In the Catalan region of Rossillion, a lower-born woman by the name of Helena becomes the ward of the Countess, when her father passes away. Helena is helplessly in love with the Countess’ son, Bertram, and convinces her to grant permission for Helena to follow Bertram on a trip to France. She promises to be of service to the ailing French King, as she has secret healing methods, passed down to her by her father before he died. When they arrive in France, they discover that the King is wary of Helena’s magical medicinal powers. Nonetheless, he guarantees Helena that if she can cure him, she can select her pick of husbands from any man at court. If she does not make him better, however, Helena will be put to death. To her great luck, Helena eventually saves the King, and -- much to Bertram's dismay -- chooses him to be her husband. Pompous Bertram thinks that Helena is not sufficiently wealthy or high born for him to wed, so he tries to escape their wedlock through trickery. He insists that until she wears his family ring and bears his child, he will not acknowledge their marriage -- even though they have already been wed in accordance with the wishes of the King of France. With that, Bertram leaves with no warning to Italy to fight in the Florentine War. Determined Helena follows him. When she meets a virgin named Diana along the way, Helena teams up with her to contrive a plot: Diana will seduce Bertram, steal his ring, and then have Helena switch places with her under the mask of night, duping Bertram into sleeping with his own wife -- and, thus, meeting all of his prerequisites to acknowledging the marriage. In a hilarious swapping of identities, the two accomplish the cunning task at hand. Then, Helena fakes her own death. Upon hearing the news, Bertram believes he is free to marry another woman and attempts to do so with a different lady from the court. However, in a large gathering at the end of the play, all is finally revealed as Helena shows up and tells the truth. After hearing what she went through to be with him, Bertram is so impressed with her tenacity that he vows to stay with her in then end. All’s Well That Ends Well, labeled as one of William Shakespeare’s “problem plays” for its unique mixtures of genres, has an intriguing mix of comedy, drama, romance, and fantasy.
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