Books..|..Shakespeare Plays on DVD
Study Guide Prepared by
Michael J. Cummings...© 2003 Revised in 2010.©
Type of Work
.......All's Well That Ends Well is stage play in the
form of a romance comedy. It is also classified as one of three of
Shakespeare's "problem plays" (along with Measure for Measure
and Troilus and Cressida) because it presents as heroes or
heroines characters who are seriously flawed.
.......In All's Well, Bertram is a problem because he
consistently mistreats Helena, the woman who loves him; he regards her
as unworthy of him because of her inferior social status. Helena is
also a problem because, though intelligent and appealing, she resorts
to trickery to win Bertram. Only at the end of the play does Bertram
accept Helena, but his sincerity remains a question. Consequently,
because the heroes are less than heroic and because the ending of the
play is abrupt and somewhat forced, many critics regard All's Well
as one of Shakespeare's weaker comedies. These critics may be entirely
right in their assessment. However, one may fairly speculate that
Shakespeare intended the play as a satire on social conventions of the
day, pointing out the problems that arise from snobbery and hauteur, as
personified in Bertram. In this context, the play becomes far more
palatable and the character development and plot artifices more
First Printing: 1623
as part of the First Folio, the first authorized collection of
.......Shakespeare based All's Well That Ends Well on
a story in The Decameron, by Boccaccio (1313-1375). The
Decameron, written between 1349 and 1353, consists of one hundred
tales told by seven men and three women to pass the time after they
isolate themselves in a villa to escape the plague. The subjects of the
tales include romance, deceit, and the power of the human will.
.......Oxford University professors Emma
Smith and Laurie Maguire, authors of Thirty
About Shakespeare, maintain that he might have
co-written the play with Thomas Middleton (1580-1627), author of The Revenger's Tragedy and The Changeling. However, they
acknowledge that their research leads to a speculative conclusion, not
Significance of the
.......The title is
based on lines spoken by Helena to point out that the success or
failure of an event or a course of action depends entirely on how it
with the word the time will bring on summer,
briers shall have leaves as well as thorns,
as sweet as sharp. We must away;
wagon is prepared, and time revives us:
well that ends well; still the fine's the crown;
the end is the renown. (4.4.37-42)
.......The action begins in Roussillon, a region in
southern France, then moves to other locales, including Paris, France;
Florence, Italy; and Marseilles, France. Bertram, one of the central
characters in the play, is the Count of Roussillon.
Antagonist: Class System That
Discriminates Against Persons of Low Birth
Bertram: Self-Centered and immature
Count of Roussillon, who rejects the woman who loves him because of her
inferior social status.
Countess of Roussillon: Kindly and
level-headed mother of Bertram.
Helena: Gentlewoman protected by the
Countess; she is in love with Bertram even though he believes she is
not good enough for him. When he leaves his home in Roussillon to make
his mark in Paris at the court of the King of France, she later follows
him in hopes of winning his love. Bertram's mother, the countess, abets
her in her plan.
King of France He
suffers from a chronic ailment which Helena, schooled in the healing
arts, has the power to cure.
Duke of Florence
Antonio: Oldest son of the duke.
Parolles: Follower of Bertram. Parolles is
a bad influence on the young man and is, in part, responsible for
Bertram's less than gentlemanly behavior.
Lafeu: An old lord who warns Bertram that
Parolles is a coward.
Lavache (Clown): Servant of the Countess
Steward: Servant of the Countess of
Old Widow of Florence
Diana: Daughter of the Widow. Diana
cooperates with Helena in a scheme to trick Bertram into pledging his
love for Helena.
Violenta, Mariana: Neighbors and friends
of the Widow.
Citizens of Florence
First French Lord: He carries out a plot
that reveals Parolles as a coward.
Six Soldiers: They assist the first French
Second French Lord
Astringer: Man who acts as a messenger for
Minor Characters: Lords, Officers,
.......The Countess of Rousillon has taken in an appealing
young woman named Helena after the death of her father, Gerard de
Narbon, a highly respected physician. While in the household, Helena
falls in love with the countess’s son, Bertram, but keeps her feelings
to herself. Bertram pays her no heed and does not hesitate to go off to
serve in the court of the King of France, a friend of Bertram’s late
father. Accompanying Bertram is his friend, Parolles, a braggart who is
a corrupting influence on Bertram throughout the play.
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2003
suffers from what is believed to be an incurable fistula. When he
greets Bertram and his friends, he says,
I would I had that corporal soundness
.......The king says
he would submit himself to treatment under Gerard de Narbon, who also
attended Bertram’s father, if the great physician were still alive. All
other physicians have done him no good, and the king thinks death is
As when thy father and myself in
First tried our soldiership! (1.2.34-36)
is in Paris, Helena pines for him even though he may be out of reach
because of his high social station. Under prodding from the countess,
Helena admits the cause of her melancholy: her separation from Bertram.
Then Helena reveals a plan to go to Paris to heal the king with a
potion left behind by her father. While in Paris, she will have an
opportunity to be with Bertram. The countess, pleased that Helena loves
her son, encourages her in her plan. After Helena arrives in Paris, an
old lord of the court, Lafeu—who had
accompanied Bertram and Parolles to Paris—tells
of her wondrous healing powers. Lafeu says that
But the king at first refuses to let her treat
him because he has had his fill of failed cures. She then stakes her
life on the efficacy of her medicine, but stipulates a condition: If
her treatment works, the king will allow her to select a husband from
among the eligible bachelors at court. The king agrees. Within days,
his illness disappears, and the king presents five worthy gentlemen for
her to choose from. Helena rejects all of them and selects Bertram as
her husband-to-be. However, Bertram complains that she is the daughter
of a mere physician and, thus, unworthy of him. He says that he cannot
and will not love her. Helena, heartbroken, is willing to let the
matter end there. The king is not. After elevating Helena to a higher
social rank, he commands Bertram to marry her, telling him,
That’s able to breathe life into a stone,
Quicken a rock, and make you dance canary1
With spritely fire and motion; whose simple
Is powerful to araise King
To give great Charlemain3 a pen in ’s [in his]
And write to her a love-line. (2.1.67-73)
My honour’s at the stake; which to
Bertram yields, and the wedding ceremony takes
place that evening. In the meantime, Lafeu and Parolles discuss the
events of the evening. When Lafeu criticizes Bertram for his
ungentlemanly conduct, Parolles threatens the old man but backs down,
revealing himself as a coward, after Lafeu threatens him in
I must produce my power. Here, take her
Proud scornful boy, unworthy this good gift.
.......After the wedding,
headstrong Bertram refuses to stay with Helena even for a single night,
preferring instead to hie off to join other young French lords in a
military campaign in Florence, Italy. Parolles praises his decision,
saying it is better to seek glory in war than wallow in the hellhole of
France. As Bertram prepares for his military venture, Lafeu warns him
that Parolles is cowardly and untrustworthy, but Bertram is heedless.
Before leaving, Bertram orders Helena to return home to Rousillon with
a letter for his mother. In the letter, Bertram infuriates his mother
by writing, “I have sent you a daughter-in-law: she hath recovered the
king and undone me. I have wedded her, not bedded her; and sworn to
make the NOT eternal.” Helena then receives a letter of her own from
Bertram. It says, "When thou canst get the ring upon my finger, which
never shall come off, and show me a child begotten of thy body that I
am father to, then call me husband: but in such a ‘then’ I write a
‘never’ " (3.2.37).
Helena leaves Rousillon and goes on a pilgrimage to Saint Jaques
monastery in Spain. However, her feet do not cooperate and, instead,
lead her to Florence, where Bertram is encamped with troops. Helena
stays at a lodging house for pilgrims run by an elderly widow. The
widow’s daughter, Diana, tells Helena that a certain Count Rousillon
(Bertram) has distinguished himself in battle. “Know you such a one?”
(3.5.31) she asks. Helena says she has heard of him, but does not know
him personally. Helena also learns that Bertram has been trying to
seduce Diana. In public, Diana points out the Count Rousillon to
tells her whole sad story to the widow, revealing herself as the
rejected wife of the young count. Then she enlists Diana’s help in a
plot to win back her husband. Diana agrees to help her. Here is the
stratagem. Diana will agree to a midnight tryst with Bertram if he will
give her his ring; in effect, Diana will be trading her chastity for
the ring. When Bertram agrees to all the conditions, Diana says,
And on your finger in the night I’ll
obtains the ring, all goes well. At the appointed hour, Helena takes
Diana’s place in a darkened room, going unrecognized, and she and
Bertram make love. During the night she places on his finger a ring
given to her by the King of France. Meanwhile, Parolles has been
exposed as a simpering coward by French lords who ambushed and captured
him, then make him think he was in the custody of the enemy. Parolles,
whose name means words in French, tells his “captors”
everything they want to know in order to save his skin.
Another ring, that what in time proceeds
May token to the future our past deeds.
Bertram’s mother, who has been led to believe that Helena has died,
sends a letter to Bertram announcing Helena’s death and asking her son
to return home. After he arrives, he begins to realize what a good and
loving woman Helena was. When the king visits Rousillon, Bertram claims
that he loved Helena.
forgives him for rejecting her. But life must go on, and the king
thinks Bertram should now marry Lafeu’s daughter. However, before he
makes the match, the king notices the ring on Bertram’s finger—the very ring he gave Helena, the ring that
Helena placed on Bertram’s finger in the dark room after first removing
Bertram’s own ring. While Bertram lamely tries to explain how he
obtained the king’s ring, Diana shows up, saying it was she who placed
the ring on Bertram’s finger while in bed with him. Then she demands
that Bertram marry her. (Diana is really acting on Helena’s behalf.
Helena must first prove that a midnight meeting took place before she
can disclose that it was she, not Diana, who met with Bertram.) Next,
the widow arrives with Helena. Helena announces that not only does she
have Bertram’s own ring, but she also carries his child. Thus, she has
met both of the conditions Bertram set forth in his letter to her. The
whole truth of what happened in Florence then unravels, and Bertram
accepts his wife. The king says in the play’s epilogue, “All is well
.......The climax of a play or another literary work, such as
a short story or a novel, can be defined as (1) the turning point at
which the conflict begins to resolve itself for better or worse, or as
(2) the final and most exciting event in a series of events. The climax
of All's Well That Ends Well occurs, according to the first
definition, when Helena, through trickery, takes Bertram's ring while
he is asleep. (Bertram had vowed never to return to Helena unless she
obtained the ring on his finger, a task he thought impossible.) At this
point, the plot begins to resolve itself. According to the second
definition, the climax occurs in the final act when Helena shows
Bertram the ring and he vows to love her forever.
A human being should be
judged on his or her inner qualities, not on social standing.
Bertram rejects Helena (until the end of the play) because she is below
him on the social scale. Blinded by his prejudices, he fails to see her
good qualities. This theme foreshadows the themes of later English
writers, such as Jane Austen, Emily Brontë and Charles Dickens.
Women have the
intelligence and know-how to compete with men. Examples: (1) Only
Helena can cure the king's fistula. (2) Helena and Diana team up to
trick Bertram. The motif of women struggling to
prove their worth—or suffering under male domination—is a recurring
theme in literature. For example, in the fifth century BC, Sophocles
dealt with this theme in Antigone, a play in which a teenage
girl challenges the authority of a king. In the nineteenth century AD,
Kate Chopin dealt with this theme in several of her works, including a
splendid short story entitled "The Story of an Hour," in which an
oppressed woman fails to assert herself in a male world but does enjoy
an hour of freedom.
All things are not as
they seem. Bertram thinks high standing brings happiness. In
reality, he discovers later, only love, honesty, and other virtues can
All is well when it ends well. Helena gets
her man even though she had to pretend to be another woman, in a
darkened room, to trick him into accepting her. At the end of the play,
Helena says that success or failure of a course of action depends on
how it turned out, not on how it came about.
Friendship. The old widow and her
daughter, Diana, help Helena win back Bertram. In the process, the two
Florentines become loyal friends of Helena, and she becomes a good and
appreciative friend of theirs. The widow and Helena express their
friendship in the fourth scene of scene of Act 4:
WIDOW Gentle madam,
You never had a servant to whose trust
Your business was more welcome.
HELENA Nor you, mistress,
Ever a friend whose thoughts more truly labour
To recompense your love: doubt not but heaven
Hath brought me up to be your daughter's dower,
As it hath fated her to be my motive
And helper to a husband. (lines 17-25)..
Well That Ends Well exhibits a maturity of style equal, in some
instances, to that displayed in Shakespeare’s greatest plays. Some of
the most beautiful imagery in the play is expressed by Helena. In the
following metaphor, she compares Bertram to a bright star too high for
her to reach. The light imagery is reminiscent of that in Romeo and
Juliet, written ten years before.
When telling the King of France that her medicine
will produce a quick cure, Helena again uses light imagery. First, she
alludes to the Greek god Apollo, who becomes the sun as he drives his
chariot across the sky. Then she refers to Hesperus (the planet Venus,
which was thought to be an evening star).
That I should love a bright particular
And think to wed it, he is so above me:
In his bright radiance and collateral
Must I be comforted, not in his sphere.
The ambition in my love thus plagues
The hind that would be mated by the lion
Must die for love. ‘Twas pretty, though
To see him every hour; to sit and draw
His arched brows, his hawking eye, his
In our heart’s table; heart too capable
Of every line and trick of his sweet
But now he’s gone, and my idolatrous fancy
Must sanctify his reliques.4 (1.1.47-60)
Ere twice the horses of the sun shall
Prose, Verse, and Poetry
Their fiery torcher5 his diurnal6ring,7
Ere twice in murk and occidental damp
Moist Hesperus8 hath quench’d his sleepy
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . .
What is infirm from your sound parts shall
Health shall live free and sickness freely die.
Well That Ends Well contains dialogue in prose, unrhymed
verse, rhymed verse, and poetry.
Prose is the language of
everyday conversation. Sentences may be short or long, and there is no
Following are examples of each writing format.
Unrhymed verse contains a metric pattern
(that is, a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables) and a limited
number of syllables per line. Shakespeare generally wrote his unrhymed
verse in iambic pentameter, meaning that
most lines (except those containing short answers, such as yes
or no) contain five pairs of syllables, for a total of ten
syllables. Each pair of syllables contains an unstressed syllable
followed by a stressed syllable. For more information about metric
patterns and iambic pentameter, click here.
Rhymed verse is like unrhymed verse
except that a syllable (or syllables) at the end of each line rhymes
with a syllable (or syllables) at the end of another line.
Poetry in Shakespeare contains a metric
pattern and a rhyming pattern but is not part of a conversation.
Prose Passage (3.6.6-11)
Shakespeare used prose to
do the following:
BERTRAM Do you think I
am so far deceived in him?
Verse Passage Without Rhyme (1.2.29-58)
FIRST LORD Believe it, my lord,
in mine own direct knowledge, without any malice, but to speak of him
as my kinsman, he’s a most notable coward, an infinite and endless
liar, an hourly promise-breaker, the owner of no one good quality
worthy your lordship’s entertainment.
SECOND LORD It were fit you knew
him; lest, reposing too far in his virtue, which he hath not, he might
at some great and trusty business in a main danger fail you.
BERTRAM I would I knew in what
particular action to try him.
SECOND LORD None better than to
let him fetch off his drum, which you hear him so confidently undertake
FIRST LORD I, with a troop of
Florentines, will suddenly surprise him: such I will have whom I am
sure he knows not from the enemy. We will bind and hoodwink him so,
that he shall suppose no other but that he is carried into the leaguer
of the adversaries, when we bring him to our own tents. Be but your
lordship present at his examination: if he do not, for the promise of
his life and in the highest compulsion of base fear, offer to betray
you and deliver all the intelligence in his power against you, and that
with the divine forfeit of his soul upon oath, never trust my judgment
KING Youth, thou
bear’st thy father’s face;
Verse Passage With Rhyme (2.1.179-186)
Frank nature, rather curious than in
Hath well compos’d thee. Thy father’s moral
Mayst thou inherit too! Welcome to
BERTRAM My thanks and duty are
KING I would I had that corporal
As when thy father and myself in
First tried our soldiership! He did look far
Into the service of the time and was
Discipled of the bravest: he lasted
But on us both did haggish age steal on,
And wore us out of act. It much repairs
To talk of your good father. In his
He had the wit which I can well observe
To-day in our young lords; but they may
Till their own scorn return to them
Ere they can hide their levity in
So like a courtier, contempt nor
Were in his pride or sharpness; if they
His equal had awak’d them; and his
Clock to itself, knew the true minute
Exception bid him speak, and at this
His tongue obey’d his hand: who were below
He us’d as creatures of another place,
And bow’d his eminent top to their low
Making them proud of his humility,
In their poor praise he humbled. Such a
Might be a copy to these younger times,
Which, follow’d well, would demonstrate them
But goers backward.
KING Methinks in thee
some blessed spirit doth speak,
Poetry (Recited by the Clown Beginning at
Line 29 of 1.3)
His powerful sound within an organ weak;
And what impossibility would slay
In common sense, sense saves another way.
Thy life is dear; for all that life can rate
Worth name of life in thee hath estimate;
Youth, beauty, wisdom, courage, virtue, all
That happiness and prime can happy call
Was this fair face the cause, quoth
Why the Grecians sacked Troy?
Fond done, done fond,
Was this King Priam’s joy?
With that she sighed as she stood,
With that she sighed as she stood,
And gave this sentence then;
Among nine bad if one be good,
Among nine bad if one be good,
There’s yet one good in ten.
Express ordinary, undistinguished observations coming from the surface
of the mind rather than its active, ruminating interior.
Shakespeare used verse to
do the following:
Two: Make quick,
one-line replies such as “Ay, my lord” that are the stuff of day-to-day
auditory relief for audiences (or visual relief for readers) from the
intellectual and connotative density of the verse passages.
madness or senility. In King Lear, Lear speaks almost
exclusively in verse in the first half of the play. Then suddenly, he
lurches back and forth between verse and prose, perhaps to suggest the
frenzied state of his aging mind. Hamlet sometimes shifts to prose in
front of observers, perhaps in hopes of presenting his feigned madness
Five: Depict the
rambling, desultory path of conversation from a tongue loosened by
alcohol, as in Henry IV Part I and Henry IV Part II.
Six: Poke fun at
characters who lack the wit to versify their lines.
that prose has merits as a literary medium. In Shakespeare’s day, verse
(and its elegant cousin, poetry) was the sine qua non of successful
writing. As an innovator, Shakespeare may have wanted to tout the
merits of prose. Thus, on occasion, he infused his plays with prose
passages so graceful and thought-provoking that they equalled, and
sometimes even surpassed, the majesty of verse or poetry passages. Such
a prose passage is the following, spoken by Hamlet in Act II, Scene II:
What a piece of work is a
man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving
how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension
how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And
yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no,
nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
Express deep emotion requiring elevated language. Because nobles and
commoners were both capable of experiencing profound emotion, both
expressed their emotions in verse from time to time.
Figures of Speech
Two: Make wise,
penetrating, and reflective observations that require lofty language.
Such a passage is a famous one recited by the outlaw Jaques in Act II,
Scene VII, of As You Like It. The passage–which begins with the
often-quoted line “All the world’s a stage”–philosophizes about the
“seven ages” of man, from infancy to senility.
Three: Present a
lyrical poem as a separate entity, like the famous song in Act V, Scene
III, of As You Like It. The first stanza of that poem follows:
............It was a lover and his lass,
............With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
............That o’er the green corn-field did pass
............In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
............When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding:
............Sweet lovers love the spring.
irony. When the highborn speak humble prose and the hoi polloi speak
elegant verse, as is sometimes the case in The Merchant of Venice,
be saying up can be down, and down can be up. In The
Merchant, the noble characters are just as reprehensible as–or
perhaps even more reprehensible than–the workaday, unsophisticated
characters. Portia is often depicted in critical analyses of the play
as its noblest character. But a close reading of the play reveals her
as a racist and a self-seeking conniver. Thus, Shakespeare makes her
tongue wag in prose and verse, revealing her Janus personality.
order and exactitude. A character who speaks in precise rhythms and
patterns is a character with a tidy brain that plans ahead and executes
actions on schedule.
are examples of figures of speech in All's Well That Ends Well.
There shall your master have a
and a mistress, and a friend,
captain, and an enemy,
A guide, a goddess, and a
counsellor, a traitress, and a dear;
ambition, proud humility,
concord, and his discord
His faith, his sweet disaster; with a world
Of pretty, fond, adoptious christendoms,
[H]e lost a wife
beauty did astonish the survey
Of richest eyes, whose
words all ears took captive,
perfection hearts that scorn’d to serve
Humbly call’d mistress. (5.3.20-24)
college have concluded
That labouring art can
never ransom nature (2.1.119-120)
Find fairer fortune
Where death and danger
dog the heels of worth (3.4.17)
In common sense, sense saves
He wears his honour in a box, unseen
Comparison of honour to attire
You barely leave our thorns to prick
And mock us with our bareness. (4.2.25-27)
Diana compares herself to a rosebush.
My chastity’s the jewel of our house,
Comparison of chastity to a jewel
LAFEU ’Twas a good lady, ’twas a
good lady: we may pick a thousand salads ere we light on such another
CLOWN Indeed, sir, she was the
sweet-marjoram of the salad, or, rather the herb of grace.
Comparison of a woman to food
A scar nobly got, or a noble scar, is a good
livery of honour. (4.4.38)
Comparison of scar to a uniform (livery)
I am not a day of season,
For thou mayst see a sunshine and a hail
In me at once; but to the brightest beams
Distracted clouds give way: so stand thou
The time is fair again. (5.3.41-45)
The king compares himself to rapidly
O strange men!
That can such sweet use make of what they hate.
[D]isgraces have of late knocked too
often at my door (4.1.11)
Comparison of disgraces to visitors
entreating entry at a door
dialogue of All's Well That Ends Well and other Shakespeare
plays, characters sometimes speak wise or witty sayings couched in
memorable figurative language. Although these sayings are brief, they
often express a profound universal truth or make a thought-provoking
observation. Such sayings are called epigrams or aphorisms. Because
many of Shakespeare’s epigrams are so memorable, writers and speakers
use them again and again. Many of Shakespeare's epigrams have become
part of our everyday language; often we use them without realizing that
it was Shakespeare who coined them. Examples of phrases Shakespeare
originated in his plays include “all’s well that ends well,” “[every]
dog will have its day,” “give the devil his due,” “green-eyed monster,”
“my own flesh and blood,” “neither rhyme nor reason,” “one fell swoop,”
“primrose path,” “spotless reputation,” and “too much of a good
thing.”Among the more memorable sayings in All's Well That Ends Well
are the following:
Moderate lamentation is the right of
the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the living. (1. 2. 20)
Lafeu addresses Helena on her expressions of
Oft expectation fails, and most oft
Where most it promises. . . (1. 2. 144-145).
Helena, using a paradox, addresses the King
of France on failed cures for his fistula.
A young man married is a man that’s marr’d.
(2. 3. 238)
Using alliteration, Parolles addresses
Bertram after Bertram’s wedding.
The web of our life is a mingled yarn, good
and ill together. . . (4. 3. 29).
The First Lord addresses the Second Lord on
Bertram’s changing fortunes. A metaphor compares life to a web of
When briers shall have leaves as well as
And be as sweet as sharp. (4.4.37-39)
Helena makes this observation when speaking
the Countess of Rousillon are both strong
women. Helena is courageous and persistent; she is also highly
intelligent, the proof of which is her mastery of the medical arts.
When Bertram takes no notice of her and goes off to Paris, she pines
for a while, then acts decisively, traveling to Paris herself. There
the king suffers from an apparently incurable fistula. When Helena
claims that she can cure him, the king allows her to treat him under
penalty of death if she fails. With the king's promise that if she
succeeds she may choose a future husband from among the men at court,
she proceeds and heals the king. She chooses Bertram, of course, and
the king orders him to marry her.
.......When Bertram abandons her after their wedding, she is
broken-hearted. But thanks to a little luck and help from other women,
she wins Bertram back. The countess, well aware of Helena’s excellent
qualities, encourages Helena in her pursuit of her spoiled son, perhaps
in the realization that Helena can help Bertram to mature. Her support
of Helena underscores her strength of character. In an age when other
mothers of high social standing attempted to make a match for their
sons based on pedigree, the countess has the courage to endorse a woman
of the lower class as a possible future daughter-in-law. It is
interesting to note that the countess acts in a fatherly role in
advising Bertram on the ways of the world. She gives Bertram a short
farewell “lecture” reminiscent of the lecture Polonius gives to Laertes
(in Hamlet: 1. 3. 66-88) before Laertes leaves home. Following is the
advice the countess gives:
Be thou blest, Bertram; and succeed
Parolles Learns a Lesson
In manners, as in shape! thy blood and
Contend for empire in thee; and thy
Share with thy birthright! Love all, trust a
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy
Under thy own life’s key: be check’d for
But never tax’d for speech. What heaven more
That thee may furnish, and my prayers pluck
Fall on thy head! Farewell, my lord;
’Tis an unseason’d courtier; good my lord,
Advise him. (1.1.24-35)
lords expose Parolles as a coward by ambushing and capturing him, then
making him think he is in the custody of the enemy. He learns a lesson,
which serves as a kind of moral that he presents to the audience:
Yet am I thankful: if my heart were
Study Questions and Essay
’Twould burst at this. Captain I’ll be no
But I will eat and drink, and sleep as
As captain shall: simply the thing I am
Shall make me live. Who knows himself a
Let him fear this; for it will come to
That every braggart shall be found an
Rust, sword! cool, blushes! and Parolles, live
Safest in shame! being fool’d, by foolery
There’s place and means for every man alive.
1. In the age of Shakespeare, it was not
uncommon for a young man of high social standing to reject a woman
because of her low social standing—and
vice versa. How important is social status to marriageable young men
and women in today’s society?
2. Write an informative essay about the status of
women in England or France in Shakespeare’s time.
3. Which character in the play do you most
admire? Which do you least admire?
4. Write a psychological profile of Bertram or
Helena, focusing on salient characteristics.
5. Was Helena’s method of ensnaring Bertram—the bedroom trick in which she pretends to be
6. Bertram and Helena are reconciled at the end.
Will their marriage last?
in the courts of Spain and France in the Sixteenth
on DVD (or VHS)
Pepin the Short (714?-768), King of the Franks from 751 to 768.
King of the Franks from 768 to 814. He was
crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800.
Variant spelling of relics (keepsakes or any other objects from the
Reference to Apollo as the bearer of light (the sun).
round-the-world trip the sun makes.
||Trevor Nunn, John
Richard Johnson, Helen Mirren
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Claire Bloom, Julian Glover
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Peter De Jersey
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Bob Hoskins, Jenny Agutter
of King Lear
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Calmettes, James Keane
Gemp, Frederick Warde
III - Criterion Collection (1956)
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Protheroe, Michael Byrne
DiCaprio, Claire Danes
Neame, Ann Hasson
Rebecca Saire, Patrick Ryecart
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Boen, Ron Boussom
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Glover, Harold Perrineau,
Blood (1961) Macbeth in Japan
Mifune, Isuzu Yamada