All's Well That Ends Well (Penguin Shakespeare) Mass Market Paperback – 7 Apr 2005
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All's Well That Ends Well has generally been considered one of Shakespeare's most difficult and unpopular plays. Labelled a "Problem Comedy", editors believe that the play was written between 1604 and 1605, and exhibits a darkening of Shakespeare's interest in comedy. The play deals with the complicated relationship between Helena, the daughter of a famous physician, and Bertram, the arrogant son of the Countess of Roussillon. Helena is secretly in love with Bertram, and when she miraculously cures the ailing King, she asks for Bertram's hand in marriage, to which the grateful sovereign happily agrees. Bertram bitterly opposes marriage to Helena, who he regards as a social inferior. After reluctantly agreeing to the marriage, Bertram flees to the wars in Italy with his companion Parolles.
What ensues is Helena's increasingly desperate and complex attempts to retrieve her errant husband, which involves various machinations and a piece of mistaken identity and an infamous "bed-trick" which has never fully convinced audiences or critics. More recently critics have been kinder to the play, seeing its cynical disillusionment with romance as reflecting contemporary social and political anxieties about warfare and commerce, and feminist critics have been keen to celebrate Helena as a particularly complex heroine. The play is also fascinated by language, encapsulated in the character of Parolles (or "words"), and his memorable line for which the play is chiefly remembered: "Simply the thing I am / Shall make me live". --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
"A remarkable edition, one that makes Shakespeare's extraordinary accomplishment more vivid than ever."--James Shapiro, professor, Columbia University, bestselling author of "A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599" "A feast of literary and historical information.""--The Wall Street Journal"See all Product description
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Pretty rare. Have never been to Stratford up north. Would like to go this spring.
That is not to say that every play has in it what we value most in his greatest works. Certainly, "All's Well That Ends Well" is not one of his greatest works. However, that is like noting that 2004 was not a good year for Tiger Woods and he still placed fourth on the money list and is still ranked number two in the world. Even lesser Shakespeare is ahead of nearly everyone else, especially when one factors in the insight gained by experiencing his entire body of work.
What we are after in reviews like this is less about the play than the edition itself. I am a huge fan of the Arden editions because of the helpful insights their scholarship provides into the plays. We do not have to wade through unnecessary essays on politically correct interpretations of the plays. In this edition, we get an introductory essay that deals with issues of text, date, interpretation, and performance. Since this is one of the least performed of Shakespeare's plays, this is necessarily brief.
What is this play about? The title is a motto of young commoner named Helena. She is the orphan of a doctor and taken in by the Countess of Rossillion. Helena is captivated by the Countess's son, Bertram who has no interest in her. The play is about her unrelenting path to have him as her husband. It is an interesting play with some glorious lines. But if you are only going to read a half dozen of Shakespeare's plays, you need not bother with this one. However, I think you should take time to read all of them.
So, this is a fine and recommended edition of one of Shakespeare's lesser plays, but that is still greater than nearly everything else and so should be read by all.
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