All's Well That Ends Well

All's Well That Ends Well

Jul 29-Aug 6, 2022

All's Well That Ends Well

Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven.

A smart and sexy coming-of-age romp set in elegant 1950s France, "All’s Well That Ends Well" introduces audiences to Helen and Bertram—one, a brilliant but poor physician’s daughter, the other, a wealthy, roguish soldier—as they grow up and grow into themselves in order to find love.

Since 1958, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival has delighted audiences with professional theatre on the CU Boulder campus. Complete your Colorado summer with Shakespeare in the elegant indoor University Theatre.

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Performance dates and times

Friday, Aug. 5, 7:30 p.m.  $20-$62
Saturday, Aug. 6, 2 p.m.  $23-$67
Saturday, Aug. 6, 7:30 p.m.  $23-$77

View full CSF 2022 calendar

Buying options and discounts

Save big with season tickets! This show is available in the Full, Pick 2 or 3, Weekday Will, and Choice Option packages or as an add-on to other season ticket orders. Learn more

Single ticket discounts are available for preview night, groups (10+), youth (K-12), seniors (65+), students, active military and CU employees. Volunteer ushers get to see the show for free. Learn more

More about the show

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Plot synopsis

In Roussillon, a family mourns the recent deaths of its patriarch and its household doctor. The doctor’s daughter Helen, who has been raised in the household, is adopted by the widowed Countess of Roussillon. The Countess’ son Bertram, now the King’s ward, departs for Paris, where the King is dying. Helen, who is secretly in love with Bertram, follows him to Paris, carrying a cure for the King’s disease. 

Helen heals the King and, offered a reward, chooses to marry Bertram. Despite Bertram’s refusal, the King insists on the marriage. Privately, Bertram swears he’ll never bed Helen until she bears his child and obtains his ring—both things he’ll never give her. Bertram goes to war in Florence, accepting a post as Captain of the Horse under the Duke of Florence.

Helen departs under the guise of a pilgrimage but instead follows Bertram to Florence. She finds lodging with a local widow and her daughter, Diana, whom Bertram is pursuing dishonorably. Helen develops a plan; Diana will agree to rendezvous with Bertram at midnight in exchange for his ring, but Helen will swap places with Diana. Helen also spreads false news of her death abroad.

Meanwhile, the Lords Dumaine propose to expose Bertram’s friend Paroles as a coward. Disguised as enemy soldiers, they capture, blindfold, and interrogate Paroles, who immediately reveals information about the Duke’s army, disparaging Bertram and the Lords. They remove his blindfold and Paroles is humiliated.

The war ends; Bertram returns to France, full of regret about Helen’s death. He agrees to a second marriage, arranged by his mother and the King. Before the wedding, troubling questions arise: Bertram presents a ring of Helen’s he shouldn’t have, arousing suspicion; Diana arrives, accusing Bertram of seduction and abandonment, producing his ring as proof; and Helen appears, pregnant with Bertram’s child, explaining she was the “Diana” he slept with in Florence. Recognizing she’s accomplished the impossible tasks he demanded of her, Bertram promises to love her “ever, ever dearly.”

—Heidi Schmidt and Amanda Giguere, dramaturgs

Director's note

“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together. Our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not, and our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our virtues.”
—Lord G.

Upon my first reading of All’s Well That Ends Well, I was delighted to meet some of Shakespeare’s wittiest leading ladies, and I was fascinated by 
how the play examines the transition of power from an older generation to the next and the trials the younger generation must endure in order to learn life’s important lessons before they can assume that power. 

When I spoke with colleagues and friends who know the play, the variety of strong reactions to All’s Well… were intriguing. Many write it off because they find Bertram’s actions irredeemable. Some are disturbed by the bed trick. Scholars over centuries have decried Helen’s sexually liberated agency. All of these condemnations made me more curious to understand why the characters do the things they do. What insight do we lose when we condemn someone before we’ve taken the time to understand their perspective?

The play explores the different rates at which men and women mature from adolescents to adults, the ways in which parents try so hard to set their children up for success even as the children yearn for the freedom to make their own mistakes, and the way these experiences speak to the difference between appearance and the true character of a person.

There are myriad things I love about this play. It is very funny. Characters with wildly different viewpoints engage with each other in civil discourse. The characters are complex and contradictory, like people in real life—they have secrets, long to find their place in the world, and struggle to live up to others’ expectations. 

All’s Well That Ends Well is ultimately a journey from grief and youthful ignorance to joy and maturity. The case can be made that All’s Well … contains elements of the best Shakespearean comedies: Multi-generational families are reunited; troublemakers who urged separation and strife are exposed; there is a war in the background; there are spirited battles of wits and wills between the sexes; it has not one but two fools; and there is a classic Shakespearean gulling scene.

As a director, my charge to serve the story demands that I find empathy for all of the characters in the play, not just the ones I find admirable. I have to embrace the complicated, messy truth of each character in order to tell the story of the play and ask the challenging questions: When we hurt those we love, how do we do the difficult work of reconciliation? When we cause harm or cross a line, how do we move forward and do better?

—Wendy Franz, director