Study Guide

All's Well That Ends Well Act 4, Scene 3

By William Shakespeare

Act 4, Scene 3

Read the full text of All's Well That Ends Well Act 4 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.

  • That same night, over at the soldiers’ camp, two lords Dumaine talk trash about Bertram for seducing Diana and giving her his family ring.
  • They think Bertram has trashed his reputation and brought dishonor to his whole family.
  • Meanwhile, Paroles is still blindfolded and tied up. The lords are going to wait for Bertram to show up so they can show him that Paroles is a fake and a coward.
  • Since the lords have so much time to kill, they share the latest gossip about Helen. Word on the street is that, after she went to the shrine of St. Jaques, she died of a broken heart.
  • The Lords think that the rumors are true because Helen wrote letters to her friends and family saying that she was sick. Also, an official at the shrine of St. Jaques sent out a death certificate.
  • Apparently, Bertram has heard the news and is pretty psyched about it.
  • Bertram shows up and brags that he's been a very busy guy that night: he said goodbye to the duke of Florence, arranged his transportation back to France, mourned for his dead wife, wrote a letter to his mom saying that he was coming home, and made arrangements to get it on with Diana.
  • Bertram brags to his boys that he still has some business with Diana later that night (wink, wink).
  • Before Bertram can go to bed with Diana, they have to finish playing a mean trick on Paroles.
  • The second lord Dumaine says that Paroles "weeps like a wench that had shed her milk."
  • The lords bring Paroles in, cuffed, blindfolded, and shaking in his boots because he thinks he's been captured by Russian soldiers.
  • They all pretend to speak to Paroles in Russian while an interpreter pretend-translates what they say into English.
  • Paroles begs for his life, gives up a boatload of military intelligence about the Duke's Florentine army, and then starts to talk smack about Bertram.
  • He says he's a "whale to virginity, and devours / up all the fry [tiny fish] it finds." (This is Paroles' creative way of telling us that Bertram likes to prey on virgins.)
  • The lords find a letter in Paroles' pocket. It's addressed to Diana and warns her not to sleep with Bertram because he'll never keep his promise to marry her.
  • We can practically see the steam coming out of Bertram's ears. He curses Paroles.
  • Paroles then disses the First Lord again, calling him a rapist, a liar, a drunk, a bribe-taker, and a coward. And his brother the Second Lord? He's twice as evil. 
  • When the Lords tell Paroles they're going to cut off his head, he shouts for them to either spare him or at least take off his blindfold so he can see the sword coming. 
  • They tear off his blindfold and reveal themselves, then one by one they say goodbye and good riddance to him. They're going back to France, and he's not invited.
  • Alone on stage, Paroles has an ah-ha moment. He admits to himself and the audience that he's a braggart who's going to live in shame for the rest of his life...but he's going to live. And probably live pretty comfortably. His shame has saved him!
  • He runs after his former friends, hoping to catch them.