Yesterday, I talked a little about mining the text for acting clues in the scansion of the verse lines in All’s Well That Ends Well. Today, I want to shift gears just a little, and take a look the clues we get not from the rhythm of the lines but the rhymes at the ends of the lines and (sometimes) the breaks within them.
Much of Shakespeare’s poetry is blank verse, unrhymed iambic pentameter. We know that. So when he deviates, there’s got to be a purpose. Let’s take a quick look at few such moments in All’s Well That Ends Well.
I’ve talked in the past (almost ad nauseam) about the lack of true stage direction in the texts of the plays of Shakespeare. However, many clues for the actor and director are slipped into the dialogue and speeches. All’s Well That Ends Well is no different.
A couple more random thoughts and questions re: All’s Well That Ends Well…
Toward the beginning of our time discussing All’s Well That Ends Well, I talked a little about names (and the lack thereof in the play). Today, I want to revisit this with a few more monikers I gathered upon the second deeper read.
[WARNING: The following podcast contains adult language, sexual imagery, sophomoric humor and stuff to make your mama blush. Skip and wait for Podcast 112 if easily offended. You HAVE been warned.]
This week’s podcast continues our two month-long discussion of All’s Well That Ends Well with a whole lotta nudge-nudge wink-wink and sexy talk.
I can’t help but think that Shakespeare toys with our gender expectations in the first half of All’s Well That Ends Well. Helena seems to take on the more stereotypical masculine actions while Bertram seems almost demure and feminine in his reactions.
Yesterday, I looked at some of the references to father(-figure)s in All’s Well That Ends Well, in the not-quite-endless variety: dead, (seemingly) dying, and/or lacking in judgment (particularly in regards to their power over the generation that follows). And looking back on that sentence, it appears I love both dashes and parentheses. Anyway, today I want to ponder not just the dying but the aging, not just fathers, but mothers, too.
As I noted in my original plot synopsis for Act One of All’s Well That Ends Well, the opening of the play is saturated with images of dead or dying father figures. In being sent as a ward to the King of France, Bertram “weep(s) o’er (his) father’s death anew” (I.i.3-4), and in this same event, the countess says that she buries “ a second husband” (I.i.1-2).
Of course, even after multiple readings of this, I’m a little confused. Was the late count her “second husband” or is having her son taken from her removing from her life “the male head of a household” (“husband, n.; I.1” Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press, June 2015. Web. 7 September 2015.)? But if Bertram is young enough to be taken as a ward, could he really be the head of the household? but I digress…
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):