“Shakespeare’s unpleasant young men are numerous. Bertram, as a vacuity, is authentically noxious.” – Harold Bloom in Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human
As I reached the end of All’s Well That Ends Well, I found myself asking: but does it all end well? Helena, by all accounts a wonderful woman, ends up married to the man of her dreams, who – as it turns out – is an all around terrible person. She fought long and hard with many ingenious plots to win Bertram. We’re left wondering why though. She is beautiful, intelligent, and kind. Bertram is a selfish, lying snob. Yay for Helena, I guess?
It probably won’t surprise you that I am not the only one who felt this way. Many, many scholars see Bertram the same way. Some try to make excuses for him, but none do so successfully in my opinion. Bertram abandons his awesome wife and tries to sleep with another woman, Diana, lying about his intentions the whole time. Once he thinks Helena is dead, he returns to marry a totally different woman. When he’s caught in one of his many lies he tries to lie his way out and calls Diana a whore. He does nothing redeeming in the entire play, but still ends up happily married.
Join Eli and I as we discuss whether it does really all end well. Trigger warning: there is a brief discussion about rape. And with that, on with the show…
Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare by Isaac Asimov
Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Gerber
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom
Teller of Tales by Kevin MacLeod
Minstrel Guild by KevinMacLeod