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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT III, SCENE 6
This scene shifts to a camp outside Florence. Bertram enters along with two French Lords. They are determined to expose to Bertram the true character of the despicable Parolles, who is disliked by them for his bragging and posturing. Listening to his fellow officers, Bertram begins to wonders if he has been deceived by his friend, Parolles.
The First Lord denounces Parolles as a "most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar" and "an hourly promise-breaker" who does not possess a single good quality. The Second Lord suggests a plan to expose Parolles so that Bertram will see the error in the friendship before something terrible happens. Bertram wonders on what particular charges could Parolles be tried. The Second Lord proposes that Parolles should be allowed to recapture the drum taken by the enemy in a recent battle.
The First Lord suggests that he will suddenly surprise Parolles with a troop of Florentines and pretend to be the enemy. They will blind and hoodwink him and lead him to believe that he is being carried to the enemy camp when he is actually placed in their own tents. Bertram is asked to be present during Parolles' examination. The First Lord is confident that Parolles will betray Bertram and reveal important information to the people he assumes are his enemies. The Second Lord enthusiastically supports this proposal, thinking it will convince Bertram and also be very funny. He reminds them how Parolles always boasts he has strategies for recovering the drum and says this will give him his chance.
At this moment Parolles enters. Bertram and the two Lords hint around that recovering the drum would surely be a great achievement, a cause for heroic celebrations. As expected, Parolles takes the bait, boasting that he alone can get the drum back. Parolles leaves and the Lords comment on his confidence. Bertram is unworried, thinking Parolles' confidence is just a sign of his good intentions and honest capabilities. The fact that Parolles is a boaster and liar does not seem real to him. The First Lord says that he must prepare the trap for Parolles and leaves. Bertram tells the Second Lord about the young virgin Diana, whom he is relentlessly pursuing. He tells the Lord the girl's chief fault is her honesty, because she keeps turning him down. Bertram invites the Lord to accompany him on his next visit to Diana.
This scene lays important groundwork for the downfall of Parolles, setting up what will soon prove to be a set of very complicated farce-like scenes. The scene also develops the Themes of the play. The scheming to entrap Parolles is furthers the deception that is rampant in the play. The importance of honor is also emphasized. Bertram wants to belief that Parolles is honorable, but he accepts the fact that what Parolles appears to be to him may not be reality. To find out the truth, Bertram assents to a plan that will essentially prove the honesty or dishonesty of his friend. It is ironic that Parolles' honesty seems important to him, yet he sees Diana's honesty as her chief failing.
It is also ironic that Bertram has a preoccupation with honor. He stakes his life on the battlefield to win honor for himself, but he attempts to steal the honor away from Diana, a pure and honest virgin. He is concerned with Parolles' honesty, but he himself has acted dishonestly throughout the play, betraying both the Kind and Helena. This inconsistency makes Bertram a very unusual and disliked character.