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The meaning and origin of the expression: All's well that ends well

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All's well that ends well

Meaning

A risky enterprise is justified so long as it turns out well in the end.

Origin

This is, of course, best known from the Shakespeare play, but it was a proverb before it was a play title.

John Heywood included it in A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546:

Lovers live by love, ye as larkes live by leekes
Saied this Ales, muche more then halfe in mockage.
Tushe (quoth mine aunte) these lovers in dotage
Thinke the ground beare them not, but wed of corage
They must in all haste, though a leafe of borage
Might by all the substance that they can fell.
Well aunt (quoth Ales) all is well that endes well.

Shakespeare was well acquainted with Heywood's work and wrote All's Well That Ends Well in 1601. It is not only as the title of the play, but line appears in the text too.

HELENA:
Yet, I pray you:
But with the word the time will bring on summer,
When briers shall have leaves as well as thorns,
And be as sweet as sharp. We must away;
Our wagon is prepared, and time revives us:
All's well that ends well; still the fine's the crown;
Whate'er the course, the end is the renown.

See other phrases and sayings from Shakespeare.