By Sterling Professor of the Humanities Harold Bloom
A learn advisor to at least one of Shakespeare's maximum performs that incorporates a number of feedback throughout the centuries, in addition to an advent through the writer, a precis of the plot, a accomplished checklist of characters, a biography of Shakespeare, and extra.
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Extra resources for All's Well That Ends Well (Bloom's Shakespeare Through the Ages)
He has the pride of birth, with scarcely a virtue to give dignity to, and warrant that pride. He is weak in judgment; for he is the last to perceive the scoundrel character of the wretch Parolles. He is imperious and headstrong, treacherous, a liar, and a coward. One of the commentators (Dr Johnson, I think) denies that he is a coward, assuming that he must have distinguished himself in the Florentine war, since he received the favour of the duke; but I mean that he was a moral coward; as proof, there is scarcely a scene wherein he appears, (but more especially in the 3d of the last Act, when he infamously traduces the character of Diana,) that he does not exhibit himself a despicable, and even a loathsome coward.
It is not easy to conceive a reason why Shakespeare has thus mangled the characters of Boccaccio; when, except in a few triﬂing circumstances, he has so faithfully followed the story. It was not necessary to make Helena less amiable, or the count more wicked in the play than the novel; since the intrigue in both is exactly the same; and certainly he has violated all the rules of poetical justice in conducting, by a variety of incidents, the two principal persons of the play to happiness; when they both (with some inequality) merited nothing but punishment.
Modern readers, however, might argue that, rather than being a mistake, such a resolution was Shakespeare’s point and intention. The marriage of Bertram and Helena is a punishment, not a happy ending, and it is a complex authorial challenge to readers demanding a complex critical response. The only critic to write benignly about the play in the eighteenth century is Elizabeth Griﬃth, a critic who is able to ﬁnd unlikely evidence of moral rectitude in All’s Well primarily by ignoring the diﬃcult and unorthodox parts of the play.