All's Well that Ends Well Essay

All S Well That Ends Well Essay

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Tris Warkentin Shakespearean Comedy All’s Well That Ends Well, question 1 1/13/00 Shaky Shakespeare? Simply, All’s Well That Ends Well is a play that was never quite finished by Shakespeare, leaving us questioning things like Helena’s reasons for loving Bertram. This rough nature reached its pinnacle in the very final lines of the play, where the King proclaims that "All is well ended if this suit be won," (Epilogue, 2) When the King confesses this, Shakespeare is admitting the inconsistencies in the play, and hoping that the viewer will accept a happy ending, despite the problems evident in from the outset of the play. However, at the end of All’s Well That Ends Well it is impossible to ignore the discrepancies. By this point, three inconsistent themes have unfolded in the play ;Helena’s love for Bertram, Helena’s nobility and Bertram’s poverty, and the progressive diction changes in the play. One divergence from reason is Helena’s love for Bertram, a totally illogical passion. There is no reason for Helena to love Bertram when she chooses him from the many Lords in the Court. Helena is a virtuous, passionate, beautiful, brilliant, and faithful woman, while Bertram is an immature, whining, and, quite frankly, a dull-witted boy. Although he starts out as a boy, part of the importance of this play is his development to manhood. To do this, he must realize two things ;first, that Parolles is a fool and a coward, and second, that Helena is as beautiful and virtuous as everyone else believes her to be. Supposedly, both of these realizations take place. However, the reason why Helena loved him in the first place is still an enigma. She had many suitors to choose from, many lords who seemed eager to marry her despite her relatively low class. It seems illogical for Helena to choose Bertram at this point. Even if Bertram had already achieved manhood by this juncture, it does not change the fact that he is shallow and inconstant as evidenced by his fling with Diana, one of pure physical lust, as he admits: "Stand no more off, /But give thyself unto my sick desires, /Who then recovers." (IV, ii, 34-36) A second deviation from logical writing is evidenced in Shakespeare’s depiction of nobility in this play. Normally, Shakespeare shows men of noble blood as being permanently virtuous and wise, like the Cymbeline’s sons in Cymbeline. However, this play reverses the roles. Helena comes from a poorer stead than Bertram does, yet she is the one who is noble in this play, and Bertram is the "peasant" in their relationship. Helena is surpassingly more intelligent and kind than Bertram, which are typical characteristics of nobility in Shakespearean writing. The difference between Bertram and Helena is not status though, it is "nobility" that Bertram lacks. The King points out that he could supply Helena with any title he wishes to: "She is young, wise, fair ;In these to nature she’s immediate heir ;And these breed honor. That is honor’s scorn Which challenges itself as honor’s born And is not like the sire. Honors thrive When rather from our acts we them derive Than our foregoers… What should be said? If thou canst like this creature as a maid, I can create the rest." (II, iii, 132-144) Furthermore, this also supplements the inconsistent theme of Helena’s love for Bertram. She is noble, while he is merely nobility. The third and final unevenness of the play is Shakespeare’s use of language, which is vividly different by the end of the play than it was at the beginning. This is evidence that Shakespeare used this play as something of a "pet project", a plot he was intrigued by, but was unable to properly write or conclude. In the beginning of the play, there are many couplets interjected in the body of the text, a favorite writing technique of early Shakespeare. By the close of the play, these couplets are much less frequent, evidence that Shakespeare wrote the ending to the play long after he wrote the beginning. For example, take one of Helena’s speeches, at the close of act one, scene one: "Our remedies of in ourselves do lie, Which we ascribe to heaven ;the fated sky Gives us free scope ;only doth backward pull Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull. What power is it which mounts my love so high, That makes me see, and cannot feed mine eye?" (I, I, 223-228) To illustrate early Shakespeare and his couplets, this is a perfect speech. Note the closing syllable of every single line. Each rhymes with the next, and although the entire quote is not included, the rhyming continues for 8 more lines. However, the couplets have almost vanished from Helena’s speech by the end of the play: "O, my good lord, when I was like this maid, I found you wondrous kind. There is your ring, And look you, here’s your letter. This it says: "When from my finger you can get this ring, And is by me with child," &c. This is done. Will you be mine, now you are double won?" (V, iii, 309-314) In this speech, there is only one couplet, to close the speech, with done and won. However, this is very different from the couplets that ended every line in act one. In sum, this play was an underdeveloped and unrefined. It is impossible to simply accept Shakespeare’s forced ending of "All’s Well That Ends Well." Rather, inconsistencies such as Helena’s love of Bertram, her nobility, and Shakespeare’s language make it impossible to ignore the rough nature of the plot, for Shakespeare’s love for this play was like Bertram’s love for Helena, "He loved her, sir, and loved her not." (V, iii, 248)

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