Bad faith in All’s Well That Ends Well

Hadfield, Andrew (2016) Bad faith in All’s Well That Ends Well. Palgrave Communications, 2 (16051). pp. 1-7. ISSN 2055-1045

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All’s Well That Ends Well is a complicated and disturbing play that has a comic ending, but which seems anything but a comedy with a forced marriage based on bed-trickery
between the reluctant Bertram and the feisty and witty Helena. Unsurprisingly, audiences have tended to side with Helena and the play has been classified as a “problem comedy” ever since William Lawrence identified this particular group of Shakespeare plays nearly a century
ago. I want to argue in this essay that the play might better be classified as an “equivocation” play alongside Macbeth, Othello, and Troilus and Cressida and that the anxieties about fidelity, honesty and truthfulness in marriage need to be read in terms of the fear of religious
tolerance/intolerance which dominated religious politics in the early years of James’s reign before the passing of the Oath of Allegiance (1606). The play is notable for its interest in chop logic, which the clown in particular displays throughout the play, a counterpoint to the
arguments of Bertram and Helena who want very different things, but who are bound together as future husband and wife. Although the language of treason and treachery is used
throughout, the play is less interested in answering the question of how far one can trust a stranger within than the issue of how far one can accommodate the needs of others. This article is published as part of a collection to commemorate the 400th anniversary of William
Shakespeare’s death.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0621 Drama
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR2199 English renaissance (1500-1640)
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Depositing User: Laura Vellacott
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2018 14:54
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 15:32

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