Friday, October 07, 2011

Reader's Diary #765- William Shakespeare: All's Well That Ends Well

Last year, on another blog, there was a debate on the merits of reading challenges. A frequent beef against challenges seemed to be that quantity is often pushed over quality. People shouldn't rush books, the folks on this side argued, they should take the time to savour the book, to question it, analyze it and so on. But surely they wouldn't advocate for the way I read William Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well either. I didn't rush it, that's for sure, but I think I lost more by taking too much time.

To read a play is to accept that much will be lost in this usually unintended format. Written for the stage, I know I will not benefit from the performances, the costumes, the direction and so on. So, when I read a play I usually like to read through it quite quickly. If I get get an idea of the story and characters I want to run with it. Otherwise, as was the case with this play which I read piecemeal over the last month or so, I found myself forgetting who was who, I didn't really connect with anyone, and I had to keep reviewing the plot.

The plot isn't bad, even if the characters aren't exactly likeable. In a nutshell, a woman named Helena convinces the King of France to force a man named Bertram to marry her. Bertram feels he is too good for Helena, and though he doesn't disobey the king, goes off to war before consummating the marriage. Helena follows him without his knowing, many people assume she is dead, and Bertram tries to sleep with another woman but unknowingly sleeps with Helena instead. They wind up together at the end, but it's hard to decide what the point of all this was. Nothing really ended up well, except perhaps that two equally despicable people ended up together and in all likelihood would make each other miserable.

I read this play because it was set in France and, as I've said a few times here, we're planning a family vacation there in March-- though I doubt very much I'll recognize anything of France from a 15th century play written by an Englishman!

1 comment:

Shonna said...

No, you probably won't recognize much. If you want to connect literature with Paris though, I took a tour of the sewers of Paris when I went a couple decades ago that was reminiscent of Les Miserables.