All's Well That Ends Well Symbols, Allegory and Motifs
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Written by Micola Magdalena
The play opens on a grim note, with the mention of two deaths and other possible deaths in the future. The characters that are old aged and near the time when death will take them all symbolize wisdom but also foolishness. In this case thus, characters such as the Countess stand for both the knowledge possessed by the older generations but also they represent the inability to adapt to a new world and evolve alongside with it.
Another motif in the play is death. Many characters are ill and feeble, knowing that they will probably die in a short period of time. But the prospect of death does not scare them, knowing that death is something that they all have to face at one point or another in their lives. Because of this, instead of focusing on their imminent death, they channel their energy into trying to help the new generation.
In order to get closer to her love, Bertrand, Helen dresses herself in female clothes to be better accepted at the King’s court. What is more, she assumes a man’s position as well, that of a physician. The idea that a female character disguises herself as a man to get closer to her love interest is not a new element in the Shakespearian plays. Female characters would often choose to lie to the world around them and pretend that they are something they are not just to reach their goals.
A common motif found in the play is that a person’s blood and birth matters more than their character and true self. The play is set in a time dominated by the idea that a person’s superiority is given by their birth or ranks and marring someone considered as being below another person is a disgrace. The idea that a person’s status and social position are more important than their true self is a motif in the play and is what drives the character do what they do.
Another element found in numerous Shakespearian plays and in folklore as well is the bed-trick, the scene where a woman is substituted by another and the unsuspecting men sleeps with the woman he was trying to avoid. This scene is also found in Measure for measure and thus can be considered as being a motif.
The female characters put a lot on value on their chastity and virginity. They consider their virginity as being something precious that must be protected and cherished, something that must be given to the right man at the right time. Thus, a woman’s virginity can be considered as being a symbol for her integrity and moral cleanliness. Once a woman loses her virginity outside of wedlock, she is considered as being a deviant and as being promiscuous.
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