Shakespeare's dark comedy All's Well That Ends Well is about a maid, Helena, who cures the King of France of a disease, then in exchange asks for Lord Bertram's hand in marriage. Bertram the young Count of Rossillion, agrees but soon flees to Italy in attempt to avoid the match by dying in war; claiming that he cannot marry Helena because of her lower rank. However, she pursues him to Florence where by means of a complex 'bed trick' she ends up sleeping with him and forces him to consent to their marriage.

Bertram has far more in common with Measure for Measure’s hypocritical and self-important Angelo than with other Shakespearean lovers such as Benedick, Bassanio or Orlando, who are at least honourable. However, at the end of the play, Bertram's acceptance of Helena fits the Virtue story form, reflecting the point in morality plays when unredeemed man, burdened by sin and about to be carried off to the everlasting torments of hell, calls for mercy and is granted absolution.

Ber"tram (?), n. [Corrupted fr. L. pyrethrum, Gr. a hot spicy plant, fr. fire.] Bot.

Pellitory of Spain (Anacyclus pyrethrum).


© Webster 1913.

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