“A happy ende,” thus runs the burden of a song by one of the “uncertain” authors of Tottel's Miscellany—“A happy ende exceadeth all.” It is a sentiment, so we are often reminded, by no means unknown to the greatest of the Elizabethans. Indeed, according to the concensus of critical opinion, All's Well That Ends Well would seem to be the false divinity that, from first to last, shaped the ends of all too many of Shakspere's comedies. Thus, Mr. H. C. Hart, in the Arden edition of Love's Labour's Lost, states that that play disintegrates (has “broken down”) by the time the last scenes get under way; and Sir Arthur Quiller Couch, speaking, in effect, for a host of others, holds that the ending of The Two Gentlemen of Verona “blows all character to the winds.” “For stage effect Valentine must surrender his true love to his false friend with a mawkish generosity that deserves nothing so much as kicking.” A more or less similar judgement has been pronounced upon some of the great romantic comedies, the problem plays, and the dramatic romances. As You Like it, for instance, is marred, according to Swinburne, by that “one unlucky smear on one corner of the canvas . . . . the betrothal of Oliver to Celia,” a “sacrifice” (like the concluding marital sacrifices in Much Ado, All's Well, Measure for Measure, Cymbeline, and other plays) falsely motivated by “the actual or hypothetical necessity of pairing off all the couples” so as “to secure a nominally happy and undeniably matrimonial ending.”—“In the fifth act,” says Hartley Coleridge, “ladies have no discretion”—nor gentlemen either, if we may believe his fellow critics. By the fifth act, as Quiller Couch would have it in the outburst already referred to, “there are no Gentlemen in Verona”; and so, allowing only for change of scene, as the case may require, to Messina, Roussillon, Vienna, Sicily, or Ancient Britain, says many another commentator. “Kill Claudio,” the command of Beatrice to Benedick, springs out of a fine and humanly altogether excellent moment of white-hot anger, but Coleridge and Dr. Johnson would do as much in cold blood for Angelo in Measure for Measure. Helena (in All's Well), says Lounsbury, is “untrue to her sex” in pursuing and finally marrying Bertram; and “frankly unfeminine,” according to Professor Brander Matthews' account of the conclusion of A Winter's Tale, is Hermione's forgiveness of her husband “without one word of reproach.” Hartley Coleridge, finally, urges that “the exhibition of such madness of heart” as that of Leontes in this play—to which instance Mr. G. C. Macauley adds that of Posthumus in Cymbeline—“should be confined to the sternest tragedy,” since such sinners could “surely never again be worthy of a restoration to happiness.” And all this sacrifice of poetic justice and psychological truth, this “holocaust of higher and better feelings” (to quote Swinburne once more) is exacted by our “theatrical idol,” the conventional happy ending: “the liquorish desire to leave the board of fancy with a palatable morsel of cheap sugar on the tongue.” In a word, the unhappy happy ending (“nominally happy and undeniably matrimonial”)—this really would seem to have been the fatal Cleopatra for which Shakspere lost his sense of humor—not to mention his artistic conscience—and was content to lose it.