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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 comick business appears to be entirely of his own formation. STEEVENS.
This coinedy, I imagine, was written in 1606. Malone.
King of France.
the Florentine War.
Countess of Rousillon, Mother to Bertram.
A: Neighbours and Friends to the Widow.
Lords, attending on the King; Officers, Soldiers, &c.
French and Florentine.
SCENE, partly in FRANCE and partly in TUSCANY.
1 The persons were first enumerated by Mr. Rowe. 2 Lafeu,) We should read-Lefeu. STEEVENS.
3 Parolles,] I suppose we should write this name - Paroles, i. e. a creature made up of empty words. STEEVENS.
4 Violenta only enters once, and then she neither speaks, nor is spoken to. This name appears to be borrowed from an old metrical history, entitled Didaco and Violenta, 1576. SreevenS.
Enter BERTRAM, the Countess of Rousillon, HELENA,
and LAFEU, in mourning.
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
T- 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.
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, (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. 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.
? — virtuous qualities,] By virtuous qualities are meant qualities of good breeding and erudition, and not moral ones. WARBURTON.
3 -- they are virtues and traitors too; in her they are the better
Laf. Your commendations, madam, get from her tears.
Count. 'Tis the best brine a maiden can season her praise in. 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, 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.
Count. If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it soon mortalo.
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 commentator 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. T%e Tatler, mentioning the sharpers of his time, observes, that some of them are even 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.
4- all livelihood -] i. e. all appearance of life.
s 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.
6 If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it soon mortal.] 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. Johnson.