All's Well That Ends Well

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Overview

In the romantic reconciliation comedy All's Well That Ends Well, the sweetly mischievous Helena plots and plans her way to winning the aloof Bertram's hand in marriage. While the couple stands united by the close of the final act, Shakespeare pokes fun at the fantasy, wish fulfillment, and conventions of romantic comedy with the play's ambiguous resolution, which has intrigued scholars, readers, and theatergoers for centuries. This invaluable, new study guide contains a selection of the finest criticism through the centuries, plus an introduction by Harold Bloom, an accessible summary of the plot, an analysis of key passages, a comprehensive list of characters, a biography of Shakespeare, and more.

Series Editor Harold Bloom is Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University and the author of more than 30 books, including Shelley's Mythmaking (1959), Blake's Apocalypse (1963), Yeats (1970), The Anxiety of Influence (1973), A Map of Misreading (1975), Kabbalah and Criticism (1975), Agon: Toward a Theory of Revisionism (1982), The American Religion (1992), The Western Canon (1994), Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1998), How to Read and Why (2000), Hamlet: Poem Unlimited (2003), Where Shall Wisdom Be Found! (2004), and Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (2005). In 1999, Professor Bloom received the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Gold Medal for Criticism.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom
One of our most popular, respected, and controversial literary critics, Yale University professor Harold Bloom’s books – about, variously, Shakespeare, the Bible, and the classic literature – are as erudite as they are accessible.

Biography

"Authentic literature doesn't divide us," the scholar and literary critic Harold Bloom once said. "It addresses itself to the solitary individual or consciousness." Revered and sometimes reviled as a champion of the Western canon, Bloom insists on the importance of reading authors such as Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer -- not because they transmit certain approved cultural values, but because they transcend the limits of culture, and thus enlarge rather than constrict our sense of what it means to be human. As Bloom explained in an interview, "Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. He exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage."

Bloom began his career by tackling the formidable legacy of T.S. Eliot, who had dismissed the English Romantic poets as undisciplined nature-worshippers. Bloom construed the Romantic poets' visions of immortality as rebellions against nature, and argued that an essentially Romantic imagination was still at work in the best modernist poets.

Having restored the Romantics to critical respectability, Bloom advanced a more general theory of poetry. His now-famous The Anxiety of Influence argued that any strong poem is a creative "misreading" of the poet's predecessor. The book raised, as the poet John Hollander wrote, "profound questions about... how the prior visions of other poems are, for a true poet, as powerful as his own dreams and as formative as his domestic childhood." In addition to developing this theory, Bloom wrote several books on sacred texts. In The Book of J, he suggested that some of the oldest parts of the Bible were written by a woman.

The Book of J was a bestseller, but it was the 1994 publication of The Western Canon that made the critic-scholar a household name. In it, Bloom decried what he called the "School of Resentment" and the use of political correctness as a basis for judging works of literature. His defense of the threatened canon formed, according to The New York Times, a "passionate demonstration of why some writers have triumphantly escaped the oblivion in which time buries almost all human effort."

Bloom placed Shakespeare along with Dante at the center of the Western canon, and he made another defense of Shakespeare's centrality with Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, an illuminating study of Shakespeare's plays. How to Read and Why (2000) revisited Shakespeare and other writers in the Bloom pantheon, and described the act of reading as both a spiritual exercise and an aesthetic pleasure.

Recently, Bloom took up another controversial stance when he attacked Harry Potter in an essay for The Wall Street Journal. His 2001 book Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages advanced an alternative to contemporary children's lit, with a collection of classic works of literature "worthy of rereading" by people of all ages.

The poet and editor David Lehman said that "while there are some critics who are known for a certain subtlety and a certain judiciousness, there are other critics... who radiate ferocious passion." Harold Bloom is a ferociously passionate reader for whom literary criticism is, as he puts it, "the art of making what is implicit in the text as finely explicit as possible."

Good To Know

Bloom earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1955 and was hired as a Yale faculty member that same year. In 1965, at the age of 35, he became one of the youngest scholars in Yale history to be appointed full professor in the department of English. He is now Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale and Berg Visiting Professor of English at New York University.

Though some conservative commentators embraced Bloom's canon as a return to traditional moral values, Bloom, who once styled himself "a Truman Democrat," dismisses attempts by both left- and right-wingers to politicize literature. "To read in the service of any ideology is not, in my judgment, to read at all," he told a New York Times interviewer.

His great affinity for Shakespeare has put Bloom in the unlikely position of stage actor on occasion; he has played his "literary hero," port-loving raconteur Sir John Falstaff, in three productions.

Bloom is married to Jeanne, a retired school psychologist whom he met while a junior faculty member at Yale in the 1950s. They have two sons.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Harold Irving Bloom (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York and New Haven, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 11, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cornell University, 1951; Ph.D., Yale University, 1955

Table of Contents

Series Introduction vii

Volume Introduction Harold Bloom ix

Biography of William Shakespeare 1

Summary of All's Well That Ends Well 5

List of Characters in All's Well That Ends Well 13

Key Passages in All's Well That Ends Well 15

Criticism Through The Ages 21

All's Well That Ends Well in the Eighteenth Century 23

1753-From Shakespeare Illustrated Charlotte Lennox 24

1765-All's Well That Ends Well (notes), from The Plays of William Shakespeare Samuel Johnson 25

1775-From The Morality of Shakespeare's Drama Elizabeth Griffith 26

1777-From An Essay on the Dramatic Character of Sir John Falstaff Maurice Morgann 26

All's Well That Ends Well in the Nineteenth Century 29

1817-From Characters of Shakespear's Plays William Hazlitt 29

1833-From Table-Talk Samuel Taylor Coleridge 32

1846-From Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature A. W. Schlegel 33

1863-From Shakespeare-Characters Chiefly Those Subordinate Charles Cowden Clarke 35

1864-From The Life and Genius of Shakespeare Ihomas Kenny 55

1896-From Shakespeare and His Predecessors Frederick S. Boas 60

All's Well That Ends Well in the Twentieth Century 71

1911-From Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist Thomas Lounsbury 72

1913-From Shakespeare as a Playwright Brander Matthews 73

1922-From "The Meaning of All's Well That Ends Well" W. W. Lawrence 76

1951-From Shakespeare's Problem Plays E.M.W.Tillyard 100

1958-From The Sovereign Flower George Wilson Knight 120

1994-From Acting Funny: Comic Theory and Practice in Shakespeare's Plays Mary Free 162

1997-From Gender and Performance in Shakespeare's Problem Comedies David McCandless 172

All's Well That Ends Well in the Twenty-first Century 203

2007-From New Critical Essays on All's Well That Ends Well Helen Wilcox 204

Bibliography 217

Acknowledgments 221

Index 223

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