All's Well That Ends Well?
2018-08-10, 10:37 p.m.
recently on Chaos Attraction
So I went to see the theater company I auditioned at’s production of “All’s Well That Ends Well.” I think I saw this on campus years ago and didn’t remember which Shakespeare play was running (I guess not “As You Like It,” which is what I keep thinking it was.). Ah well. I haven’t seen much summer Shakespeare yet this year other than Julius Caesar and as long as it’s not a history or tragedy play, I’m down.
Amusingly, one of the actors in the show who also (according to the program) adapted this to their stage, came out to introduce the play, explain what was going on, explain that this is a “problem play” because of the insane plot, jerkass hero, and whopping amounts of manipulation going on. That was new.
So this is the plot:
Helena, a doctor’s daughter, has grown up in the court of Rossilon and is madly in love with its new heir, Bertram. Bertram is handsome (presumbly in casting--this guy was excellently cast as a brooding jerk with good hair), a good soldier, titled and rich, and that is all that is good about him. He is a turdbucket and pretty much only two people, Helena and Bertram’s equally turdbucket friend Parolles* even seem to like him. Even his own mother doesn’t like him.
* as in parole? Is there some kind of joke about how he should be in jail there?
Meanwhile, pretty much everyone Helena meets loves her, except for Bertram. It is a giant “tell, not show” about how everyone loves her at first introduction. His mother is totally down with them marrying too. I am not sure if this is justified or not as the show goes on, because she seems nice enough BUT her hellbent obsession about this dude goes down a dark, dark path.
Helena is totally in love with the dude but seems to at least have some awareness that it’s not mutual, because when Bertram goes to hang out at the French king’s court doing whatever it is that young nobles do, she goes along and offers to cure the king’s fistula*, and is even all, “If I fail to do it, go ahead and kill me. But if I do it, will you give me what I want?” So the king is cured, he loves Helena, and she pretty much points at Bertram and says, “That one.”
* DO NOT LOOK UP WHAT THIS IS, but I doubt Helena could actually cure this. I doubt Shakespeare would know anything at all about medicine though. *shrug*
Bertram’s reaction to this can be summed up by quoting the immortal line from Cher in the movie Clueless: “Elton, you are a snob and a half.” He is instantly disgusted at having to marry someone poor. The king is all, fine, I’ll give her titles and money (and I’m also giving her this ring) if you like, just marry her literally Right Now or else I will HATE YOU FOREVER. Helena briefly lets him off the hook, but the king is so annoyed at Bertram’s behavior that he forces a wedding anyway. Bertram can barely force himself to touch her hand when forced to, which bodes very promisingly for their wedding night.
Oh, right, it doesn’t, because Bertram immediately runs off for the wars, orders Helena to go back home and writes a letter to his mother saying he won’t go home again until Helena is dead, or something. His mom promptly disowns him for being a fucking asshole but I’m not sure what that does with regards to inheritances being all dudes only. He also tells Helena he won’t be a husband to her until she gets his family ring and pregnant with his child AND GOOD LUCK WITH THAT BECAUSE I WON’T EVEN TOUCH HER EWWWWWW.
Helena is all, “challenge accepted!,” and tools off somewhere and, I guess, spreads rumors of her own death.
Oh yeah, the B plot is that Bertram has a friend named Parolles. Parolles is a scrub, he is a sleaze, and every woman who has to meet him hates him. Heck, even most dudes who meet him don’t like him (the rest of Bertram’s Manly Posse, who I don’t think have names, sure don’t). This shows how Bertram has no taste in humans.
After the intermission, it’s three months later and Bertram is fucking his way across Italy and devirginizing all the virgins, and he’s targeted a girl named Diana who ain’t even interested. Helena has now also traveled to Italy and introduces herself to Diana and her mother and offers them a big ol’ dowry bribe to set up Bertram. Diana will claim to accept Bertram’s penis, have him come into a dark room and bang “her,” they will exchange rings in the dark because now Bertram is promising to marry Diana once his wife is dead* or something, and guess who’s going to be getting banged in the dark instead of Diana. TRICKERY MANAGED.
* This is not at all suspicious sounding and if Bertram were any smarter this would be a tragedy play.
Oh, there’s a B plot detour about how Bertram’s other bros hate Parolles and decide to get Bertram to hate him by kidnapping Parolles, blindfolding him and tricking him into thinking he’s been kidnapped by Russians and having Bertram stand around while Parolles spills the beans on everything he knows about Bertram and the bros. Bertram is disgusted.
Upon hearing through the rumor mill or whatever that Helena is dead (no one’s seen the body!), Bertram runs on home and is about to get himself engaged to some other chick when OH WAIT, WHAT RING IS THAT ON YOUR FINGER?* Why, that’s MY ring that I gave to Helena, says the king, and he reasonably suspects Bertram has murdered Helena. I would have been delighted to see the plot go on with some more about that bit and having Bertram thrown in jail for a while, but Diana comes in claiming he’s deflowered her and that distracts for a while until the king gets fed up and wants to throw her in jail too. And finally Helena comes in and is all, OH LOOK, I’VE GOT HIS RING ON MY FINGER* AND HIS BABY IN MAH BELLY I WIN I WIN. And Bertram, utterly forced to cave in by the plot, swears to love her after all. Unless Bertram has suddenly become the guy who only falls for a woman who outwits him, which I doubt because he ain’t that bright, it’s more like “I give up. She’s far more evil than me and I cannot win. I give in.”
* I don’t know about you, but my ring sizes are usually somewhere between a 5 and a 7 and that’s extremely small compared to men’s rings, which seem to be about at least a 10 usually. How the hell does everyone wear these rings? The girls would need to wear them on a chain and dudes would be what, losing feeling in their pinkies?
So the “happy ending” is that Helena is married to and pregnant by a guy who can’t fucking stand her but can’t get rid of her (unless he reconsiders that murder option) and who will definitely cheat on her ass. Dude obviously does not love her whatsoever. This is going to suck donkey balls for everyone.
Are we supposed to love Helena like everyone else does? I guess because everyone says so, we do, and when compared to Bertram, sure, you like her, BUT....she’s a stalker, she forced a dude into marrying her when he really didn’t want to, and Helena definitely raped that dude via deception. She is a stalking sexual harassing rapist “heroine?”
And yeah, we hate Bertram. There is nothing good about that guy that he wasn’t born with. Even his own mother thinks he’s an asshole. He’s a snob and a half. He seduces all the virgins that aren’t Helena. But....didn’t he have the right to say no? Not get forced into marriage and raped via trickery and be forced to have a kid with someone he hates? I read a book like that.
Why is Helena so hellbent on having Bertram? Why didn’t anyone (like his mother) take her aside and say “You can do better than my turdbucket child?” I guess Bertram is like, the only dude around her age around or whatever, but still. The king could have found anyone else.
So yeah, all of this is disturbing and wrong.