Helena in Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well is from good family. Nevertheless, our heroine accepts that the nobility of Bertram, her love interest, puts him beyond her reach. At least he is thus before she devises a clever plan to get her man. Having learned much about medicine from her father, a renowned physician, Helena drums up the confidence to go to Paris and cure the sick King. In payment, she asks for the husband of her choosing. Impressed by her sincerity and hard work, when returned to health, the King agrees.
But Bertram, headstrong and not keen to marry, has other plans. As he leaves for Italy, he tells Helena that it is only when she obtains a ring from his finger and carries his child that he will be her husband, which by the way, he adds, will be never. A lesser woman than Helena might quit now, but quitting was never the name of her game. Besides, she believes that if she can just make him see that her character and intelligence count for more than having a noble birth, he will return and marry her.
When Helena discovers the Bertram is wooing a Florentine woman, she follows the courage of her convictions and enlists the woman’s help in winning him back. And so it is through the same contrivance used in Measure for Measure, that it’s Helena, Bertram’s lawful wife, who shares his bed and obtains his ring. When at last Bertram realises his wrong-thinking and accepts Helena, she knows that it was through surmounting the obstacles one-by-one that she’s finally reached her desired end.
Lesson: Dignified confidence, strong principles, and high standards lead to the day when achievements are recognised and rewarded.