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All's Well That Ends Well Theme of Sex

All's Well That Ends Well has a reputation for being one of Shakespeare's most sexually charged dramas. In the play, female sexuality is under constant scrutiny; the question of when and how a woman should lose her virginity becomes a topic of debate for just about every character.

Throughout the play, sex and warfare are linked in some bizarre and troubling ways, connecting the play's treatment of sex to the theme of "Gender." Like Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, All's Well That Ends Well also features a notorious bed trick, during which a cheating husband is taught the ultimate lesson when he's duped into sleeping with his own wife.

Questions About Sex

  1. There's a lot of talk in this play about how sex is like warfare. What are the effects of this comparison?
  2. Why does Bertram refuse to sleep with his wife?
  3. Explain Helen's reasons for pulling off a bed trick. Are her actions justifiable?
  4. Explain why Bertram has a scar on his face when he returns to Roussillon from Italy. What does this suggest about what Bertram has been up to?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The play suggests that Helen's bed trick is completely justifiable because she's married to Bertram, whose lawful duty as a husband is to please his wife.

If Bertram were a woman who was tricked into sleeping with a man she hated, audiences would be outraged.

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