I shall pass over Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (even the dreadful Adrian Noble film of the latter), and go on to All’s Well That Ends Well, which has no easily available film version – which is a pity, because I’ve found it useful so far, as well as to read them, to see each work performed.
The only line from the introduction I read beforehand was that which said All’s Well worked neither in its written form nor on the stage. It should be no surprise, therefore, to discover that by and large I enjoyed it. It’s true, I found the first two acts a bit hard-going. The humour, such as there is in Shakespeare anyway, is in this play remarkably obscure – as if it were all based on puns which no longer exist. The plot seemed to be going nowhere; to be uninteresting. I was, at this point, of the opinion too that the play was a failure:- my explanation: that no one had dressed up in disguise (see the previous four comedies). Was this play indeed a comedy? Some scenes seemed like they might be somewhat of that ilk – there is a clown; there is a fop called Parolles, who certainly seem comic types – but the tone is difficult.
But then acts three to five I found much more appealing, and they improve as the play moves along. There are finally some good scenes, starting from the scene in which the blindfold Parolles betrays his own companions to themselves and culminating in a nice deus ex machina ending (very similar to The Winter’s Tale) – a deus ex machina for the characters, that is, since we know it’s coming all along. A comedy, then, in that it’s got a happy ending – which, given the title, isn’t to give away too much, but – as the title also implies – not necessarily a comedy throughout its every scene. Indeed, one fears it could so easily at any moment tip into tragedy – which is perhaps true of any of Shakespeare’s comedies, if it weren’t for the mood; – or perhaps we should rather say, in which some of the characters feel it has already slipped into tragedy. There is a sombreness that isn’t in the earlier comedies, a darkness (though the later Malvolio parts of Twelfth Night, of which the trick and treatment of Parolles is reminiscent, are perhaps of the same kind); some of the characters in it really aren’t nice people, and – as in The Magnificent Ambersons – perhaps you feel it’s an injustice the hero gets the girl.
Next up: Measure for Measure.
I finally abandoned my server’s uploader in favour of once again Filezilla (I don’t know why I ever switched), so have been able to start uploading Books Read and Films Seen again. September, for books, was the weakest month on record – 3 books and only 1 (150 page) novel. I have not read a novel since either – I am struggling with them; but indulging much in plays and short stories instead – of which latter I’m reading unusually and by chance four collections of the highest quality, variously by Kipling, Dylan Thomas, Gyula Krúdy and Jorge Luis Borges (not forgetting, of course, Adolfo Bioy Casares), of which, perhaps, more anon.