All's Well That Ends Well
Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
'Twere all one
That I should love a bright particular star
And think to wed it, he is so above me:
In his bright radiance and collateral light
Must I be comforted, not in his sphere. (1.1.2)
It doesn't take a Ph.D. in Renaissance literature to see that Helen thinks Bertram is way too good for her. But why does she feel this way? Here, she calls Bertram a "star" because his social status is so far above hers that they're not even in the same "sphere." In other words, Bertram was born into a noble, high-ranking family and Helen was not. Like we've said elsewhere, Helen's not exactly a peasant, but in Shakespeare's day, being the daughter of a doctor wasn't exactly the same as being the child of, say, a rich count. In some Shakespearean plays, trying to marry above one's social station was frowned upon. (Check out what happens to Malvolio in Twelfth Night if you don't believe us.) Still, Shakespeare does something new in this play by showing us that Helen is more than good enough for Bertram.
Be thou blest, Bertram, and succeed thy father
In manners, as in shape! thy blood and virtue
Contend for empire in thee, and thy goodness
Share with thy birthright! (1.1.8)
Here, the countess gives her son some parting advice before he leaves for Paris. She wants her son's behavior ("manners") to match his noble blood. This is worth thinking about: the countess says that being born into a high ranking family isn't enough. Being a good person also requires "virtue," which isn't necessarily something a person is born with.
The Count Roussillon cannot be my brother:
I am from humble, he from honour'd name;
No note upon my parents, his all noble:
My master, my dear lord he is; and I
His servant live, and will his vassal die:
He must not be my brother. (1.3.4)
After the countess says that she considers Helen a daughter, Helen insists that her social station is too "humble" for her to be considered a sister to Bertram. In fact, we hear her say that she's not good enough over and over (and over) again in this play. The funny thing is that, later, Helen will insist on being Bertram's wife. Hmm. It sounds to us like Helen is more worried about the potential incest factor than anything else, but can we blame her? After all, nobody wants to think of their dream guy as their brother.