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The most interesting question in connexion with “ All's Well that Ends Well” is, whether it was originally called " Love's Labour's Won?" If it were, we may be sure that it was written before 1598; because in that year, and under the title of “Love Labours 'Wonne,” it is included by Francis Meres in the list of Shakespeare's plays introduced into his Palladis Tamia.
It was the opinion of Coleridge, an opinion which he first delivered in 1813, and again in 1818, though it is not found in his “Literary Remains,” that “All's Well that Ends Well," as it has come down to us, was written at two different, and rather distant periods of the poet's life. He pointed out very clearly two distinct styles, not only of thought, but of expression, and Professor Tieck, at a later date, adopted and enforced the same belief. So far we are disposed to agree with Tieck; but when he adds, that some passages in “All's Well that Ends Well,” which it is difficult to understand and explain, are relics of the first draught of the play, we do not concur, because they are chiefly to be discovered in that portion of the drama which affords evidence of riper thought, and of a more involved and constrained mode of writing. Surely those parts which reminded Tieck, as he states, of “Venus and Adonis,” are to be placed among the earlier efforts of Shakespeare. There can be little doubt, however, that Coleridge and Tieck are right in their conclusion, that “All's Well that Ends Well,” which was printed for the first time in the folio of 1623, contains indications of the workings of Shakespeare's mind, and specimens of his composition at two separate dates of his career.
It has been a point recently controverted, whether the "Love Labours Won” of Meres were the same piece as " All's Well that Ends Well.” The supposition that they were identical was first promulgated by Dr. Farmer, in 1767, in his “Essay on the learning of Shakespeare.” On the other hand, the Rev. Joseph Hunter, in his “ Disquisition on the Tempest,” 8vo. 1839, has contended that by “Love Labours Won” Meres meant "The Tempest,” and that it originally bore “Love Labours Won" as its second title. I do not think that Mr. Hunter, with all his acuteness and learning, has made out his case 'satisfactorily; and in our Introduction to “The Tempest," some reasons will be found for assigning that play to the year 1610, or 1611. Mr. Hunter
argues that “The Tempest,” even more than “ All's Well that Ends Well," deserves the significant name of “Love Labours Won;" and he certainly is successful in showing, that “ All's Well that Ends Well” bespoke its own title in two separate quotations. They are from towards the close of the play; and here, perhaps, we meet with the strongest evidences that this portion was one of its author's later efforts.
My notion is (and the speculation deserves no stronger term) that “All's Well that Ends Well” was in the first instance, and prior to 1598, called “Love's Labour's Won,” and that it had a clear reference to “Love's Labour's Lost," of which it might be considered the counterpart. It was then, perhaps, laid by for some years, and revived by its author, with alterations and additions, about 1605 or 1606, when the new title of “All's Well that Ends Well” was given to it. At this date, however, “Love's Labour's Lost” probably continued to be represented; and we learn from the Revels' Accounts that it was chosen for performance at court between Jan. 1 and Jan. 6, 1604–5. The entry runs in these terms :“Betwin Newers Day and Twelfe Day, a play of Loves
Labours Lost." The name of the author, and of the company by whom the piece was acted, are not in this instance given. We have no information that “ All's Well that Ends Well” met with the same distinction; and possibly Shakespeare altered its name, in order to give an appearance of greater novelty to the representation on its revival. This surmise, if well founded, would account for the difference in the titles, as we find them in Meres and in the folio of 1623.
Without here entering into the question, whether Shakespeare understood Italian, of which, we think, little doubt can be entertained, we need not suppose that he went to Boccaccio's Decameron for the story of “ All's Well that Ends Well,” because he found it already translated to his hands, in “ The Palace of Pleasure,” by William Painter, of which the first volume was published in 1566, and the second in 1567.9 1 The two passages run as follows:
-"We must away ;
A. iv. sc. 4. "All's well that ends well yet, Though time seem so adverse, and mean's unfit." Mr. Hunter prints " All's well that ends well” in Italic, and with capitals, in both instances, as if it were a title; but in the original odition the words appear only in the ordinary type and in the usual way. According to my supposition, these passages, as well as another in the Epilogue,"All is well ended, if this suit is won,” were added when the comedy was revived in 1605 or 1606, and when a new name was given to it. 6 All's well that ends well” is merely a proverbial phrase, which was in use in our language long before Shakespeare wrote.
They were published together in 1575, and hence has arisen the error into which some modern editors have fallen, when they suppose that “The Palace of Pleasure" was first printed in that year. Painter dates the dedication of his " second tome ” “ From my,pore house, besides the Towre of London, the iiij. of November, 1567.99
It is the 9th novel of the third day of Boccaccio, and the 28th novel of the first volume of “The Palace of Pleasure." In the Decameron it bears the following title, which is very literally translated by Painter:-"Giglietta di Nerbona guarisce il Re di Francia d'una fistola: domanda per marito Beltramo di Rossiglione ; il quale contra sua voglia sposatala, a Firenze se ne va per isdegno; dove vagheggiando una giovane, in persona di lei Giglietta giacque con lui, e hebbene due igliuoli; perchè egli poi havutala cara per moglie la tiene." The English on by Painter may be read in “Shakespeare's Library ;” and hence it will appear, that the poet was only indebted to Boccaccio for the mere outline of his plot, as regards Helena, Bertram, the Widow, and Diana. All that belongs to the characters of the Countess, the Clown, and Parolles, and the comic business in which the last is engaged, were, as far as we now know, the invention of Shakespeare. The only names Boccaccio (and after him Painter) gives are Giglietta and Beltramo: the latter Shakespeare anglicised to Bertram, and he changed Giglietta to Helena, probably because he had already made Juliet the name of one of his heroines. Shakespeare much degrades the character of Bertram, towards the end of the drama, by the duplicity, and even falsehood, he makes him display: Coleridge (Lit. Rem. ii. 121) was offended by the fact, that in A. iii. sc. 5, Helena, “Shakespeare's loveliest character," speaks that which is untrae under the appearance of necessity; but Bertram is convicted by the King of telling a deliberate untruth, and of persisting in it, in the face of the whole court of France. In Boccaccio the winding up of the story occurs at Rousillon, as in Shakespeare, but the King is no party to the scene.
The substitution of Helena for Diana (as in “ Measure for Measure"
we had that of Mariana for Isabella) was a common incident in Italian novels. One of these was inserted in “Narbonus : the Laberynth of Libertie," by Austin Saker, 4to, 1580: a romance in which the scene is laid in Vienna, but the manners are those of London: there the object was to impose a wife upon her reluctant husband; but the resemblance to the same incident in “ All's Well that Ends Well” is only general.
King of France.
Countess of Rousillon, Mother to Bertram.
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.
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.
ACT І. SCENE I.-Rousillon. A Room in the Countess's
Palace. Enter BEFTRAM, the Countess of Rousillon, HELENA,
and LAFEJ, all in black. Count. In delivering my son from me, I bury a second hvsband.
Eer. 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 subjcction.
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 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 't is—whose skill, 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.
1 Heirs of large est tes were, during their minority, wards of the king. %f e. insert was.