Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT III, SCENE 7
This scene moves to the widow's house in Florence. Helena is trying to convince the widow that she is Bertram's wife. She is exasperated and says that she does not know how else to assure the widow that she is telling the truth. The widow is suspicious and does not want to get involved in Helena's plan to win Bertram back.
Helena offers the widow a purse of gold coins in exchange for her help with additional payment when the plan is finished. Helena tells the widow that when Bertram comes around again, Diana should pretend to yield to his advances and demand from him the ring that he always wears on his finger. Since the ring is a family heirloom that has been handed down from one generation to another, Bertram will be reluctant to part with it but will eventually do so in order to win Diana. Diana should fix a time and place for a secret meeting between the two, and when Bertram arrives, Helena will take the girl's place in bed with Bertram.
In this scene, the clever Helena reveals her deceptive plan for winning Bertram back. By offering monetary payment, she convinces the widow to help her; she also convinces her that the deceitful actions have an honorable result, for a wife and husband will be together as they should. This is one of the first times Helena alludes to her apparent philosophy that all is truly well as long as it ends well.
It is important to realize that the audience is supportive of, rather than appalled by, all the deception happening on the stage. The deceptive scheme against Parolles is meant to reveal his truly detestable nature, and the deceptive scheme against Bertram is to win him over to Helena.
ACT IV, SCENE 1
The scene opens outside the Florentine camp. The Lords enter, prepared to ambush. Parolles then enters, talking to himself. The Lords listen as Parolles confesses first that he knows he is a liar, and second, that it seems everyone else is beginning to notice. He is, of course, too frightened to go after the drum, so he begins concocting lies about why he does not have it. The Lords marvel at Parolles' self-awareness that he is a cad. Finally, the Lords capture Parolles, cover his eyes, and begin to talk in a nonsense language to him. Frightened, Parolles does exactly as predicted and promises to betray Bertram and all his other comrades if only his "captors" will not hurt him. They take him away and go to find Bertram, so that he can hear for himself.
In this scene, the Lords marvel that Parolles is aware of his own deceitful nature, and yet he does nothing to change it. This further convinces them of his despicable nature, and they are glad they have a plan to expose his true self to Bertram. The Lords know that any honorable man who recognizes weaknesses in himself would try to improve; but Parolles has no desire to better himself.
Although Bertram has been much like the despicable Parolles in the early part of the play, Bertram, unlike his friend, finally comes to his senses and realizes how terribly he has been acting. While Parolles is a flat character who never changes, Bertram, in contrast, has some measure of redemption later in the play.