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THIS comedy was first printed in the folio collection of 1623. In the original copy the play is divided into acts, but not into scenes. There are several examples of corruption in the text; but, upon the whole, it is very accurately printed, both with regard to the metrical arrangement and to punctuation.
In Dr. Farmer's 'Essay on the Learning of Shakspeare,' we find this passage:-“ The story of ' All's Well that Ends Well,' or, as I suppose it to have been sometimes called, 'Love's Labour Wonne'” (and here Farmer inserts a reference to Meres' 'Wits' Treasury,' where 'Love's Labour Wonne' is mentioned amongst plays by Shakspere, “is originally indeed the property of Boccace, but it came immediately to Shakspeare from Painter's Giletta of Narbon.'” Mr. Hunter, in his 'Disquisition on the Tempest,' repudiates the notion that 'Love's Labour Won' and 'All's Well that Ends Well' are identical. Mr. Hunter states that a passing remark of Dr. Farmer, in the Essay on the Learning of Shakspeare,' first pointed out this supposed identity; and he adds," the remark has since been caught up and repeated by a thousand voices." Malone, in
the first edition of his Chronological Order of Shakspeare's Plays,' assigns the date of this comedy to 1598, upon the authority of the passage in Meres. He says, “ No other of our author's plays could have borne that title ('Love's Labour Won') with so much propriety as that before us." This is the real argument in the matter; and Coleridge, therefore, describes this play as “ originally intended as the counterpart of 'Love's Labour's Lost.'” Shakspere's titles, in the judgment of that philosophical critic, always exhibit “great significancy." The La bour of Love which is Lost is not a very earnest labour. The King and his cour. tiers are fantastical lovers. They would win their mistresses by "bootless rhymes” and “speeches penn'd," and their most sincere declarations are thus only received as "mocking merriment.” What would naturally be the counterpart of such a story? One of passionate, enduring, all-pervading love,-of a love that shrinks from no difficulty, resents no unkindness, fears no disgrace, but perseveres, under the most adverse circumstances, to vindicate its own claims by its own energy, and to achieve success by the
strength of its own will. This is the Lar | each other in endeavours to conquer the arbour of Love which is Won. Is not this rogance of the young Count." The general the story of ' All's Well that Ends Well'? benevolence of these characters, and their
Of the characters we may say a few words." particular kindness towards Helena, are the
Mrs. Jameson quotes a passage from Fos counterpoises to Bertram's pride of birth, ter's · Essays' to explain the general idea of and his disdain of virtue unaccompanied by the character of Helena: "To be tremblingly adventitious distinctions. The love of the alive to gentle impressions, and yet be able Countess towards Helena is habit, that of to preserve, when the prosecution of a de the King is gratitude: in Lafeu the admirasign requires it, an immoveable heart amidst tion which he perseveringly holds towards even the most imperious causes of subduing her is the result of his honest sagacity. He emotion, is perhaps not an impossible con admires what is direct and unpretending, stitution of mind, but it is the utmost and and he therefore loves Helena : he hates rarest endowment of humanity.” This "con what is evasive and boastful, and he therestitution of mind” has been created by Shak. fore despises Parolles. spere in his Helena, and who can doubt the “Parolles has many of the lineaments of truth and nature of the conception ?
Falstaff." We think that this opinion of Bertram, like all mixed characters, whe- Johnson exhibits a singular want of disther in the drama or in real life, is a great crimination in one who relished Falstaff so puzzle to those who look without tolerance highly. Parolles is literally what he is deon human motives and actions. In a one scribed by Helena : sided view he has no redeeming qualities.
"I know him a notorious liar, Johnson says, “I cannot reconcile my heart Think him a great way fool, solely a coward." to Bertram ; a man noble without generosity, Is this crawling, empty, vapouring, cowand young without truth; who marries Heardly representative of the off-scourings of lena as a coward, and leaves her as a profili. social life, to be compared for a moment gate : when she is dead by his unkindness with the inimitable Falstaff? The comparisneaks home to a second marriage: is ac son will not bear examining with patience, cused by a woman whom he has wronged, and much less with painstaking. But Padefends himself by falsehood, and is dis- rolles in his own way is infinitely comic. missed to happiness." We have no desire to “The scene of the druim," according to a reconcile our hearts to Bertram ; all that we French critic, " is worthy of Molière." This demand is, that he should not move our in is the highest praise which a French writer dignation beyond the point in which his could bestow; and here it is just. The chaqualities shall consist with our sympathyracter belongs to the school of which Molière for Helena in her love for him. And in is the head, rather than to the school of Shakthis view the poet, as it appears to us, has spere. And what shall we say of the Clown? drawn Bertram's character most skilfully. He is the “ artificial fool;" and we do not Without his defects the dramatic action like him, therefore, quite so much as dear could not have proceeded; without his Launce and dearer Touchstone. To the Fool merits the dramatic sentiment could not in 'Lear' he can no more be compared than have been maintained.
Parolles to Falstaff; but he is, nevertheless, “ In this piece," says Schlegel, “age is great-something that no other artist but exhibited to singular advantage: the plain Shakspere could have produced. Our poet honesty of the King, the good-natured im has used him as a vehicle for some biting petuosity of old Lafeu, the maternal indul. satire. There can be no doubt that he is “a gence of the Countess to Helena's love of witty fool," "a shrewd knave, and an un. her son, seem all, as it were, to vie with happy."
KING OF FRANCE. Appears, Act I. sc. 2 Act II. sc. 1; sc, 3 Act V. sc. 3.
DUKE OF FLORENCE.
Appears, Act III. sc. 1; sc. 3.
BERTRAM, Count of Rousillon. Appears, Act I. sc. I; sc. 2. Act II. sc. l; sc. 3; sc. 6. Act III. sc. 3; sc. 3; sc. 6. Act IV. sc. 2; sc. 3.
Act V. sc. S.
LAFEU, an old Lord. Appears, Act I. sc. 1; sc. 2 Act II. &c. 1 ; sc. 3; sc. 5.
Act IV. sc. 5. Act V. sc. 2; sc. 3.
PAROLLES, a follower of Bertram. Appears, Act I. sc. l; sc. 2. Act II. sc. 1; sc. 3; sc. 4; sc. 8. Act III. sc. 5; sc. 6. Act IV. sc. l; sc. 3.
Act V. sc. 2; sc. 3.
Bertram in the Florentine war.
Act IV. sc. 1; sc. 3.
Appears, Act I. sc. 3. Act III. sc. 4. Clown, servant to the Countess of Rousillon. Appears, Act I. sc. 8. Act II. sc. 2; sc. 4. Act III. sc. 2.
Act IV. sc. 5. Act V. sc. 2.
Appears, Act I. sc. 1.
Act V. sc. 1 ; sc. 3.
Act V. sc. 1; sc. 3.
Act V. sc. 1; sc. 3.
Appears, Act III. sc. 5.
Appears, Act III. sc. 5. Lords attending on the King ; Officers, Sol
diers, &c., French and Florentine.
SCENE, IN FRANCE AND IN TUSCANY.
Enter BERTRAM, the COUNTESS OF ROUSILLON, HELENA, and LAFEU, in mourning.
Count. In delivering my son from me, I bury a second husband.
attend his majesty's command, to whom I am now in ward', evermore in
subjection. Lar. You shall find of the king a husband, madam ;-you, sir, a father: Ho
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? Lar. He hath abandoned his physicians, madam; under whose practices he bath
persecuted time with hope, and finds no other advantage in the process but only the losing of hope by time.
· Lack it. This is the reading of the old copies; but Theobald, Hanmer, and others, have slack it. What lack applies to is the kindness of the king.
COUNT. This young gentlewoman had a father, (0, that had ! how sad a passage a
't is!) whose skill was almost as great as his honesty; had it streched 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
80: Gerard de Narbon. Lar. 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. BER. I heard not of it before. 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 pity,—they are virtues and traitors too : in her they are the better for their simpleness; she derives her
honesty, and achieves her goodness ?. LAF. Your commendations, madam, get from her tears. COUNT. 'T is the best brine a maiden can season her praise in? The remem
brance of her father never approaches her heart but the tyranny of her sorrows takes all livelihood from her cheek. No more of this, Helena-go
to, no more ; lest it be rather thought you affect a sorrow, than to have 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 HEL. If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it soon mortald.
• Passage. This use of the word is now little known; but it is highly expressive. Modern writers have substituted event and circumstance-words that do not convey the meaning of passage -what passes.
o Would-it would.
• Malone here points out an inaccuracy of construction, and says the meaning is—lest you be rather thought to affect a sorrow than to have. This construction can scarcely be called inaccurate. It belongs not only to Shakspere's phraseology, but to the freer system upon which the English language was written by the most correct writers iu his time. We have lost something in the attainment of our present precision.
a Tieck assigns this speech, and we think correctly, to Helena, in the belief that she means it as a half-obscure expression, which has reference to her love for Bertram. Such are her first words -"I do affect & sorrow, indeed, but I have it too." In the original copies, and in all the modern editions, the passage before us is given to the Countess. In her mouth it is not very intelligible; in Helena's, though purposely obscure, it is easily comprehensible. The living enemy to grief for the dead is Bertram; and the grief of her unrequited love for him destroys the other grief-- makes it mortal. To this mysterious expression of Helena, Lafeu addresses himself when he says, “ How understand we that?"