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SCENE SUMMARY WITH NOTES
ACT IV, SCENE III
The two French Lords, who are brothers, enter the Florentine camp talking about the supposed death of Bertram's wife, Helena. Both of them condemn Bertram, claiming that his actions have totally dishonored him, and no amount of military valor can ever make up for that. At this point, Bertram enters boasting about his exploits and his tryst with Diana. He feels hopeful that he will soon be restored to the King's good graces. The other soldiers listen with disgust as he lists his many successes in a boastful and proud manner.
After he is finished praising himself, Bertram tells the men he is ready to listen to Parolles being questioned. Bertram is still quite certain that his blindfolded friend will not betray him. The First Lord asks his questions in a strange language. The first soldier is acting as the "interpreter" and tells Parolles that he is going to have him tortured until he confesses. Parolles, eager to save his own skin, replies that he will reveal all that he knows without any limitations. He begins to recount a number of secrets about his own comrades, many of whom are in the room. He then tells about Bertram and even calls him a fool. The men allow Parolles to betray everyone as thoroughly as possible; then they take off the blindfold and reveal that they have tricked him into showing his true self. Unabashed, Parolles simply says there is a place and means for every man alive.
There are no surprises in this scene, for both Parolles and Bertram act as expected. Bertram enters in a proud and boastful way, bragging about his military successes and his tryst with Diana. Ironically, the soldiers have just judged Bertram as a weak person for the dishonor he has dealt his "dead wife". Bertram does not know yet that his military heroism means little next to his personal acts of deceit and dishonor.
Parolles continues to reveal his low moral character. When threatened with torture, he reveals everyone's secrets, including those of Bertram; he even calls Bertram a fool. When his blindfold is removed, he discovers that several people that he has betrayed are in the room, including Bertram. Amazingly, Parolles shows no remorse or guilt; he simply says there is a place for everyone in the world.
Bertram is totally shocked by the behavior of his good friend. Being despicable himself, he has been unable to see Parolles' lack of honor. Instead, he has judged him as worthy and has mimicked Parolles' base deeds to only a slightly lesser degree.