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Not All's Well That Ends Well,
This review is from: All's Well that Ends Well: The Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
This is probably one of Shakespeare's weakest plays, if not his weakest. Saying that, in the late part of his career, Shakespeare wrote some strong heroines. The whole play revolves around Helena, who is similar in temperament to her namsake in A Midsummer Night's Dream, but much cleverer. She cures the King of France and in return he allows her to marry anyone in his court. Helena wants Count Bertram- however, Bertram has no interest in her. He says that he will only become her husband if she gets his prized ring off his finger and has his baby in her stomach. Not one to be dissuaded, Helena goes and sets about doing it.
Some have classified it as a problem play, whilst some have argued that it is a typical comedy of that period and Shakespeare didn't intend any darkness. Saying that, it's incredibly hard to play Helena sympathetically in this day and age, despite her being an intelligent determined woman. Parolles is the "fool" and a rather dull one he makes. Any part that doesn't include Helena, the Queen, the King or Bertram remains boring. The whole thing is incredibly contrived, without the profundity or light romance that would make this tolerable.
However, Helena does get some great monologues, as is the case in many of Shakespeare's later plays, and the scene with her and the King is touching (in the BBC adaptation, it is played as romantic for no real reason whatsoever).
In conclusion, the play is not the sum of its parts.