The Bed Trick, Part Deux: Questions

OK, so yesterday, I talked a little about the concept of the Bed Trick, the literary trope used in All’s Well That Ends Well. The Bed Trick involves the substitution of one person for another in a bed without said person’s sexual partner’s knowledge or recognition. And it is a convention that has, thankfully, trailed away since the Restoration. But as I think about that concept more today, I’ve got a couple of questions (no answers, kids, just questions):

How would the Bed Trick work in reality?

Yes, I know the Bed Trick is a literary trope, one that isn’t seen in real life, something you see “only in the movies” (you know, like walking away from a fireball in slow motion, without flinching when the explosion goes off).

But if it were to happen in real life, how would that work? Obviously, the room would have to be completely dark and the assignation total silent (otherwise, the man would recognize–or not recognize–the partner). Would the guy need to be drunk or high? Blindfolded and bound? Would he need to be led into an empty room, then have the lights turned off, and the substitute then brought in, or would both women be in the room before the light is turned off, the substitute hiding but coming out as the light goes out and the bait leaves?

And of course this leads to the second question:

How could you stage this scene in this play?

If you bind and blindfold Bertram, you build a neat little parallel with Parolles in the later scene. But when would you stage the scene? Act Four, Scene One depicts the capture of Parolles; Scene Two, the negotiation between Bertram and Diana; and Scene Three, the discussion between the two lords, the return of Bertram and the interrogation/tormenting of Parolles. How do you shoehorn in such a staging? Between Scenes Two and Three? Then how do you move from Bertram and Diana to… Bertram and Diana?

There’s a reason why this scene is specifically left un-dramatized: the hurdles for maintaining a willing suspension of disbelief, I believe, are just too insurmountable.

Which then leads to a third question:

Why does Shakespeare make this scene–which as a audience we do have a curiosity (both prurient and righteous) to witness–purposefully un-staged (and possibly un-stageable)?

Especially when he also leaves out the depiction of two other crucial moments in the play: the gifts of the rings from the countess to Bertram, and from the king to Helena. Why is this trinity of scenes left out?


oh, and one last one:

Why does Diana tell Bertram, “When you have conquered my yet maiden bed, // Remain there but an hour, nor speak to me” (VI.ii.58-9)?

Maybe, I’m reading that wrong, but it sounds to me like she wants him to stay and be silent for an hour after the sex act (the conquering of her “yet maiden bed”)… why does she (or Helena) want him to spend an hour there after the act? Or is she saying that he only gets an hour to do his business? But if that was the case, you’d think she’d phrase it differently, as “remain” gives the impression of inaction following his getting some … action.

Like I said: no answers, kids, just questions…

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