This book review is a part of Reading Week. To read more reviews, click here!
43. All’s Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare (1623)
Dates: 5/9/20 (1.5 hours)
Plot: A young woman is given the opportunity by the king to marry who she wants. She chooses the man she’s in love with and he gives her conditions for his love. Oh, also it’s a play.
Experience Before Reading: Nothing really. Besides the infamous prose of Shakespeare, I was unfamiliar with the plot.
Takeaway: Okay, Shakespeare is just not my thing. It’s also not Abbey’s thing. When creating our list, we went for one that neither of us knew anything about. I’m glad we did that because I really did enjoy the plot of the play.
All’s Well That Ends Well gets a lot of heat because the leading lady is allowed to choose her husband and she chooses a man that’s a bit unlovable. Initially, I really enjoyed watching the woman have a little power, something that especially wasn’t common in earlier Western literature. However, when you realize just how unlikable her man is, you wonder why she picks him.
This could be a byproduct of it being a play. it’s difficult to read a play without context because it feels like you’re only presented with part of the story. You miss the narration that you’d otherwise see in a theatre. The lack of these stimuli make it difficult to contextualize the story. Maybe in some of the productions her man has a little personality.
I don’t think context was the only thing that went over my head though. As always, I did research once I finished. I remember some things from high school from Shakespeare – a little iambic pentameter anyone? – but not a lot. Some things most definitely go over my head: I’m not really sure why Helena’s lines rhymed when she was talking to the King and I’m not really sure I understood all the jokes. Doing research didn’t make it much clearer either. And for that reason, I had to take some points off.
Criticism aside, I know that there are people who enjoy Shakespeare’s work and I completely understand why. The story is creative and as a comedy it’s quite funny (if you can decode the language). I really liked the story and it’s not one I’ve heard before. It’s crazy to think that this story hasn’t been done over and over again like the likes of Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. But then again, this is why Abbey and I chose this: it’s not one of his more well-known plays.
Would I Recommend It?: Probably not unless you like other Shakespearean stories.
Dates: 5/9/20 (1.5 hours)
Plot: Helena, a poor maid, is in love with the Countess’s son. After a favor to the king she asks to marry the Countess’s son, but must bear him a child and wear his family ring before he relents to marrying her.
Experience Before Reading: None. I have read many Shakespeare plays when I was in high school, but it has been a long time since I have cracked one open.
Takeaway: This is certainly not one of Shakespeare’s best plays. When I was in school I read three of his tragedies and two of his comedies, and I find this play to be lacking. I think the main conflict setup was a stretch, and the change of heart of Bertram seems very sudden. At least I got a great new insult out of it: “Your old virginity is a withered pear” is a new favorite line of mine.
Would I Recommend It?: Honestly if you are new to Shakespeare, don’t start here. This is one of his lesser know works, clearly for a reason. I don’t feel that his characters were as fully developed as his others (I loved the characters in Much Ado About Nothing and honestly would recommend that far over this play.) However, it should be said that since this is a play, much of the characterization I am missing would come out in the actors portrayals.