ON LOVE COMPELLED AND UNDESERVED
IN ALL’S WELL AND MEASURE FOR MEASURE
Yes, Bertram does have a point—he should have free choice of whom he’s to marry, even if he’s callow, headstrong, proud and blind to the beautiful treasure that Helena with her adoration of him represents. Add to that: he’s ungrateful and ungracious. And why Helena persists in loving him, despite his ill-mannered scorn and treachery, seems nearly insane of her—except that, we may reckon, possessing the soul of a physician, she sees through Bertram’s moral diseases to the spiritually healthy soul he is in essence; and she knows herself as a healer who can recover him to sanity and raise him to maturity. And at last she does just this, however deviously and dubiously.
Only by classifying this play as a fairy tale (and a Grimm one too), may allowances be made for so preposterous a plot and such improbable psychology. But having once duly suspended a reasonable disbelief, one may relax and enjoy the artful machinations of the plot that ultimately work to remedy Bertram’s moral malady, just as in Measure for Measure the warped Lord Angelo is finally reclaimed from pride and perversion to a penitent sanity and to the prospect of undeserved love—all such forgiveness being beyond deserving, unmerited and gracious in principle, by Christian precept.
Observe AWW and MM through a spiritual lens, and you see two parables of salvation; you see spiritual remediation at work when nothing short of divine intervention can tame heart-hardened sinners from their truculent perversions.