All's Well That Ends Well
How we cite our quotes:
I have those hopes of her good that
her education promises; her dispositions she
inherits, which makes fair gifts fairer; for where
an unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, there
commendations go with pity; they are virtues and
traitors too; in her they are the better for their
simpleness; she derives her honesty and achieves her goodness. (1.1.5)
In Shakespeare's day, the ideal woman was supposed to be obedient, chaste, and silent. This is what the countess is getting at when she says she hopes her foster daughter (Helen) will turn out to be a good girl who doesn't develop an "unclean mind." But as we'll see, Helen not only thinks about sex, she also likes to talk about it. Keep reading...
Are you meditating on virginity?
Ay. You have some stain of soldier in you: let me
ask you a question. Man is enemy to virginity; how
may we barricado it against him?
Keep him out.
But he assails; and our virginity, though valiant,
in the defense yet is weak: unfold to us some
There is none: man, sitting down before you, will
undermine you and blow you up. (1.1.3)
We weren't kidding when we said that Helen's not afraid to talk about sex. Here, she's confronted by Paroles, who asks her if she's thinking about virginity. She doesn't back down. Instead of being embarrassed, she plays along and holds her own. Be sure to read our "Character Analysis" of Helen for more about this.
There's little can be said in 't; 'tis against the
rule of nature. To speak on the part of virginity,
is to accuse your mothers; which is most infallible
Paroles has a way with words, wouldn't you say? Here, he tries to say that girls who refuse to lose their virginity are being disobedient to their mothers. In other words, Paroles is pointing out that every girl's mother has lost her virginity (duh), so girls should follow in their moms' footsteps. Wow. It's no wonder that Helen says women have to "barricado" their virtue from men who try to "assail" their virginity (1.1.3).