chapter  5
“Wondrous” Healing: The “New Philosophy”, Medicine and Miracles on the Early Modern Stage
Pages 18

Shakespeare’s All’s Well that Ends Well seems centrally concerned with conflicting beliefs about disenchantment and miracles in early modern culture. Responding to the wondrous healing of the King’s “past-cure malady” (2.1.120) by the “simple maid” Helena (2.3.67), the “old lord” Lafeu initially offers Bertram’s friend Paroles the most common Protestant position on miracles: “They say miracles are past, and we have our philosophical persons to make modern and familiar things supernatural and causeless” (2.3.1-3). However, he immediately undermines this disenchantment thesis by adding, “Hence is it that we make trifles of terrors” (2.3.1-6).1 Thus Lefeu appears to endorse the view of the ballad from which he quotes that this is, indeed, a miraculous healing-“A showing of a heavenly effect in an earthly actor” (2.3.24-25). The “hand of heaven” (2.3.32) has cured the king through the vehicle of the virtuous, poor maid Helena.