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Where others have failed, she succeeds, and as a reward, the King asks her to choose a husband from among his wards.

FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY

Who else would she choose but Bertram? Bertram sees the alliance as beneath him. After the marriage ceremony, he runs away and plans to join the wars in Italy with Paroles. He writes to Helen that he will not acknowledge their marriage until she can prove she wears his heirloom ring and carries his child. Helen returns home to Roussillon, but she does not give up. Instead, she soon leaves and, disguised as a pilgrim, follows Bertram to Florence. There, she befriends a widow and her daughter Diana. Meanwhile, Bertram has formed an obsession with Diana during his time in Italy.

The soldiers jokingly trick Paroles into proving he is a coward, while Bertram makes intentions to sleep with Diana. Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the living. Diana plots to help Helen fulfil Bertram's impossible requests for marriage. Diana insists the meeting with Bertram must be in the dark, and a disguised Helen takes Diana's place.

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During the night, Bertram gives Helen his ring thinking that she is Diana , and they conceive a child. Back at the French court, Helen is presumed dead in Roussillon due to her absence.

Bertram returns to France, where his mother and Lafeu have arranged for Bertram to marry Lafeu's daughter. Bertram gives Lafeu, as a betrothal token, a ring that he had been given on his midnight meeting with Helen in Florence. The King and others recognise the ring to be one that the King had given to Helen on her marriage.

Before the situation can be resolved, Diana arrives at court with Bertram's ring and accuses him of seducing and then deserting her. Bertram denies her, but Lafeu withdraws his offer of his daughter, suspecting falsehood. She will get what she wants in the end and the audience will get what they essentially keep demanding in the end.

And the result will be bitter. To again paraphrase H. Mencken who was talking about voters and democracy, fits also for theatre patrons. Shakespeare knows "that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. Just not humane.

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One more point about this play. I adore Parolles. When thou hast none, remember thy friends. Where can you go after writing Hamlet? Only into the bitterest depths of irony and nihilism, apparently. Shakespeare plays one of his greatest tricks on the audience here, achieving something difficult and deeply unsatisfying, which Where can you go after writing Hamlet?

See, we like Helena. Shakespeare wins our sympathy for her early and often, but he also has her fall in love with Bertram, one of the shallowest d-bags the Bard has to offer. Even so, why is this such a problem for the audience? Bertram wants nothing to do with Helena and tells her as much at regular interval.


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Such is life, such is love. Ah, but who else can believe it? So bitter, Shakespeare! This is the best edition f the play, and has a brilliant introduction. Helena is the first female physician ever created, and her strength, daring, and unabashed lack of self-respect where her feelings for Bertram are concerned make her a fascinating subject and a great role model in many ways. This play was the warm-up piece for Measure for Measure in many ways, as it is where Willy worked out the infamous "bed-trick," and between the speeches of the Countess and the King, contains some of the more beautiful musings on love, youth, and age that I have ever read or heard.

I think that this play has the ability to truly reach people, and if you can't come see it this summer View all 3 comments. Middleton and Shakespeare here are blended; This problem play doth suffer too much rhyme.

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From first to last required excessive time. Whether "well" or no, I'm glad 'tis ended! View all 7 comments. Aug 08, Liz rated it really liked it Shelves: playscript.


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  • Helen, orphaned daughter of a doctor, is under the protection of the widowed Countess of Rossillion. In love with Bertram, the countess' son, Helen follows him to court, where she cures the sick French king of an apparently fatal illness. The king rewards Helen by offering her the husband of her choice. She names Bertram; he resists. When forced by the king to marry her, he refuses to sleep with her and, accompanied by the braggart Parolles, leaves for the Italian wars.

    He says that he will only accept Helen if she obtains a ring from his finger and becomes pregnant with his child. She goes to Italy disguised as a pilgrim and suggests a 'bed trick' whereby she will take the place of Diana, a widow's daughter whom Bertram is trying to seduce. A 'kidnapping trick' humiliates the boastful Parolles, whilst the bed trick enables Helen to fulfil Bertram's conditions, leaving him no option but to marry her, to his mother's delight.

    I especially enjoy a modern presentation of the work. View all 4 comments.

    All's Well That Ends Well | Folger Shakespeare Library

    I believe some-one who reads my reviews wanted me not to spoil this play - well I'm gonna, so stop reading now if you don't want to know any plot details! This is considered one of the "problem" play, as far as I can tell, because it doesn't really fit neatly into any of the standard genres of the period. It certainly isn't Tragedy or History and despite having an irrelevant and silly side plot in the vein of Much Ado About Nothing or Twelfth Night, it doesn't really hold up as a Comedy in the se I believe some-one who reads my reviews wanted me not to spoil this play - well I'm gonna, so stop reading now if you don't want to know any plot details!

    It certainly isn't Tragedy or History and despite having an irrelevant and silly side plot in the vein of Much Ado About Nothing or Twelfth Night, it doesn't really hold up as a Comedy in the sense of those plays either. Why not? For me at least, because everybody involved is more or less playing a manipulative game that makes them unsympathetic in my eyes. I suppose one is supposed to root for Helen who fancies a man above her station and eventually gets him - but that man doesn't want her and she wins him by any means except gaining his affections honestly.

    First she gets the King to arrange the marriage, then she tricks him into impregnating her. Not really the kind of woman I appreciate.

    1. Preamble (first chapter of the book)

    Then the husband is status-obsessed, unable to appreciate virtue or talent and he defies the King over the marriage, which he is forced to go through with - but he's a bit hypocritical and falls for the same "bed-trick" as goes down in Measure for Measure. Eventually everything is wrapped up in a neat bow but one has to question whether there's really going to be a happily ever after in that household, given all the deceit and dislike that forms its foundation.

    Heavily prose driven, the language is not that fabulous compared to the astonishing MacBeth which I read immediately previously, which just leaves the aforementioned daft subplot to amuse me.