All’s Well That Ends Well – Meaning & Expansion of Idea

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

All’s well that ends well, or is it? It depends on who you are talking to, but most people agree that the use of this proverbial idiom carries a pretty weighty meaning.

Although it is hundreds of years old, Shakespeare revived its popularity with a play by the same name, forever creating a connection with his comedic characters.

Today the word continues to be used in a lighthearted manner to explain that despite the challenges of a task or situation, all can be forgotten (or forgiven) in the event of a happy ending.

Let’s look at the origins of this saying and how you can use it in your own materials.

What Is the Meaning of All’s Well That Ends Well?

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All’s well that ends well is an idiomatic proverb, meaning a successful pursuit is worth the adversity and obstacles one must overcome to achieve success.

Proverbs are short, familiar sayings that express a truth concerning life or provide advice. Idioms are phrases that consist of a series of words that provide a figurative use, often to make a point or help illustrate a deeper meaning.

The expression also implies that regardless of the problems involved in a pursuit, success was achieved and that one should move on from any unpleasantness or difficulty experienced along the way.

Origin of All’s Well That Ends Well

The proverb all’s well that ends well is most well known because it is the title of a Shakespearean play published in 1623. In the play, the heroine, Helen, pursues a man of noble birth who has rejected her due to her lowly status. Despite being granted permission to marry him, she must complete the tasks he sets forth to prove herself worthy. In the end, she is successful through various means, and the two are wed.

It is considered, by modern standards, one of Shakespeare’s more controversial plays due to the strong female lead subjecting herself to flawed behaviors directed by a truly unlikable love interest. It also highlights love as an unhealthy obsession.

However, other critics highlight Helen’s behaviors as cunning in her attempts to raise her lot in life and secure a position as a wife of a noble – which was almost an impossible feat for the times. She is perhaps less interested in love and more interested in doing what is considered unachievable.

Whatever side of the debate you are on, Helen succeeds, and everything it took to get there can be left in the past.

Like most of Shakespeare’s works, however, he borrowed the term to influence his storyline. The axiom was already well-known and used for hundreds of years before he wrote All’s Well That Ends Well. The proverb was published as early as the 13th century in an English poem, The Proverbs of Hendyng:

  • Wel is him þat wel ende mai.

[Well is him that may end well.]

Using All’s Well That Ends Well in a Sentence

When using the phrase in a sentence, you want to ensure it is used to highlight that the efforts were worthy of the results.

  • The cross-country trip took much longer than anticipated, but all’s well that ends well because here we are.
  • Things took a dramatic turn at the auction when the winner was discovered to have made a falsified bid, but all’s well that ends well; the owner honored the previous bid, and all parties involved received what they wanted.
  • All’s well that ends well: despite the rough start, the team managed to cinch the final win to remain state champions.

Let’s Review

The phrase all’s well that ends well may have been made popular by Shakespeare, but the idea was well used long before he renewed its popularity.

The idiomatic proverb means that end results are well worth the efforts put forth to get there. It also hints that the struggles can be left behind to celebrate the win.