In which play did Shakespeare use the following quote: "love all, trust a few, do wrong with none"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As the other answer says, this advice comes from the Countess of Roussillon in act 1, scene 1 of All's Well that End's Well. The Countess gives it to her son Bertram as he leaves home after his father's death.

It would interesting to compare this advice to the advice Polonius gives his son, Laertes, as he heads off to France. Whereas Polonius is often a clueless, if ambitious, windbag, the Countess, in contrast, is sometimes considered one of the strongest characters in Shakespeare. She is a kind, strong, and gracious woman (if criticized for being a little too involved in her son's love life). Nevertheless, her heart is in the right place, and this is reflected in the kindness and sincerity of her advice to Bertram. She tells him to be kind, loving, and loyal, and to intimidate his enemies more with his "power"—their fear of what he might do to them—than any act against them.

The Countess of Roussillon's speech is as follows:

Be thou blest, Bertram, and succeed thy father
In manners, as in shape! thy blood and virtue
Contend for empire in thee, and thy goodness
Share with thy birthright! Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life's key: be cheque'd for silence,
But never tax'd for speech. What heaven more will
That thee may furnish and my prayers pluck down,
Fall on thy head!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The line appears in All's Well That Ends Well. In act I, scene 1, the Countess of Roussillon speaks it as part of the advice she gives to her son, Count Bertram. As he is preparing to leave home, she encourages him to emulate his late father in his words and deeds, even as he resembles him physically. Not only does he come from a good lineage ("blood") but he is also a good person (having "virtue"); however, he must behave appropriately as well.

"Love all, trust a few, / Do wrong with none," she recommends. In addition, he should treat all his enemies fairly and protect his friends. He should also be discreet but speak up when it is suitable. "Love" here means affection for all his acquaintances, not romantic love for a specific person.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial