The Morality Play Structure of All's Well
This is a story which I made up, but I hope show that Shakespeare used a similar plot for the basis of All's Well that Ends Well.
The usual structure of a medieval morality play is the struggle between the personified forces of good and evil for the human soul which is at stake.
The difference between this morality--which parallels a lot of other moralities--and the typical one, is that Shakespeare has shoved the entire setting into a world where everybody is good. Even the character who stands in for Satan, Lord Lafew, tries to give Bertram good advice and guidance. And as we will see, the Bad Angel, Parolles, talks the Good Angel, Helen, out of killing herself over Bertram.
There is a table at the bottom of this page of all the morality play characters and their correspondents in All's Well.
If you want some idea of what the typical morality play was like, look at the beginning of The Castle of Perseverance, obviously linked to its title.
I don't think other editors have paid sufficient attention to the play's morality structure, but in fairness to Hunter, the Arden editor from whose edition I have extracted the text, he does say:
Parolles and Helena are arranged on either side of Bertram, placed rather like the Good and Evil Angels in a Morality (Introduction, p. xxxiii).
Indeed. But the morality play structure is my hobby-horse, and I intend to write it as hard as I can.
Humankind: The Morality
Once in a fair country lived Lady COURTESY and her husband, Lord Lawful, with their servants PROPHETS and DISCRETION. They had one child, HUMANKIND.
After the death of old Lawful, the Lady Courtesy sent Humankind to the court of the GREAT KING, to be his vassal. But on his way, Humankind fell in with two bad counselors: Lord HELLFIRE and his servant, VAINGLORY.
At the court, Humankind identified himself as the son of old Lawful, and for his father's sake was welcomed by the GREAT KING, who gave Humankind his own daughter GRACE to wife. The King gave Grace a magic ring for her to give Humankind, as token they should never be parted. But before they could marry, Lord Hellfire counseled Vainglory as to how they might prevent the marriage. Prompted by Lord Hellfire, Vainglory went to Humankind and told him about a beautiful lusty lady, the LADY VENUS, and persuaded Humankind to flee with him to Venus' castle, accompanied by Captain LUST, who was another of Lord Hellfire's minions.
At Venus' castle Humankind married Venus and they exchanged rings; but this Venus was a fiend, and after taking Humankind's ring, and giving him a ring which would never come off, she threw Humankind into her dungeon where he was tormented by devils.
Grace learned of Humankind's plight, and vowed to rescue him. The Great King lent her his battle leader, DUKE MICHAEL. Grace, accompanied by her soldier CAPTAIN COURAGE and by Duke Michael, followed Humankind and attacked Venus' castle. A dreadful battle ensued. Captain Courage fought against Captain Lust. Venus, attended by her helpers CUPIDITY and WORLDLY WISDOM and by Lord Hellfire's vassal, Vainglory, attacked Grace. Grace managed to penetrate into the castle's dungeon where she freed Humankind and gave him the magic ring of the Great King, before Venus and her minions slew her. Humankind, horrified by what he had seen, fled back to the court of the Great King.
Venus and Vainglory followed Humankind. Supported by Lord Hellfire, Venus showed the King that she had Humankind's ring, and that he was wearing hers: Humankind, Venus claimed, had pledged his soul to her and must away with her and Lord Hellfire.
But then Humankind showed the King the ring which Grace had given him. The King recognized it, and by the ring's power the King divorced Venus from Humankind and sent her, Vainglory, Lord Hellfire, Lust, Cupidity and Worldly Wisdom into outer darkness. By the power of the ring the King then restored Grace to life; she was wedded to Humankind, and they lived happily ever after.
The hyperlinked names take you to the corrresponding character in Shakespeare's play, All's Well that Ends Well. Here is a table of correspondences: