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Analysis: Allusions

When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Main Literary Sources

  • Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron (c. 1350-1353)
  • Shakespeare's main literary source for this play is the ninth tale of the third day of Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron, a collection of one hundred tales, most of which are love stories with boatloads of dirty jokes (like the kind you find in Chaucer's "The Miller's Tale").
  • William Painter, The Palace of Pleasure (1595)
  • Shakespeare probably read Boccaccio's tale in an English translation that appeared in William Painter's book, The Palace of Pleasure.

Mythology References

  • Helen of Troy (1.3)
  • King Priam (1.3)
  • Venus, goddess of love (1.3)
  • Diana, goddess of chastity (1.3, 4.2)
  • Juno, goddess of marriage (3.4)

Biblical References

Historical References

  • The Medici Family (2.1)
  • King Pepin (2.1)
  • Charlemagne (2.1)
  • Galen (2.3)

Shout-Outs to the Title

  • All's Well That Ends Well has more internal references to its own title than any other Shakespeare play. Pretty cool. Here are some of our favorites:
  • Lavatch: "She is not well; but yet she has her health: She's very /merry; but yet she is not well. But thanks be given she's very / well and wants nothing i'th' world. But yet she is not well" (2.4.2-5).
  • Helen: "All's well that ends well; still the fine's the crown. / Whate'er the course, the end is the renown" (4.4.39-40).
  • Helen: "All's well that ends well yet, / Though time seem so adverse, and means unfit" (5.1.30-31).
  • King: "All yet seems well; and if it end so meet, / The bitter past, more welcome is the sweet" (5.3.378-379).
  • Epilogue: "The King's a beggar now the play is done. / All is well ended if this suit be won:" (Epilogue.1-2)

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