Helena, the orphaned daughter of a physician, has been adopted by the Countess of Rossillion and is secretly in love with the Countess’s son, Bertram. He is to leave Rossillion for the French court, where the King is gravely ill. Wishing to follow him, Helena journeys to Paris to cure the King of “a fistula” with one of her father’s old remedies.
The King recovers and grants Helena as reward the choice of a husband from all the Lords at court. She asks for Bertram, who is outraged at being commanded to marry a woman he sees as little better than a servant. The ceremony goes ahead but Bertram leaves immediately for the Italian wars, vowing that he will not accept Helena as his wife until she has conceived his child and obtained from him a ring – two seemingly impossible conditions.
Bertram travels to Florence, where he is quickly promoted. There he meets, falls for and plans to seduce Diana, a widow’s daughter. Helena too travels to Florence, as a pilgrim and she too meets Diana. Helena convinces Diana to let her take Diana’s place in Bertram’s bed. Helena sleeps with Bertram, falls pregnant by him and manages to get his ring.
News reaches Bertram that Helena is dead. Relieved, he returns to France and the Court in Paris. There he makes plans to marry the daughter of a Lord – but Diana reappears to denounce him, saying he promised her marriage only to desert her. Bertram angrily denies her accusations and is about to have her arrested when …..
All’s Well That Ends Well is a comedy of fascinating characters and scintillating wit. Part romantic comedy, part fairy-tale, this play is engaging, thought-provoking and fun for audiences of all ages.
The Shropshire Star’s review of the opening night:
ACTORS SHINE IN BARD’S UNDER-VALUED COMEDY
The annual Much Wenlock Festival continued last night with a performance of one of Shakespeare’s plays. Hundreds of spectators flocked to the green in front of Holy Trinity Church to enjoy the late evening sunshine and watch All’s Well That Ends Well performed by the highly acclaimed Shropshire Drama Company. Although the setting of the lavish production was opulently Jacobean, the staging of it brought the performers up close and personal with the audience. The title has long been part of common parlance yet All’s Well That Ends Well is rarely performed and has been called Shakespeare’s most under-valued comedy. So those of us fortunate enough to be at the opening night of Much Wenlock Festival’s play had a rare opportunity to see the 1603 romp superbly delivered. Staged “in the round” on the green at Holy Trinity Church, the Shropshire Drama Company are to be congratulated on a slick, fast-moving production. Shakespeare’s works are sometimes called the soaps of their day, but for my money the opposite is true. You can miss whole episodes of current TV suds and hardly know the difference, but you really must pay attention to these gems from our rich language which have survived the centuries. Far from being a hardship, that is a welcome antidote to a 21st century diet of sound bites. In last night’s rollicking romance set in France and Florence, Paul Higgins as Parolles, braggart friend of the young Count Rossillion, was the star. But others who shone, were Ken Allden as the King of France (and co-director with Sonia Knight), Rosalind Garrard as the Countess and Joanna Purslow’s Helena.
Picture caption: Directors Ken Allden and Sonia Knight enjoy the sumptuous outdoor setting for Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well.