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ALL 'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.*
ACT I.....SCENE I.
Rousillon. A Room in the Countess's Palace.
Enter BERTRAM, the Countess of Rousillon, HELENA,
and LAFEU, in mourning.
Count. 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
* The story of All's well that ends well, or, as I suppose it to have been sometimes called, Love's Labour Wonne, is originally indeed the property of Boccace, but it came immediately to Shakspeare from Painter's Giletta of Narbon, in the First Vol. of The Palace of Pleasure, 4to. 1566, p. 88. Farmer.
Shakspeare is indebted to the novel only for a few leading circumstances in the graver parts of the piece. The comic business appears to be entirely of his own formation. Steevens.
in ward,] Under his particular care, as my guardian, till I come to age. It is now almost forgotten in England, that the heirs of great fortunes were the King's wards. Whether the same practice prevailed in France, it is of no great use to inquire, for Shakspeare gives to all nations the manners of England.
Johnson. Howell's fifteenth letter acquaints us that the province of Normandy was subject to wardships, and no other part of France be. sides; but the supposition of the contrary furnished Shakspeare with a reason why the King compelled Rousillon to marry Helen.
Tollet. The prerogative of a wardship is a branch of the feudal law, and may as well be supposed to be incorporated with the constitution of France, as it was with that of England, till the reign of Charles II. Sir H. Hawkins.
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 practices he hath persecuted time with hope; and finds no other advantage in the process but only the losing of hope by time.
Count. This young gentlewoman had a father, (O, that had! how sad a passage 'tis !2) 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
-0, that had! how sad a passage 'tis !] Imitated from the Heautontimorumenos of Terence, (then translated) where Mene.
Filium unicum adolescentulum
- habui, Chreme,
“Shee, while she was, (that was a woeful word to saine)
“For beauties praise and pleasaunce had no peere.” Again, in Wily Beguild, 1606:
“ She is not mine, I have no daughter now;
Malone. Passage is any thing that passes. So we now say, a passage of an author, and we said about a century ago, the passages of a reign. When the Countess mentions Helena's loss of a father, she recollects her own loss of a husband, and stops to observe how heavily the word had passes through her mind. Johnson. Thus Shakspeare himself. See The Comedy of Errors, Act III,'
“ Now in the stirring passage of the day.” So, in The Gamester, by Shirley, 1637: “I'll not be witness of your passages myself:" i. e. of what passes between you. Again, in A Woman 's a Weathercock, 1612:
never lov'd these prying listening men 6. That ask of others' states and passages.” Again:
“I knew the passages 'twixt her and Scudamore.” Again, in The Dumb Knight, 1633:
have beheld “ Your vile and most lascivious passages.? Again, in The English Intelligencer, a tragi-comedy, 1641: “-- two philosophers that jeer and weep at the passages of the world.”
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. 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 unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, there commendations go with
3. A fistula, my lord.] The King of France's disorder is speci. fied as follows in Painter's translation from Boccaccio’s Novel, on which this play was founded : “She heard by report that the French king had a swelling" upon his breast, which by reason of ill cure, was growen into a fistula,” &c. In Puttenham's Arte of English Poesie, 1589, p. 251, we have also mention of this inelegant disorder. Speaking of the necessity which princes occasionally find to counterfeit maladies, our author has the following remark: “ And in dissembling of diseases, which I pray you ? for I have obserued it in the Court of Fraunce, not a burning feuer, or a plurisie, or a palsie, or the hydropick and swelling gowte, &c. But it must be either a dry dropsie, or a megrim or letarge, or a fistule in ano, or some such other secret disease as the common conuersant can hardly discouer, and the physitian either not speedily heale, or not honestly bewray.” Steevens.
virtuous qualities,] By wirtuous qualities are meant qualities of good breeding and erudition ; in the same sense that the Italians say qualità virtuosa; and not moral ones.
On this account it is, she says, that, in an ill mind, these virtuous qualities are virtues and traitors too: i. e. the advantages of education enable an ill mind to go further in wickedness than it could have done without them. Warburton.
Virtue and virtuous, as I am told, still keep this signification in the north, and mean ingenuity and ingenious. Of this sense, perhaps, an instance occurs in the Eighth Book of Chapman's Version of the Iliad:
pity, they are virtues and traitors too; in her they are the better for their simpleness;s she derives her honesty, and achieves her goodness.
Laf. Your commendations, madam, get from her tears.
Count. 'Tis the best brine a maiden can season her praise in.6 The remembrance of her father never approaches her heart, but the tyranny of her sorrows takes all livelihood from her cheek. No more of this, Hele
“Then will I to Olympus' top our virtuous engine bind,
“ And by it every thing shall hang,” &c. Again, in Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, p. I, 1590:
“ If these had made one poem's period,
they are virtues and traitors too; in her they are the better for their simpleness ;] Her virtues are the better for their simpleness, that is, her excellencies are the better because they are artless and open, without fraud, without design. The learned commen. tator has well explained virtues, but has not, I think, reached the force of the word traitors, and therefore has not shown the full extent of Shakspeare's masterly observation. Virtues in an unclean mind are virtues and traitors too. Estimable and useful qualities, joined with an evil disposition, give that evil disposition power over others, who, by admiring the virtue, are betrayed to the malevolence. The Tatler, mentioning the sharpers of his time observes, that some of them are men of such elegance and knowledge, that a young man who falls into their way, is betrayed as much by his judgment as his passions. Johnson.
In As you Like it, virtues are called traitors, on a very different ground:
to some kind of men
can season her praise in.] To season has here a culinary sense; to preserve, by salting. A passage in Twelfth Night will best explain its meaning:
. all this to season
“ And lasting in her remembrance.” Malone.
Steevens. all livelihood – ] i. e. all appearance of life. Steevens.
na, go to, no more; lest it be rather thought you affect a sorrow, than to have. 8
Hel. I do affect a sorrow, indeed, but I have it too."
Laf. Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the living.
Count. If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it soon mortal.1
lest it be rather thought you affect a sorrow, than to have.] Our author is sometimes guilty of such slight inaccuracies; and concludes a sentence as if the former part of it had been constructed differently. Thus, in the present instance, he seems to have meant-lest you be rather thought to affect a sorrow, than to have. Malone.
9. I do affect a sorrow, indeed, but I have it too.] Helena has, I believe, a meaning here, that she does not wish should be understood by the countess. Her affected sorrow was for the death of her father; her real grief for the lowness of her situation, which she feared would for ever be a bar to her union with her beloved Bertram. Her own words afterwards fully support this interpretation:
I think not on my father;
What was he like?
“I am undone." Malone. The sorrow that Helen affected, was for her father; that which she really felt, was for Bertram's departure. This line should be particularly attended to, as it tends to explain some subsequent passages which have hitherto been misunderstood. M. Mason.
1 If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it soon mor. tal.] Lafeu says, excessive grief is the enemy of the living: the Countess replies, If the living be an enemy to grief, the excess soon makes it mortal : that is, if the living do not indulge grief, grief destroys itself by its own excess. By the word mortal I understand that which dies; and Dr. Warburton (who reads-be not enemy-] that which destroys. I think that my interpretation gives a sentence more acute and more refined. Let the reader judge.
Fohnson. A passage in The Winter's Tale, in which our author again speaks of grief destroying itself by its own excess, adds support to Dr. Johnson's interpretation:
- scarce any joy
“ But kill'd itself much sooner.”
“ These violent delights have violent ends,