Page images
PDF
EPUB

ALL'S WELL that ENDS WELL.

ACT I SCENE

The Countess of Roufillon's houfe in France. Enter Bertram, the Countess of Roufillon, Helena, and Lafeu, all in black.

I.

Count. In delivering my fon from me, I bury a fecond hufband.

Ber. And I, in going, madam, weep o'er my father's death anew: but I must attend his majesty's

4 The ftory of All's Well that Ends Well, or, as I fuppofe it to have been fometimes called, Love's Labour Wonne, is originally. indeed the property of Boccace, but it came immediately to Shakefpeare from Painter's Gilletta of Narbon, in the first vol. of the Palace of Pleafure, 4to, 1566, p. 88. FARMER.

Shakespeare is indebted to the novel only for a few leading circumstances in the graver parts of the piece. The comic business appears to be entirely of his own formation. STEEVENS.

5 In delivering my fon from me,] To deliver from, in the fenfe of giving up, is not English. Shakespeare wrote, in diffevering my fon from me-The following words, too, I bury a fecond bufband-demand this reading. For to diffever implies a violent divorce; and therefore might be compared to the burying a bufband; which delivering does not. WARBURTON.

Of this change I fee no need: the prefent reading is clear, and, perhaps, as proper as that which the great commentator would fubftitute; for the king diffevers her fon from her, the only delivers him. JOHNSON.

command,

[ocr errors]

B 2

6

command, to whom I am now in ward, evermore in fubjection.

Laf. You fhall find of the king a husband, madam;-you, fir, a father: He that fo generally is at all times good, muft of neceffity hold his virtue to you; 7 whofe worthinefs would ftir 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 abandon'd his phyficians, madam; under whofe practices he hath perfecuted time with hope; and finds no other advantage in the process, but only the lofing of hope by time.

8

Count. This young gentlewoman had a father, (O, that had! how fad a paffage 'tis !) whofe skill

was

-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 fame practice prevailed in France, it is of no great use to enquire, for Shakespeare gives to all nations the manners of England. JOHNSON. Howell's fifteenth letter acquaints us that the province of Normandy was fubject to wardships, and no other part of France befides; but the fuppofition of the contrary furnished Shakespeare with a reason why the king compelled Roufillon to marry Helen. TOLLET.

[ocr errors]

-in ward,-] The prerogative of wardship is a branch of the feudal law, and may as well be fuppofed to be incorporated with. the conftitution of France, as it was with that of England, till the reign of Charles II. SIR J. HAWKINS.

7

-whofe worthinefs would fir it up where it wanted, rather than lack it where there is fuch abundance.] An oppofition of terms is vifibly defigned in this fentence; tho' the oppofition is not so vifible, as the terms now ftand. Wanted and abundance are the oppofites to one another; but how is lack a contrast to fir up! The addition of a fingle letter gives it, and the very fenfe requires it. Read flack it. WARBURTON.

This young gentlewoman had a father (O, that had! how fad a. paffage 'tis !] Lafen was fpeaking of the king's defperate condition: which makes the countess recall to mind the deceased Gerard de Narbon, who, the thinks could have cured him. But in

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

was almost as great as his honefty; had it stretch'd fo far, it would have made nature immortal, and death should have play'd for lack of work. 'Would, for the king's fake, he were living! I think, it would be the death of the king's disease.

Laf. How call'd you the man you speak of, madam?

Count. He was famous, fir, in his profeffion, and it was his great right to be fo: Gerard de Narbon.

Laf. He was excellent, indeed, madam; the king very lately spoke of him, admiringly, and mourn

ufing the word had, which implied his death, she stops in the middle of her sentence, and makes a reflection upon it, which, according to the prefent reading, is unintelligible. We must therefore believe Shakespeare wrote (O that had! how fad a prefage 'tis) i.e. a prefage that the king muft now expect no cure, fince so skilful a perfon was himself forced to submit to a malignant distemper. WARBURTON.

This emendation is ingenious, perhaps preferable to the prefent reading, yet fince paffage may be fairly enough explained, I have left it in the text. Paffage is any thing that paffes, fo we now fay, a paffage of an author, and we faid about a century ago, the paffages of a reign. When the countess mentions Helena's lofs of a father, fhe recollects her own lofs of a husband, and stops to obferve how heavily that word had paffes through her mind.

JOHNSON. Thus Shakespeare himfelf. See The Comedy of Errors, act III. fc. i:

Now in the ftirring passage of the day." So, in The Gamefter, by Shirley, 1637

of

I'll not be witness your pallages myfelf." . e. of what paffes between you. Again, in A Woman's a Weathercock, 1612:

66

never lov'd these prying liftening men "That afk of other's ftates and passages."

Again:

"I knew the paffages 'twixt her and Scudamore," Again, in the Dumb Knight, 1633:

66

-have beheld
"Your vile and moft lafcivious paffages."

Again, in the English Intelligencer, a tragi-comedy, 1641: "-two philofophers that jeer and weep at the passages of the world.”

STEEVENS.

B 3

ingly:

ingly he was skilful enough to have liv'd ftill, if knowledge could have been fet up against mortality, Ber. What is it, my good lord, the king languishes of?

Laf. A fiftula, my lord.

Ber. I heard not of it before.

Laf. I would, it were not notorious. Was this gentlewoman the daughter of Gerard de Narbon?

Count. His fole child, my lord; and bequeathed to my overlooking. I have thofe hopes of her good, that her education promises: her difpofitions the inherits, which makes fair gifts fairer : for 9 where an unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, there commendations go with pity, they are virtues and traitors

too;

9

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 fimpleness; fhe derives her honefty, and atchieves her goodness.] This obfcure encomium is made ftill more obfcure by a flight corruption of the text. Let us explain the paffage as it lies. By virtuous qualities are meant qualities of good breeding and erudition; in the fame fenfe that the Italians fay, qualità virtuofa; and not moral ones. On this account it is, fhe fays, that, in an ill mind, thefe virtuous qualities are virtues and traitors too: i. e. the advantages of education enable an ill mind to go further in wickedness than it could have done without them. But, fays the countefs, in her they are the better for their fimpleness. But fimpleness is the fame with what is called honefty, immediately after; which cannot be predicated of the qualities of education. We must certainly read-HER fimpleness, and then the fentence. is properly concluded. The countefs had faid, that virtuous qualities are the worse for an unclean mind, but concludes that Helen's are the better for her fimpleness, i. e. her clean, pure mind. She then fums up the character, fhe had before given in detail, in these words, he derives her honefty, and atchieves her goodness, i. e. fhe derives her honefly, her fimpleness, her moral character, from her father and her ancestors; but the atchieves or wins her goodness, her virtue, or her qualities of good breeding and erudition, by her own pains and labour. WARBURTON.

This is likewife a plaufible but unneceffary alteration. Her virtues are the better for their fimpleness, that is, her excellencies are the better because they are artless and open, without fraud, withbut defign. The learned commentator has well explained virtues,

but

too; in her they are the better for their fimplenefs; the derives her honesty, and atchieves her goodness. Laf. Your commendations, madam, get from her

tears.

Count. 'Tis the beft brine a maiden can seafon her praife in. The remembrance of her father never approaches her heart, but the tyranny of her forrows takes all livelihood from her cheek. No more of this, Helena, go to, no more; left it be rather thought you affect a forrow, than to have.

Hel. I do affect a forrow, indeed, but I have it too. Laf. Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, exceffive grief the enemy to the living.

Count. If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it foon mortal.

Ber.

but has not, I think, reached the force of the word traitors, and therefore has not fhewn the full extent of Shakespeare's masterly obfervation. Virtues in an unclean mind are virtues and traitors too. Eftimable and useful qualities, joined with evil difpofition, give that evil difpofition power over others, who, by admiring the virtue, are betrayed to the malevolence. The Tatler, mentioning the fharpers of his time, obferves, that fome of them are men of fuch elegance and knowledge, that a young man who falls into their way, is betrayed as much by his judgment as his paffions.

JOHNSON.

Virtue, and virtuous, as I am told, ftill keep this fignification in the north, and mean ingenuity and ingenious. Of this fenfe perhaps an instance occurs in the eighth book of Chapman's Verfion of the Iliad:

"Then will I to Olympus' top our vertuous engine bind, "And by it every thing fhall hang, &c." Again, in Marlowe's Tamburlaine, p. 1. 1590: “If these had made one poem's period, "And all combin'd in beauties worthyneffe, "Yet fhould there hover in their restlesse heads "One thought, one grace, one wonder at the least, "Which into words no vertue can digeft." STEEVENS.

—all livelihood--] i. e. all appearance of life. STEEVENS.

2

If the living be enemy to the grief, the excess makes it foon mortal.] This feems very obfcure; but the addition of a negative perfectly difpels all the mist. If the living be not enemy, &c. exceffive grief is an enemy to the living, fays Lafeu: Yes, replies the

B 4

countefs;

« PreviousContinue »