A Critical Analysis of All's Well That Ends Well, a Play by William Shakespeare

What Kind of Ending Was That? Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well is a comedy filled with debauched humor, deception, and a cynical view of love. Hanging over it all is the dark and looming feeling of death and decay that is prevalent in most of our older characters, who have either died, been dying, or are clearly on their way there But all our characters are a pleasant group, with a few bad apples amongst them Shakespeare outdoes himself in making a play that was so difficult to perform that it historically is only performed a handful of times at court Most likely for the fear of offending everyone in attendance.

The play leaves its readers laughing and cringing almost simultaneously. Helen, who is most likely everyone’s favorite character at the beginning of the play, by the end of it is probably the least favorite. Bertram, who throughout the play we hate and in the end still hate because Shakespeare gives him some form of redemption.

Get quality help now
Doctor Jennifer
Verified writer

Proficient in: Books

5 (893)

“ Thank you so much for accepting my assignment the night before it was due. I look forward to working with you moving forward ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

And Parolles, who plays the rogue of the group without morals or rules other than his own, a character everyone can more than likely agree they have had mixed feelings about. The rest of the group, an odd mash of an older generation and the younger all have similar parts as being the words of wisdom, the confidant, and essential plot point in revealing Helen’s deception of Bertrami. The first act of All‘s Well is the staging for what feels like a sad and dramatic play, but then Parolles enters in, discussing with Helen the uselessness of her virginity and that she should lose it as quick as possible so as not to let it become a ‘withered pear’.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

From then we are given the reveal of Helen’s love for Bertram to The Countess, and the plight of the ailing King of France, whom Helen intends to cure with the use of her late father‘s remediesi. Act one is short, with mostly long scenes of banter between characters that give us their face values, allowing us to gain a personal opinion of them. It is the opening of a door into Shakespeare‘s All’s Well that invites us in out of curiosity.

The beginning of act one is debauched by Parolles and the Fool, but for the most part it is a dramatic opening with the looming threat of death on everyone‘s minds, and how Shakespeare makes a comedy from that is one of his personal talents. Act two of All‘s Well culminates Helen’s original plans of marrying Bertram. She travels to Paris, where with a deal between her and the King, she cures him of his ailment and is promised a suitor from any of his attending lordsi. Her immediate choice is, obviously, Bertram yet she speaks with every lord in attendance. Lafew giving side comments as to the true nature of each boy. After her choice, it becomes clear that Bertram is possibly the rudest character in the series, with Parolles being the Vilest, when he refuses to marry Helen until he is threatened by the king. It appears that to everyone in court aside Bertram, Helen is a pleasant choice for a bride and are all insulted by Bertram’s attitude. Afterwards, with instructions that Helen should head for Rosillion, Bertram and Parolles scheme to go to Tuscany and fight for the Florentinesi In this act, during moments of dialogue between Bertram and Parolles, their relationship gives off a vibe less friendly and more endearing. Act two is simply the build up to a crescendo of schemes, plotting, and deception. The inevitable discovery of Bertram’s betrayal of France to the Florentines, all because he wished not to marry a woman for being of a lower class. Parolles is steadfast at his side, ever the loyal companion, a rogue who seems to possess no morals, Meanwhile, Helen returns to Rosillion to inform the Countess of Bertram‘s departure and her marriage to him, and in a fit of despair and self-loathing pledges herself to go on a pilgrimage to St Jacques where she meets a widow, her daughter Diana, and Marianne who take her into their home while she is disguised as a pilgrim. This begins the plotline of Helen scheming her way into winning over Bertram, who has been tirelessly pursuing Diana. She intends to have his child by switching places with Diana in the dead of night. Which sounds fairly sexist in the way Shakespeare makes apparent that all women must be the exact same at night. While in Florence, our main characters scheming throughout the city, in Paris and Rossillon word has spread that Helen has died while on her pilgrimage. The play is nearing its climax in a series of short scenes that set all our characters up in their places. Giving the audience everything they need to know up to this point. The beginning of act four begins with the capture of Parolles, who believes he has been captured by the enemy and instead, by the French and Bertram in an attempt to expose him as a coward. When they do, he is abandoned by all of them to find his own way back to Paris.

Bertram goes off to meet who he thinks is Diana, and instead he unknowingly meets with Helen who takes his ancestral ring and leaves for Paris to inform the king with Diana and the widow. Act four is the inevitable climax of the play, with everyone’s plans coming through and end games revealed. What isn’t revealed to our central characters though, is just exactly what has happened, with the awaiting new to the king that Bertram has fathered a child with Helen and she in fact lives. This act reveals a change in character for Helen, from the sorrow-filled maiden to a woman who plans something akin to vengeance against Bertram. And then finally we have the ending act of All’s Well. In the sidelines, Lafew has spoken with the king about marrying his daughter to Bertram in the wake of Helen’s ‘death’. The end of the play takes place in Rosillion, where Diana finds the king and Bertram, pleading that Bertram marry her as he has stolen her maidenhood, and while Bertram protests that she is not so innocent. He is accused of killing Helen when shown to Lafew the ring the king had given Helen. While protesting his innocence, Diana appears and proclaims Bertram as her husband with the aid of Parolles, who has sworn himself to Lafew. Bertram, fighting his innocence again is stopped by the possession of his ancestral ring with Diana. Charges mount against Bertram when a pregnant Helen enters to say that she has met Bertram’s earlier demands that she produce a child of his own. The ending of the play is when Bertram, who is cleared of any charges by the appearance of Helen, suddenly agrees to be a loyal husband to her. Leaving the play with a flourishing happy ending that honestly makes no sense. Bertram is seemingly redeemed, Helen’s plot has won him over, though now she is trapped in a marriage with a man who never loved her until she had his child. Shakespeare’s version of a happy ending in All’s Well is not the stereotypical happy ending, but neither is it a very good one.

Helen’s persistence in attaining Bertram changes her character from the quiet maiden to an almost vengeful woman who is now stuck in a marriage that at best, is a farce of being happy. There is no guarantee that Bertram will stay loyal even with the appearance of a child, and will Helen really be happy with a husband like Bertram, who snubbed her at every chance he was given? As far as the rest of our characters go, Parolles has seemed to go through something to a redemption arc in being thoroughly embarrassed and then begging for forgiveness to be taken in by Lafew. The Countess and King of France are our oldest characters whom will more than likely go on with life as it has always been. Diana will return to Florence and marry a man of similar station under the guide of her mother. There is still a war that two countries are in the middle of, but that is only a small part of the play, and only makes an appearance a handful of times in terms of setting and drama. In the long run it is not hard to see why this play wasn’t performed for the courts during Shakespeare’s time, towards the end of the play it almost becomes a Shakespeare interpretation of “The Aristocrats”. Which would make anyone cringe horribly while laughing, with the threat of laughing being execution or something similar. All’s Well That Ends Well is a Shakespeare comedy that, does have a happy ending just not the one we expect, which is surprisingly to be expected from someone like Shakespeare.

Cite this page

A Critical Analysis of All's Well That Ends Well, a Play by William Shakespeare. (2022, Jul 07). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/a-critical-analysis-of-all-s-well-that-ends-well-a-play-by-william-shakespeare-essay

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment