Monday, 29 May 2017

On the BBC's 1981 production of "All's Well That Ends Well" by William Shakespeare (1604/5)

Contention: All's Well That Ends Well is the best-kept secret of all of Shakespeare's plays.

It's neither esteemed as one of the classic favourites (such as Much Ado About Nothing or A Midsummer Night's Dream) nor mocked as one of the least popular works (e.g. Two Gentlemen of Verona). It's just sort of "there", an odd, largely unheard-of problem play that's assumed to be not funny enough to be one of the raucous comedies and not serious enough to merit much consideration alongside the tragedies. Its biggest claim to fame is probably giving us the phrase that forms its title, and like most such phrases, many probably don't consider that they're quoting Shakespeare when they use it. To overlook this play, however, is to overlook one of the most fascinating, elegant, and even radical works of the whole canon, a play which suddenly shot up in my estimation after watching the 1981 BBC version directed by Elijah Moshinsky.