly in Tuscany.
* Steevens says that we should write Lefeu and Paroles.
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.
SCENE I. Rousillon.
A Room in the Countess's Palace.
Enter BERTRAM, the Countess of Rousillon,
Countess. In delivering my son from me, I bury a second husband.
Ber. And I, in going, madam, weep o'er my father's death anew : but I must attend his majesty's command, to whom I am now in ward', evermore in subjection.
Laf. You shall find of the king a husband, madam;—you, sir, a father: He that so generally is at all times good, must of necessity hold his virtue to you; whose worthiness would stir it up where it wanted, rather than lack it where there is such abundance.
Count. What hope is there of his majesty's amendment?
Laf. He hath abandoned his physicians, madam; under whose practises he hath persecuted time with
1 The heirs of great fortunes were formerly the king's wards. This prerogative was a branch of the feudal law.
hope; and finds no other advantage in the process but only the losing of hope by time.
Count. This young gentlewoman had a father (0, that had! how sad a passage ? 'tis !) whose skill was almost as great as his honesty; had it stretched so far, would have made nature immortal, and death should have play for lack of work. 'Would, for the king's sake, he were living! I think it would be the death of the king's disease.
Laf. How called you the man you speak of, madam?
Count. He was famous, sir, in his profession, and it was his great right to be so: Gerard de Narbon.
Laf. He was excellent, indeed, madam; the king very lately spoke of him, admiringly, and mourningly: he was skilful enough to have lived still, if knowledge could be set up against mortality.
Ber. What is it, my good lord, the king languishes of ?
Laf. A fistula, my lord.
Laf. I would, it were not notorious. -Was this gentlewoman the daughter of Gerard de Narbon?
Count. His sole child, my lord; and bequeathed to my overlooking. I have those hopes of her good, that her education promises : her dispositions she inherits, which make fair gifts fairer; for where an
2 In the Heautontimorumenos of Terence, which had been translated in Shakspeare's time, is the following passage:
Filium unicum adolescentulum
*She is not mine, I have no daughter now.
That I should say I had thence comes the grief.' The countess remembers her own loss, and hence her sympathy. Passage is occurrence, circumstance.