All's Well that Ends Well

146 TUTOR: Fleur Lloyd

First published in 1623, All's Well That Ends Well is, undeservedly, one of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays. Listed as a comedy, it is a problem play. It poses complex ethical dilemmas, for example a woman's love for an unlovable man, without the traditional simple solutions. Based on a tale from Boccaccio's The Decameron, it is an unorthodox mixture of fairy tale logic, gender role reversals and cynical realism. As always, you will enjoy a close reading of the text with requisite gender swapping, accompanied by screenings of scenes taken from a heady mixture of productions and various scholarly insights. This is bound to lead to a good deal of lively discussion, so come prepared to join in.

3 PM
PM course

Course Notes

All's Well That Ends Well is a play by William Shakespeare, published in the First Folio in 1623, where it is listed among the comedies. There is a debate regarding the dating of the composition of the play, with possible dates ranging from 1598 to 1608 placing it anywhere from before the writing of Hamlet, to after the completion of Coriolanus. Given that it has been categorised as a "problem play” it is most likely to concide with the later dating.

The play is based on a tale (tale nine of day three) of Boccaccio's The Decameron. Shakespeare may have read an English translation of the tale in William Painter's Palace of Pleasure.

There is no evidence that All's Well That Ends Well was popular in Shakespeare's own lifetime and it has remained one of the lesser known ever since. This is in part due to the fact that Helena's love for the seemingly unlovable Bertram is difficult to explain on the page, but in performance it can be made acceptable by casting an actor of obvious physical attraction or by playing him as a naive and innocent figure not yet ready for love although, as both Helena and the audience can see, capable of emotional growth. It is this anomaly that we attempt to resolve in our own reading of the text as well as looking at how professional directors and actors have chosen to portray these two.

It has recently been argued that Thomas Middleton collaborated with Shakespeare on the play, so evidence for this as well as other scholastic discourse will be considered.

The sessions will be completely interactive as the tutor welcomes personal interpretations suggestions and questions that confront her.

You will each be provided with your own copy of the text. There is no need for any prior study, but any knowledge of the play in performance or through reading it always makes a lively contribution.

I look forward to welcoming you.

Course Tutor

Fleur Lloyd

About Fleur

Fleur Lloyd tutor, has worked for The Old Vic, The National Theatre and Shakespeare's Globe as well as teaching both literature, drama and creative writing in schools, colleges and universities. She has taught at Marlborough Summer School for 15 years.

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