Origin of the phrase.
The proverb ‘all’s well that ends well’ is perhaps most famous for being the title of a play by the English playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
In the above mentioned play (which was probably written 1604-5), a young woman called Helena has to undergo various trials in order to marry the man she loves, Bertram.
Before Shakespeare made it into the title of his play, however, this phrase certainly existed as a common proverb. So, the proverb could date back to the medieval times.
Meaning of the phrase.
This proverb means that, no matter how one arrived at a certain outcome, if that outcome is a good one then everything is alright.
In other words, no matter how many challenges were faced in order to achieve a goal, if that goal has been achieved and is a good one, the whole process is justified.
In sum, then, the proverb ‘all’s well that ends well’ refers to the idea of ‘the end justifies the means’. This idea is based on the principle that if a good result is achieved, it does not matter what was done in order to achieve that result.
This proverb suggests that, retrospectively, the process of achieving the result will look good, because the end result itself is a good one.
The notion that all’s well that ends well is prevalent throughout human life. For instance, this proverb could be cited when:
- A person passes an exam after plenty of grueling studying.
- Someone marries the love of their life after years of separation and challenges.
- Old friends reconcile after an argument, and the preceding argument is forgotten as a result of the reconciliation.
Thus, the precise meaning of the proverb will thus depend on the context in which it is used. All, in the context of this proverb, means everything related to a given event or phenomenon. So, the proverb means that the quality of a given phenomenon is determined by how that phenomenon ends up.
Expansion of this idea.
If something ends up well, overall it can be judged to be good. Well here can mean numerous things, such as morally good, successful and enjoyable.
This saying encourages us to view life in a positive light. It also help us justify doing something stressful or frowned upon to get a good result.
However, the notion that ‘all’s well that ends well’ has been contested by several philosophers. For instance, some people have argued that this proverb makes an unjustifiable assumption: that it does not matter what we do to achieve our goals, as long as they are achieved. For these critics of the proverb, a good result can only be achieved through good actions. These people might say that the proverb’s implicit suggestion that the end justifies the means is wrong, and that something can only end well if it has begun well, and been carried out well throughout the entire process.
However, other people have argued that if something good is achieved, then retrospectively this justifies the means that were used to achieve a good thing.
Importance of this proverb.
The importance of the proverb is highlighted below:
1. Motivation: Adhering to the notion that ‘all’s well that ends well’ provides us with motivation when the going has been tough. If we are in the midst of a challenging time, remembering this proverb can motivate us to keep going towards that happy ending. When the challenges of life make us think ‘why am I doing this?’, we can simply say this proverb to ourselves to remind ourselves that it will all be worth it when we achieve our goals.
2. Reconciliation: This proverb helps us to reconcile after arguments, as it reminds us not to dwell on past discord but to celebrate happy endings.
3. Acknowledging the power of a good result: A reconciliation, a goal achieved, or any other happy ending can have the power to shed happiness back onto the past as well and to make past troubles all seem worthwhile because they led up to this happy result. The proverb ‘all’s well that ends well’ celebrates and acknowledges this fact.
4. Getting perspective on the past: If the present is good, why not just focus on that? All too often, we let the challenges of the past cloud the opportunities of the present. The proverb ‘all’s well that ends well’ enables us to see the past and present as forming a narrative that ends happily. In this way, we do not let the past loom too large and crowd out our thoughts: instead, we see the past simply as one part of a wider chain of events which has led up to something good. That way, even the difficult times in our life will be seen to have been worth while as they were part of a system of events that brought us a happy ending.
5. Positive thinking: This proverb enables us to think positively and to have an optimistic outlook on life! This is always a good thing, as many studies have shown that people who are able to emphasize the good things in life are more likely to be happy and healthy and to achieve their goals. This proverb thus is great for our psychological, mental and physical health as it gives us a boost of positive thinking, which in its turn will help us to think more positively about other things.
This proverb is a great tool in our positive thinking toolbox. Remembering this powerful phrase enables us to put life into perspective, to emphasize the good in life and to diminish the negative effects that troubles and challenges in the past may have on our minds in the present. In addition, this proverb is very good for those times when we need to motivate ourselves to keep going with a difficult task, or when we have come to the end of a long and challenging project and we find ourselves questioning whether it was all worth it. All in all, this is a fantastic proverb to use to celebrate happy endings, no matter where they arise in life: romantically, socially, professionally and in friendships and families.