If you are looking for stories from Literature with strong women characters, Shakespeare’s Comedies are driven by them. The heroine of All’s Well That Ends Well is named Helena and she is the opposite of Helen of Troy, the face that sent a thousand ships sailing. Helena does not get kidnapped; she isn’t a passive character at all. To the contrary, she is the one who sends the plot into motion and drives it to the outcome.
In today’s context, Helena would be considered a #bossbitch, a common way to refer to alpha females. I would say she’s a strong woman, a strong character, generally. The comedian who immediately comes to mind is Kerryn Feehan. She could bring this role to life and there’s no question that Luis J. Gomez could destroy the part of Bertram. I’m trying not to force the casting of any of these plays. I know that when I study them all enough, the right people will click into place in my mind. People think that they know Shakespeare, but I’m not so sure they do. I keep learning wild new things every play I study. This one has some out-there ideas.
The thing about Shakespeare is that most people read a few plays at most. They are always selected from the same list of greatest hits. A lot of the more obscure plays, like All’s Well, are full of interesting details. For example, the heroine in this play uses sexual deceit to rape her husband to get pregnant by him. If that sounds weird, it is. Her hubby, Bertram, is an infamous fuck-boi who abandons his newly married wife to go to war in Italy so he can sleep around with other women. She infiltrates his plan, uses a woman to seduce him into a sexual encounter and then switches places with her to be impregnated. Now, this is an aggressive strategy, but it works.
She also trapped him into marriage in the first place, which is why he is so eager to leave. How? She cured the king of his hemorrhoids. He had an anal fissure and she pushed that prolapse back in place. She probably pegged the king if we’re being honest. The result? She gets to marry whomever she wants, and she chooses Bertram.
Luis J. Gomez would be so funny as Bertram because he embodies the “real ass dude” side of comedy. Gomez understands implicitly how this kind of comedy works. His instinct for absurd self-assertion would energize the role with the kind of tension necessary to empathize with the character. That’s Gomez’s great gift: getting you to like him despite his tendency to offend because he’s unafraid to be vulnerable. He’s a punk rock entrepreneur and comic, a free speech advocate, and someone who finds humor in the least acceptable places.
That’s the trick of playing Bertram. You must get the audience to like him despite the shady things he does. Why is Helena willing to go to such extreme lengths to have him for herself? There must be something magnetizing about the actor who plays Bertram and Luis’s attitude would translate well. I don’t know Luis J. Gomez, but I’m a fan of his comedy and I think that his matter-of-fact straightforward I-am-who-I-am energy would absolutely send this role into the ether.
Kerryn Feehan started an Only Fans account and named her podcast Only Feehans. Not only is that funny, but it’s also smart and that’s why she would make such a good Helena. Instead of worrying about what people might think, she chose a path to self-empowerment and that is exactly what Helena does in the play. She uses sex and manipulates men to get what she wants, and we love her for it.
This play has been the hardest to listen to, by far, mainly because the plot is so confusing, and it is hard to keep track of the language. I know that by the end of the week after listening to it at least seven times I will know it well. Studying Shakespeare enriches how you see the world around you because the plays are such fun and artful illustrations of how social dynamics work. They remind you that you are part of this bigger picture, and if you can learn how the chess board works, then you can make moves to your advantage. They can teach you how to send well.