• Richard Farr

Well anyway, all ends well


The characters’ motivations make so little sense that theories abound about missing or garbled text. And some of its faults would be easy to understand in a very early play, only it’s not. The ludicrous officer Parolles, a comedia dell’arte cipher, seems to offer us all sorts of hints about where Falstaff come from, and yet the Henry plays were written earlier. Strange. (Lavatch could actually be a dry-run for Lear’s Fool, who emerges from the Womb of Time a couple of years later.)

But anyway, there’s really interesting stuff here. The low born woman Helena aggressively and cleverly pursuing her high-born man, the lying cad and/or milquetoast Bertram; an insightful, bawdy  dialogue between Helena and Parolles about the way men and women see what might be called the economics of virginity; the sheer strength and determination and #MeToo anger of the female characters generally.

I was reminded of how, even in the (let’s be frank) pretty abysmal Titus Andronicus, you keep seeing vivid, almost blinding flashes of themes that are better handled elsewhere.