All's Well That Ends Well
How we cite our quotes:
What angel shall
Bless this unworthy husband? he cannot thrive,
Unless her prayers, whom heaven delights to hear
And loves to grant, reprieve him from the wrath
Of greatest justice. Write, write, Renaldo,
To this unworthy husband of his wife;
Let every word weigh heavy of her worth
That he does weigh (3.4.3)
Even though Helen is lowborn, there's a whole lot of talk about her worth as a wife. (There's also a lot of talk about Bertram being an unworthy husband, despite his status as a wealthy count.) The play is always reminding us that money and rank have nothing to do with a person's character.
And now you should be as your mother was
When your sweet self was got.
She then was honest.
So should you be.
My mother did but duty; such, my lord,
As you owe to your wife.
No more o' that;
I prithee, do not strive against my vows:
I was compell'd to her; but I love thee
By love's own sweet constraint, and will for ever
Do thee all rights of service. (4.2.2)
Bertram tries to convince Diana to give up her virginity to him by saying that she should be doing what her "mother did" (having sex) when Diana was "got" (conceived). Diana doesn't buy it. She points out that, actually, her mother was married when she did her wifely duty to her husband. She also reminds Bertram that he has a wife and should be doing his duty to her, not Diana. Oh, snap.
If she, my liege, can make me know this clearly,
I'll love her dearly, ever, ever dearly. (5.3.17)
We can see why Bertram is totally surprised when his wife shows up with his kid at the end of the play. After all, he thought she was dead and had no idea that he actually had sex with her (thanks to Helen and Diana's little bed trick. But wait a minute. Why does Bertram suddenly promise to love his wife "ever, ever dearly"? Helen has tricked Bertram into sleeping with her and getting her pregnant and now we're supposed to believe that this little revelation transforms Bertram into a loving husband? We're not sure we buy this, Shmoopers. Do you?