I’m not the first to point out the fairy tale aspects of All’s Well That Ends Well. Famously, Susan Snyder, in an introduction to her seminar on the play in 1992, called the play a “deconstructed fairy tale.” Much has been made of the fairy tale motifs that can be found in the play: The Healing of the King (obviously), The Fulfillment of Tasks (Bertram’s conditions for a matrimonial future), The Man Who Deserted His Wife (Bertram’s flight to war).
I’m not so sure that it’s a deconstructed fairy tale, but it certainly feels like a broken one. I don’t know: maybe in the same way the character who has the most speeches in the play–surprise! it’s Parolles–is revealed to be coward instead of the stud that he makes himself out to be, this play reveals itself to be a purposefully unsuccessful fairy tale, if not an outright satire of one.
Maybe Shakespeare was ahead of his time… 350 years ahead. In 1959, ABC began airing a twice-weekly animated series, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. One of the recurring segments on the show was one called “Fractured Fairy Tales” that took fairy tales and stood them on their heads:
And thinking about this, maybe that’s how you present this play on stage. You could even put a narrator on stage. It’s worked before… think back to Sondheim and Lapine’s 1986 musical Into the Woods…
And the fairy tale concept has been used for recent stage productions (of course, maybe I like this production because I’m kinda crushin’ on Michelle Terry):
Something to think about as I ponder possible production concepts and casts for this weekend’s podcast.