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All's Well That Ends Well

A scene from All's Well That Ends Well

Introduction to the play

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.

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Cover of the Folger Shakespeare edition of All's Well that Ends Well

The Folger Shakespeare

Our bestselling editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems

… ’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.

First Lord
Act 4, scene 3, lines 73–74

All’s Well That Ends Well in our collection

A selection of Folger collection items related to All’s Well That Ends Well. Find more in our digital image collection

Act V, scene III, King, Countess, Lafeu ... Bertram guarded, Diana & a widow
One in a set of 7 original drawings by Byam Shaw
A scene from All's Well That Ends Well by John Wright
From Heroines of Shakespeare, a series by John W. Wright

Essays and resources from The Folger Shakespeare

All’s Well that Ends Well

Learn more about the play, its language, and its history from the experts behind our edition.

About Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well
An introduction to the plot, themes, and characters in the play

Reading Shakespeare’s Language
A guide for understanding Shakespeare’s words, sentences, and wordplay

An Introduction to This Text
A description of the publishing history of the play and our editors’ approach to this edition

Shakespeare and his world

Learn more about Shakespeare, his theater, and his plays from the experts behind our editions.

Shakespeare’s Life
An essay about Shakespeare and the time in which he lived

Shakespeare’s Theater
An essay about what theaters were like during Shakespeare’s career

The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays
An essay about how Shakespeare’s plays were published

Related blog posts and podcasts

Teaching All’s Well That Ends Well

Early printed texts

All’s Well That Ends Well was published for the first time in the 1623 First Folio, and that text is the source of all later editions of the play.