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No. No? No...

Your Humble Blogger has been called back to audition for the role of Parolles in All’s Well That Ends Well. Here’s his first entrance, Act I, Scene I.

Parolles:      Save you, fair queen!
Helena:      And you, monarch!
Parolles:      No.
Helena:      And no.

A bit of background: We are in Rousillon, in the palace of the Countess—technically, the palace of the teenage Count. Helena and Parolles both reside in the palace with ambiguous status. They are not aristocrats, nor are they servants. Helena is the daughter of a well-known physician; after he died, the Countess took her in. Parolles is a kind of professional hanger-on, the guest of the young Count. The two clearly know each other well—or at least, Helena knows Parolles well, while Parolles knows her about as well as he knows or cares about anybody other than himself, which is not very much.

As Parolles enters, Helena sees him coming:

One that goes with him [the Count]: I love him for his sake;
And yet I know him a notorious liar,
Think him a great way fool, solely a coward;
Yet these fixed evils sit so fit in him
That they take place, when virtue’s steely bones
Look bleak i’ the cold wind: withal, full oft we see
Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous folly.

So. Helena thinks that Parolles is a fool, a coward and a liar. The audience ought to accept that right away, and not be surprised to discover that he is also a fop, a pimp and a cad. As far as I can tell from reading the play, much of the point is that the audience knows that Parolles is Bad and that Helena is Good from the very beginning, and the Count only learns it over the course of the play. Anyway, Parolles is obviously a Baddie, and Helena lets the audience know this as he comes onstage. And then:

Parolles:      Save you, fair queen!
Helena:      And you, monarch!
Parolles:      No.
Helena:      And no.

So many possible ways to play this exchange! There’s so much there, and so much left open!

One thing I particularly like about this is the way it pivots the scene from verse to prose—you could argue that Save you, fair queen!/And you, monarch! is a line of verse split between the two speakers, but then No./And no. is clearly not. It breaks the verse off, in those short words, and leaves a space for the prose to begin. Parolles, in fact, speaks in a sort of faux-verse; having played with it some of his language a bit, it seems to me that his rhythms are sixes and fours, limping near-verse. His images, too, are not quite on-the-mark. Parolles is never what he pretends to be, or thinks he is, and one of the things he isn’t, is a courtier—here he is playing court to Helena, who is just a poor orphan charity case at this point, and getting shot down.

Although Helena doesn’t actually cut him completely; she speaks to him, which isn’t necessary at all, and she responds with playful-sounding mockery, giving what she gets. How does he respond to that? Does he feel delighted that she will play with him? Does he feel threatened? Offended? Bewildered? In the ensuing scene he reasserts his mastery with bawdy wit—does he think he has found a partner? Or is he putting her in her place? Does he think of her as One of the Guys, or is she like a little sister to be taunted and excluded? Does he resort to gross-out humor to wrongfoot a wench who doesn’t know her place, or because it’s just funny? Have we come in to the middle of an ongoing sparring match, or is this an unexpected attempt to even the score? All of that has to be either communicated or prepared-for with that “No.”

Parolles has to be fun for the audience—fun to dislike, of course, fun to hold in contempt, but fun. The audience has to be delighted every time he shows up, looking forward to what foolishness he will commit and how he will receive his come-uppance. So I think he has to be fun for Helena, too. Not that she likes him, really, but that he is amusing and non-threatening. That’s not the only way to play it, but that’s my instinct.

Which would imply that his reaction to her sally is positive—he calls her a queen, and she calls him a monarch, and perhaps he laughs, perhaps plays with the idea for a minute—can he make a crown of his fingers and place it on his head? Or do the monarch-wave from an imaginary chariot? Some sort of foolery before turning it over and saying No. An inviting No, a conspiratorial No, a positive and affirmative No. No?

I don’t know. It’s a possibility. I find myself rather hoping to get the part, even if at the moment I have no real idea what I might do with it.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

Sadly, I did not get the part. Ah, well.

Thanks,
-V.


hi all, hi there mods and others,im new right here and im coming from germany, poor english


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