English 431B: Advanced Shakespeare

A survey of the works from the second half of William Shakespeare's career

Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012 notes

• “All’s Well” is very different than the plays of the earlier part of Shakespeare’s career.

–> Lead female character keeps her own confidences rather being open.

–> She uses conflicted language. Depths about her character never probed.

–> Male lead is also very unique. He keeps his own council, but his instincts and treatment of others is not right, he’s ungenerous, not concerned with
feelings of others, tone-deafness that applies to this character.

–> Bertram and Helena are so different it seems they were NOT a match made in heaven.

Bertram is a bounder (British English that means scoundrel).

Bertram fails to see the poor qualities of Parolles and befriends him because of his military affiliation. He takes things for face value with Parolles and Helena and nothing deeper.

Parolles refers to Bertram as a “foolish, idle boy.”

Act 3, Scene 5

Line 18 +

“I know that knave …”

Act 3, Scene 7

Line 15 +

Helena’s plot to get the ring

Act 4, Scene 4

Line 17+

Helena’s cynicism/realism of sexes, sexual relationships

Bed trick is a convention of Shakespearean theatre

44 instances of “bed-trick” in plays

Most notably seen in “Measure for Measure”

Dr. Samuel Johnson, critique/editor of Shakespeare

“I cannot reconcile my heart to Bertram …”

Dr. Kiefer’s journal about one adaptation in Britain:

“… Noble ends justify dubious means.”

At the end of the play the audience the is looking up at the stage, French doors on set, Helena and Bertram are just about to go through those doors. When they enter through those doors they will metaphorically enter their marriage. Stage goes dark then light only illuminates Bertram and Helena’s faces. They are gazing into one another’s eyes. Bertram looks at Helena and communicates this idea: “Now for the first time I see who you are, now I understand why you’ve been after me.”


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