Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Shakespeare's Works
• The Plays
All's Well That Ends Well

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

All's Well That Ends Well

'Twere all one
That I should love a bright particular star
And think to wed it, he is so above me.

Act 1, scene 1, lines 90–92

The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.
Act 4, scene 3, lines 73–74

Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well is the story of its heroine, Helen, more so than the story of Bertram, for whose love she yearns. Helen wins Bertram as her husband despite his lack of interest and higher social standing, but she finds little happiness in the victory as he shuns, deserts, and attempts to betray her.

The play suggests some sympathy for Bertram. As a ward to the French king, he must remain at court while his friends go off to war and glory. When Helen cures the King, he makes Bertram available to her. To exert any control over his life, Bertram goes to war in Italy.

Helen then takes the initiative in furthering their marriage, undertaking an arduous journey and a daring trick. Few today, however, see a fairy-tale ending.

Most scholars believe that Shakespeare wrote All’s Well That Ends Well between 1601 and 1605. Its first known publication was in the 1623 First Folio. Among Shakespeare’s sources was William Painter’s Palace of Pleasure, an English translation of the story as told in Boccaccio's Decameron.

Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 2001 Folger Shakespeare Library


Further reading
David Haley. Shakespeare's Courtly Mirror: Reflexivity and Prudence in All's Well That Ends Well. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1993.

David McCandless. Gender and Performance in Shakespeare's Problem Comedies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

Gary Waller, ed. All's Well That Ends Well: New Critical Essays. New York: Routledge, 2007.
Francis Wheatley. Helena and Count Bertram before the King of France. Oil on canvas, 1793

Folger Theatre

On Stage: All's Well That Ends Well

Inside the Collection

Folios from the Collection: All's Well That Ends Well

Just for Kids

Meet a Costume Designer

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623