The action of All’s Well That Ends Well moves from Rossillion in the south of France, to Paris, to Florence in the Tuscany region of Italy, then to Marseilles, back in France, before returning to Rossillion. With allusions as well to the cities of Narbonne in France and St. Jaques in Spain, the Savoy region of southern Europe, and the nation of Austria, geography plays an important role in the play. Continue reading “The Geography of All’s Well That Ends Well [INFOGRAPHIC]”
A man abandons a woman. She should be angry. Should be vengeful. Instead, she says, “I am not worthy of the wealth I owe” (II.v.78). Mariana from Measure for Measure? No. Helena from All’s Well That Ends Well. There are some striking parallels.
And we find ourselves at the ending of All’s Well That Ends Well. Does it end well? I think so. At least for me. At least for this discussion.
Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at All’s Well That Ends Well.
There are 2807 lines in in the play, which means the midpoint is at line 1404, or at Act Three, Scene Two, line 104. According to Dr. Rodes’ theory, you could find at this midpoint (or within twenty lines either way) a speech that perfectly sums up a major theme of the play. The 20-line leeway was to help remove the differences in prose line lengths between individual editions; and since All’s Well That Ends Well has over 48% of its lines in prose (I mean, that’s almost half, people), I’m a little concerned this forty-line window may not be enough. Let’s find out…
This week’s podcast concludes our two month-long discussion of All’s Well That Ends Well with a directorial concept and cast, and a general wrap-up of the play.
All’s Well That Ends Well
So here’s the numerical breakdown…
Back when I was discussing the conclusion of Troilus and Cressida a couple of months back, I said while that play has an ending, it really doesn’t have a resolution to either of its plots, neither the love (comic) plot of our titular lovers, nor the tragic plot of the war (and our–or at least my–tragic hero Pandarus). Well, this play’s ending is just as problematic: All’s Well That Ends Well ends, but not well. It ends too quickly. Not that there isn’t a resolution–in a seeming contradiction, it’s that there may very well be too much resolution.
[And notice the preponderance of “well”s in the last few sentences… but more on that in a bit.]
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).
Yesterday, I talked a little about the heavy use of letters and writing in All’s Well That Ends Well. This was an offshoot of my usual look at a play assisted by the concordance at OpenSource Shakespeare. But there’s another concept that I found repeatedly in my reading of the play…
If you combine the variations of god, heaven, fortune, divine, providence, grace and miracles, the play sits just above the middle of the pack in the Canon. If that doesn’t sound impressive, note that it has more references than any “problem play” and the second most of any comedy; all the other plays above it on the list are histories, tragedies, and tragicomedies. If we talk about just “heaven” references, it ranks in the top seven, tied for the most among comedies, and second among the “problem plays.” And if we look only at the use of “fortune” and its variances, the play is in the top four, tops in both comedies and “problem plays,” and more than any tragicomedies.
Occasionally, I like to take a look at a concordance–a reference book that lists every major word used in a work and the number of appearances there–for words that I notice popping up repeatedly throughout a text. For Julius Caesar, it was “noble,” while in Twelfth Night, it was “gull.” “Play” in Hamlet. “Man” in As You Like It. “Noting” and “listening” in Much Ado About Nothing. So what about All’s Well That Ends Well?
Well, in my deeper dives into this play, I’m seeing quite a bit about writing and letters.