Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

February Books 3) All's Well That Ends Well, by William Shakespeare

I knew almost nothing about this play, but really enjoyed it. The plot is very straightforward: the modestly born but intelligent Helena fulfills the conditions set by her reluctant husband, by tricking him into having sex with her while under the impression that she is someone else. Also there's a subplot with his dubious friend Parolles getting publicly humiliated. Slightly tricky to do this well, I imagine: Helena has to engage the audience's sympathy, and Bertram's reluctance to allow her to be foisted on him turns around rather rapidly in the last scene; also Parolles has to be sufficiently unpleasant that the audience laughs at his downfall rather than sympathising with him. But Arkangel largely make it work, with Emily Woof (whose name I don't remember from anything else, and I think I would have done) excellent as Helena, and good old Clive Swift an impressive King of France, cured by her medical knowledge. (Is there any earlier depiction of a woman doctor in literature? I see this story comes from Boccaccio, but Shakespeare may have introduced that detail.) An unexpected pleasure, and I put other reading aside to finish it on my way home.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love's Labour's Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night's Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All's Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter's Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)
Tags: bookblog 2009, writer: shakespeare

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