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THIS comedy was first printed in the folio collection of 1623; and it was entered at Stationers' Hall by Blount and Jaggard, on the 8th November, 1623, as being one of those "not formerly entered to other men." In the original copy the play is divided into acts, but not into scenes. There are several examples of corruption in the text; but, upon the whole, it is very accurately printed, both with regard to the metrical arrangement and to punctuation.

We have already expressed an opinion as to the date of this comedy. "Meres has also mentioned, amongst the instances of Shakspere's excellence for comedy, Love's Labour Won. This is generally believed to be All's Well that ends Well; and probably, in some form or other, this was an early play."* Since this opinion was expressed by us, Mr. Hunter's 'Disquisition on the Tempest' has appeared, in which he repudiates the notion that Love's Labour Won and All's Well that ends Well are identical. Mr. Hunter states that a passing remark of Dr. Farmer, in the Essay on the Learning of Shakspere, first pointed out this supposed identity; and he adds, "the remark has since been caught up and repeated by a thousand voices. Yet it was made in the most casual, random, and hasty manner imaginable. It was supported by no kind of argument or evidence; and I cannot find that any persons who have repeated it after him have shown any probable grounds for the opinion." It is not in the spirit of controversy that we are now about to show "some probable grounds for the opinion." In supporting our view of this question we must necessarily dissent from Mr. Hunter's theory; but we shall endeavour to enforce our own "argument" without being betrayed into the spirit which too often has degraded Shaksperian criticism, and which we described in our original Prospectus as "doubly disagreeable in connexion with the works of the most tolerant and expansive mind that ever lifted us out of the region of petty hostilities and prejudices."

The remark in Farmer's Essay to which Mr. Hunter alludes was certainly made in a "casual"

Merchant of Venice. Introductory Notice, P. 388.

manner; because Farmer's object was not to establish the identity of Love's Labour Won and All's Well that ends Well, but to show that Shakspere did not go to the Italian source for the plot of the latter play. The passage is as follows:-"The story of All's Well that ends Well, or, as I suppose it to have been sometimes called, Love's Labour Wonne," (and here Farmer inserts a reference to Meres''Wits' Treasury,' 1598,) "is originally indeed the property of Boccace, but it came immediately to Shakspere from Painter's 'Giletta of Narbon.'" Now this remark, although passing and casual, is not of necessity "random and hasty." Farmer might have well considered this question of identity without entering upon it in his Essay. Malone, in the first edition of his 'Chronological Order of Shakspeare's Plays,' assigns the date of this comedy to 1598, upon the authority of the passage in Meres. He says, "No other of our author's plays could have borne that title (Love's Labour Won) with so much propriety as that before us; yet it must be acknowledged that the present title is inserted in the body of the play :

All's well that ends well: still the fine's the crown.'

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"This line, however, might certainly have suggested the alteration of what has been thought the first title, and affords no decisive proof that this piece was originally called All's Well that ends Well." We shall presently recur to Malone's different opinion in the posthumous edition of his Chronological Order.' He certainly, in the first edition, adopted the title of Love's Labour Won as identical with this comedy, and not without showing "probable grounds for the opinion." "No other of our author's plays could have borne that title with so much propriety." This is, in truth, the real argument in the matter; and when Coleridge, therefore, describes this play as "originally intended as the counterpart of Love's Labour's Lost,"—when Mrs. Jameson, with reference to the nature of the plot and the suitableness of the title found in Meres, states, complainingly, "Why the title was altered, or by whom, I cannot discover,"-and when Tieck says, "The poet probably first called this play Love's Labour Won,"-we may add the opinions of these eminent writers on Shakspere to the original opinion of Malone, in opposition to the assertion of Mr. Hunter, (which is also unsupported by "argument,") that "the leading features of the story in All's Well cannot be said to be aptly represented by the title in Meres' list."


When Coleridge described this play as the counterpart of Love's Labour's Lost, we do not think he spoke in a casual, random, and hasty manner." Shakspere's titles, in the judgment of our philosophical critic, always exhibit "great significancy." The Labour of Love which is Lost is not a very earnest labour. The king and his courtiers are fantastical lovers. They would win their mistresses by "bootless rhymes" and "speeches penn'd," and their most sincere declarations are thus only received as " mocking merriment." The concluding speeches of the ladies to their lovers show clearly that Shakspere meant to mark the cause why their labour was lost-it was labour hastily taken up, pursued in a light temper, assuming the character of "pleasant jest and courtesy." The princess and her ladies would not accept it as "labour," without a year's probation. It was offered, they thought, "in heat of blood;"-theirs was a love which only bore "gaudy blossoms." What would naturally be the counterpart of such a story? One of passionate, enduring, all-pervading love,—of a love that shrinks from no difficulty, resents no unkindness, fears no disgrace, but perseveres, under the most adverse circumstances to vindicate its own claims by its own energy, and to achieve success by the strength of its own will. This is the Labour of Love which is Won. Is not this the story of All's Well that ends Well?

When Helena, in the first scene, so beautifully describes the hopelessness of her love—

"It were all one

That I should love a bright particular star,
And think to wed it, he is so above me"-

"Hic labor,

could she propose to come within "his sphere" without some extraordinary effort? hoc opus est." She does resolve to make the effort; it is within the bounds of possibility that her labour may be successful, and therefore her "intents are fix'd:"—

"The mightiest space in fortune nature brings

To join like likes, and kiss like native things.
Impossible be strange attempts to those
That weigh their pains in sense, and do suppose
What hath been cannot be."

Inferior natures that estimate their labours by a common standard-" that weigh their pains in sense "that are not supported in their labours by a spirit which rejects all fear and embraces all hope, confound the difficult with the impossible; they know that courage has triumphed over difficulty, but they still think "what hath been cannot be" again. Helena is not of their mind :

"My project may deceive me,

But my intents are fix'd, and will not leave me."


This is the purpose avowed from the commencement of the dramatic action; which marks every stage of its progress; which is essentially "Love's Labour" whether it be won or be lost. How beautifully does Shakspere relieve us from the feeling that it is unsexual for the labour to be undertaken by Helena, through the compassion which she inspires in the good old Countess :

"It is the show and seal of nature's truth,

Where love's strong passion is impress'd in youth."

How delicately, too, does he make Helena hold to her determination, even whilst she confesses to the Countess the secret of her ambitious love :


"My friends were poor, but honest; so's my love:

Be not offended; for it hurts not him

That he is lov'd of me: I follow him not

By any token of presumptuous suit;

Nor would I have him, 'till I do deserve him.

"There's something hints,

More than my father's skill, which was the greatest

Of his profession, that his good receipt

Shall. for my legacy, be sanctified

By the luckiest stars in heaven "-

are her

not for the cure of the King only, but for the winning of her labour. To obtain the full advantage of her legacy no common qualities were required in Helena. "Wisdom and constancy characteristics, as Lafeu truly describes. The "constancy " with which she enforces her power upon the mind of the incredulous King is prominently exhibited by the poet. Her modesty never overcomes the ruling purpose of her soul. She indeed says, "I will no more enforce mine office on you; "

but she immediately after presses her "fix'd intents:"

She succeeds:-

"What I can do can do no hurt to try."

"Methinks in thee some blessed spirit doth speak.”

The reward, however, which she seeks is avowed without hesitation. Her will was too strong to admit of that timidity which might have clung to a feebler mind :

"Then shalt thou give me, with thy kingly hand,

What husband in thy power I will command."

Up to this point all has been "labour "--the conception of a high and dangerous purpose-the carrying it through without shrinking. When the cure is effected, and she has to avow her choice, comes a still greater labour. The struggle within herself is most intense :


"Now, Dian, from thy altar do I fly;"

"The blushes in my cheeks thus whisper me,-
We blush, that thou should'st choose,'

these expressions sufficiently give the key to what passes within her. Her feelings amount almost to agony when Bertram refuses her, and for a moment she abandons her fix'd intent :

"That you are well restor'd, my lord, I 'm glad;
Let the rest go."

"But shall she weakly relinquish the golden opportunity, and dash the cup from her lips at the moment it is presented? Shall she cast away the treasure for which she has ventured both life

and honour, when it is just within her grasp? Shall she, after compromising her feminine delicacy by the public disclosure of her preference, be thrust back into shame, to blush out the remainder of her life,' and die a poor, lost, scorned thing? This would be very pretty and interesting and characteristic in Viola or Ophelia, but not at all consistent with that high determined spirit, that moral energy, with which Helena is portrayed."* Helena suffers Bertram to be forced upon her-and this is the greatest "labour" of all.

After the marriage and the desertion" Love's labour" is still most untiringly tasked. Love next assumes the sweet and smiling aspect of duty:-"What's his will else?"-" what more commands he?"

"In everything I wait upon his will "-

are all the replies she makes to the harsh commands of her lord, conveyed by a frivolous messenger. In her parting interview with Bertram, in which his coldness and dislike are scarcely attempted to be concealed, the same spirit alone exists. She has still a harder trial. Her lord avows his final abandonment of her, except upon apparently impossible conditions. She has only one complaint,

"This is a dreadful sentence;"

but her intense love has destroyed in her all the feeling of self through which she was enabled to accomplish the triumph of her own will:

"Poor lord is 't I

That chase thee from thy country, and expose
Those tender limbs of thine to the event

Of the none-sparing war?"

When she says "I will be gone," she probably had no purpose of seeking Bertram, and of endeavouring to reverse his "dreadful sentence " by her own management. But "love's labours" were not yet ended. Her mind was not framed to shrink from difficulty; and we soon meet her at Florence. The plot, after this, is such a one as Shakspere could only have found in the legendary history of an unrefined age, preserved from oblivion by one who was imbued with the kindred genius of unveiling the brightness of the poetical, even when it was concealed from ordinary vision by the clouds of a prosaic atmosphere. Mrs. Jameson has truly observed, "All the circumstances and details with which Helena is surrounded are shocking to our feelings, and wounding to our delicacy and yet the beauty of the character is made to triumph over all." The beauty of the character is in its intensity. By that is Helena enabled to pass through all the slough of her last "labours" without contamination; her purpose sanctifies her acts. From the first scene to the last her life is one continued struggle. But the hopeful quality of her soul never forsakes her :"The time will bring on summer,

When briars shall have leaves as well as thorns,

And be as sweet as sharp."

She repines at no exertion-she shrinks from no fatigue :

"But this exceeding posting, day and night,

Must wear your spirits low,"

has no reference to herself. When she finds the King has left Marseilles she has no regrets :

"All's well that ends well, yet;

Though time seem so adverse, and means unfit."

Her final triumph at last arrives; but it is a happiness that cannot be spoken of. Her feelings find

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She can now, indeed, call the Countess mother. In the early scenes she dared only to name her as "mine honourable mistress." By her energy and perseverance she has conquered. Is this, or is it not, Love's Labour Won?

Malone, as we have already expressed our belief, has applied the true test to the application of Meres' title of Love's Labour Won: "No other of our author's plays could have borne that title with so much propriety as that before us." The application, be it understood, is limited to the

Mrs. Jameson's Characteristics,' Vol. I., p. 212.

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