All’s Well That Ends Well

By William Shakespeare

Set in France and Italy, All’s Well That Ends Well is a story of one-sided romance, based on a tale from Boccaccio’s The Decameron.

Helen, orphaned daughter of a doctor, is under the protection of the widowed Countess of Rossillion.

In love with Bertram, the countess’ son, Helen follows him to court, where she cures the sick French king of an apparently fatal illness.

The king rewards Helen by offering her the husband of her choice. She names Bertram; he resists.

When forced by the king to marry her, he refuses to sleep with her and, accompanied by the braggart Parolles, leaves for the Italian wars.

He says that he will only accept Helen if she obtains a ring from his finger and becomes pregnant with his child.

She goes to Italy disguised as a pilgrim and suggests a ‘bed trick’ whereby she will take the place of Diana, a widow’s daughter whom Bertram is trying to seduce.

A ‘kidnapping trick’ humiliates the boastful Parolles, whilst the bed trick enables Helen to fulfil Bertram’s conditions, leaving him no option but to marry her, to his mother’s delight.

Words from the Royal Shakespeare Company

Video by Chris Tuck Media

November 2014

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