New PDF release: All's Well That Ends Well

By Harold Bloom,Paul Gleed

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As “strongminded women” are frequently spoken of, one would think a “strong-minded” woman must necessarily have the figure of a horse-guard, the swag of a drayman, and the sensibility of a carcase-butcher. Helena, in her energy of purpose, in her quickness of intelligence to discern a means of fulfilling her object, and in her spirited pursuit of those means, may give the idea of unfeminine will and decision to those who confound passiveness with gentleness, helplessness with retiring delicacy, and incapacity with modesty; a confounding of qualities which characterises the opinion of one class of men, about women, of the present day.

In the scene where she defends herself from his illicit suit, (the 2d of the 4th Act,) she affords an instance of how well Shakespeare’s women know how to vindicate their own good sense by sensible argument, and without becoming mere dogged debaters. There is always in the reasoning of his women a certain modest dignity, which preserves the feminine propriety, while it enhances the impressive effect of what they adduce in support of their own opinion. ” Well, he scatters “the honour of his house,” the bequest of his ancestors, and the “greatest obloquy in the world” to all the winds, and parts with the ring to her; and she, in return, makes an assignation with him; and, like a true-hearted woman, contrives that his own wife shall keep the appointment.

In Shakespeare she is cruel, artful and insolent, and ready to make use of the King’s authority to force her husband to do her justice. . The Count suffers rather more in [Shakespeare’s] hands than the lady; in the novel his greatest fault is flying from a woman he had married, and taking a resolution never to live with her, but upon conditions he himself was determined to render impossible. Yet this behavior admits of much extenuation: the woman he had married was forced upon him by the absolute authority of the King; her birth was greatly inferior to his; her person had not attracted his attention; he had no inducement to love her; on the contrary, he had great reason to be offended with her forcing herself, ungenerously as he thought, upon him.

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All's Well That Ends Well by Harold Bloom,Paul Gleed


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