Act II, Scene 3
Lafeu comments on how logic has transformed the supernatural into something familiar and so we have lost all wonder at what should be seen as the hand of God. Parolles agrees the whole time, insisting that he was just about to say the same. They are discussing this because the King has been healed by a most unexpected person, Helena.
The King brings in Helena and assembles some lords in front of her. He intends to keep his promise to allow Helena to marry any noble bachelor she wishes. Helena addresses the gentlemen explaining that she is just a simple girl and hesitates from a fear of rejection. The King assures her that no one will reject her love without also rejecting his love, which would be bad.
Helena asks the men, one by one, if they will accept her love. They all say they will and she leaves it at that. Lafeu, off to the side, thinks the men may be rejecting her, which is just so ungentlemanly. Helena finally gets to boredom and obviously picks him because that was the whole reason for this plot. Bertram is not happy, not at all. He is way too good for this low-born chick.
The King reminds Bertram that she saved him and she’s an extremely lovely woman and the King can give her any title Bertram needs to consider her of suitable rank. Bertram still refuses. Helena, defeated, asks the King to just let it go. The King can’t do that though. His honor is on the line (forget Helena’s dignity) and he forces Bertram to marry her. Bertram reluctantly concedes to the angry King. The King decides they’re getting married right now.
Everyone leaves but Lafeu and Parolles.
Lafeu asks Parolles if the Count recanted. Parolles takes offense at this. The situation escalates quickly from there with taunting, threats, and a general dismissiveness from Lafeu.
Bertram’s married now and not happy. He decides – with encouragement from Parolles – to run off to the Tuscan wars and abandon his wife. He’ll send Helena to his mother and write letters to everyone about how much he hates her.
Act II, Scene 4
The Clown brings a message to Helena from the Countess. She’s well, but not well because she’s not dead. (I don’t know, he’s the clown. It doesn’t have to make sense).
Parolles enters and has an exchange with the Clown. Then he tells Helena that Bertram has to leave before they consummate their marriage because reasons. Helena needs to get permission from the King to leave court. She is more than willing to do anything for her new husband.
Act II, Scene 5
Lafeu asks Bertram about Parolles character and, when he learns that Bertram likes Parolles, wishes to make amends for offending him.
Parolles informs Bertram that Helena is going to the King and intends to leave that very night, as instructed. While this is going on, Lafeu prattles on about tailors and travelers and other nonsense. Bertram attempts to make amends between the two men, but Parolles refuses to acknowledge that they were ever cross with each other. This apparently annoys Lafeu and they are at odds again.
Helena has procured the King’s permission to leave, but he wants to talk to Bertram first. Helena swears to be Bertram’s obedient servant. Bertram tries to get her to stop, but she keeps going. She wants a kiss (the text isn’t clear as to whether they do kiss, but knowing Bertram, they didn’t). Helena heads for home with a note for the Countess. He promises to be there in two days.
Act III, Scene 1
The Duke of Florence has just finished explaining the reason for the wars to the French nobles. They are all surprised that the King of France wouldn’t send proper help, but the lords are sure that more young men will come to join the fight,
Act III, Scene 2
The Countess is very happy that Helena’s plan worked. The Clown remarks that he seems pretty sad about the whole thing. The Countess opens is letter while the Clown remarks that he no longer loves Isabel, the woman he was trying to woo at the beginning of the play. The Clown leaves before the Countess reads the letter aloud.
Bertram has sent her Helena because he is not happy with this whole marriage thing. He is married, but the marriage has not been consummated. He has run away and intends never to return. The Countess thinks he is being a spoiled brat about this excellent match.
The Clown comes in to report that two men are there with the news that Bertram has run away. Helena comes in with two gentlemen. She is very upset because Bertram has left for good. The two men report that Bertram is on his way to the wars and gave them the letter that Helena reads. It says that unless she gets the ring off his finger and has his baby, she will never be his wife. He has nothing in France as long as she is there.
The Countess promptly disowns her son and sets off to prepare a letter that the two men will deliver upon their return to Florence. Helena, alone, laments that Bertram has put himself into harm’s way because of her. If he gets injured or killed in the wars, it will be her fault. She decides to leave France.
Act III, Scene 3
The Duke of Florence is excited to have Bertram fighting on his side and Bertram is happy to be there.
Act III, Scene 4
The Countess is upset that the Steward only has a letter from Helena and did not wake the Countess to stop her from leaving. They read the letter again:
Helena is taking a pilgrimage in the name of Saint Jaques’ because her ambitious love has driven Bertram to dangerous circumstances. She hopes that Bertram will return once he hears she is gone.
The Countess is even more disappointed in her ungrateful son. She sends word to him that Helena left. She also hopes that he will come back and his presence will make Helena return.
Act III, Scene 5
The Widower, her daughter Diana, and Mariana are trying to see the troops as they return from battle. Apparently, Bertram has done quite well. He is also trying to seduce Diana, who refuses to let him corrupt her maidenhood.
Helena comes in looking like a pilgrim, the Widower offers her lodging. The woman can tell that Helena is French and start spilling all of the hot gossip on Bertram. Turns out word of his marriage and subsequent abandonment has spread to Italy and everybody feels sorry for his wife. Helena also learns that he is trying to seduce Diana.
The troops come by. Parolles is mad about a drum. The women all leave to go and eat dinner together at the Widower’s house.
Act III, Scene 6
The two French lords try to convince Bertram that Parolles is no good. Bertram is hesitant to believe it. They decide to trick Parolles into thinking he has been captured to show that he will reveal everything he knows and speak poorly of everyone, even Bertram. They will send him to go fetch his drum. When he does, in the cover of darkness, they will pretend to be the enemy and capture him. Bertram will be present at his confession.
Parolles comes in and Bertram, along with the others, convinces Parolles to go and get his drum that very evening. Parolles heartily accepts the task.
One of the lords goes off to gather some others to help and prepare their trap. Bertram invites the other lord to go with him to see Diana, who continues to reject his tokens of love.
Act III, Scene 7
Helena has revealed her true identity and plot to the Widower and asks for her help. The Widower is hesitant to do so. Helena begs for her trust and offers to pay her many times over for her troubles.
Helena’s plan is to get Diana to get the ring from Bertram and then set up a night for them to sleep together. That night, Helena will take Diana’s place and sleep with Bertram. For doing so, Helena will ass 3,000 gold pieces to Diana’s dowry.
The Widower agrees to help Helena.