Act IV, Scene 1
The conspirators prepare their plot against Parolles. They are certain he must come by them and when he does they will capture and blindfold him. It’s important that he thinks they’re the enemy. Unfortunately, he speaks most of the local languages, so they will have to speak nonsense and pretend they know what the others are saying. One soldier that Parolles doesn’t know will serve as an interpreter.
Parolles comes along and starts figuring out how he is going to fool everyone into thinking he went on a daring adventure for this drum. He can’t just show back up without a scratch and have everyone believe him. The others are all shocked that he can be so self aware and still tell such tall tales.
They can’t take anymore of his craziness, so they surprise him and blindfold him. He immediately starts begging for his life and promising to reveal the secrets of the whole camp. The interpreter plays along and says that they might spare him, if he provides useful information.
They go to get Bertram and the other Lord, so they can see what Parolles says.
Act IV, Scene 2
Bertram apparently doesn’t even know Diana’s real name, but he loves her. She doubts that and reminds him of his wife. Bertram doesn’t want to hear about his wife though. He was forced to marry her, but he loves Diana. She still thinks his promises are empty (which, to be fair, they are) and he just wants to get into her pants (which to be fair he is). He, of course, denies this.
She demands his ring to confirm his devotion to her. He’s hesitant, so she compares it to her chastity and he hands it over. She tells him that he can come to her room, stay for only one hour, and not talk to her at all. She (Helena) will slip a ring on his finger. He will get an explanation and his ring later.
This all seems good to Bertram.
Act IV, Scene 3
The two French Lord’s discuss Bertram’s situation. He finally received the letter from his mother and since it was basically telling him off, it put him in a foul mood. They think he’s silly for tossing aside such a worthy wife and angering the King. Bertram has apparently seduced a local girl and given her his family ring. The war looks like it will end soon, but Bertram can still go home because Helena has apparently died.
The Duke of Florence has written Bertram many commendations, but they doubt it will do him any good when it comes to the French King. Despite the fact that Bertram has earned much glory in the wars, it will be negated by the shame waiting for him in France.
Bertram pops in. He’s in a great mood because he had a very productive morning. He said goodbye to the Duke, “mourned” his dead wife, wrote letters home, prepared to leave, and the best is yet to come (wink). Anyway, before he goes they should finish up their prank on Parolles.
They bring him forward with a sack on his head and he is prepared to divulge all sorts of secrets, if it means he gets to live. He gives an accurate representation of the Duke’s numbers, but disparages all of the ranks in the same breath.
They turn his attention to the French lords, who he writes off as terrible soldiers and people. Parolles claims that he has a letter from the Duke saying that he also think the French lords are terrible. They search him for a letter and find one that Parolles wrote to Diana telling her not to fall for Bertram’s shenanigans.
Bertram can hardly take anymore, but they want to get a little more out of Parolles first. They tell him that he is still condemned to death. In his panic, he immediately starts slandering Captain Dumain’s character even more. Some of the lords even start to appreciate his cowardice. Eventually, no one can take anymore and they remove the blindfold.
This makes it clear that it was all a trick and everyone knows him for the liar he is. They leave him alone. Parolles admits there is a certain amount of comfort in being revealed as a braggart.
Act IV, Scene 4
Helena thanks the widow and Diana for helping her snag Bertram. The plan now is to have them go with her to the King and complete her plan. There’s still more to do, but the rewards will be great for all of them.
Act IV, Scene 5
Lafeu and the Countess agree that Parolles is the one that lead Bertram astray and indirectly lead to Helena’s death. They also agree that Helena was a special lady.
The Clown chimes in here and leads Lafeu into a conversation about whether or not the Clown is a fool or a knave. The conversation ends when Lafeu pays him to complete an errand.
Lafeu then reveals that since Helena passed away, he asked the King if his daughter could marry Bertram. Since the King is on board, he thought it would be a good idea to ask the Countess. She would be happy to have Lafeu’s daughter marry her son. The King is on his way there to help with the match.
Act V, Scene 1
Helena, the Widow, and Diana arrive at Marseilles to petition the King. They ask a random gentleman to help them. He informs them that the King has gone to Bertram’s house, where he is going. Helena asks him to still deliver the letter to the King. She assures him that it will be very worth his while. They will follow close behind.
Act V, Scene 2
Parolles implores the Clown to help him by explaining that fortune has turned on him and made him smell. The Clown, naturally, takes this literally and assumes Parolles smells terribly. Parolles attempts to explain the metaphor, but his attempts are made in vain.
Lafeu comes in and Parolles begs him to help. Lafeu is hesitant because he personally doesn’t like Parolles and thinks he deserves what he got. In the end, he makes a vague promise to help.
Act V, Scene 3
The Countess asks the King to forgive her son and write off his mistakes as one of foolish youthfulness. The King agrees to forgive everything and has Bertram called before him.
The King tells Bertram that all is forgiven and asks him what he thinks about Lafeu’s daughter. Bertram is so in love with her that he scorned the beautiful Helen, who he realizes now he also loved. The King is glad he loved Helena, but too little too late.
To signify their engagement, Bertram gives Lafeu a ring. Everyone immediately recognizes the ring as the one the King gave Helena. Bertram tries to tell them that a random Florence noblewoman tossed the ring to him. He tried to do the honorable thing and return it to her, but she didn’t want it back. No one is buying that story and the King has him arrested. The King knows it’s the ring he gave Helena and she swore she would only take it off to give to Bertram in bed and everyone knows he never slept with her, so he must have forcibly taken it from her.
As if things couldn’t get worse for Bertram, Diana and her mother show up. They explain to the King that Bertram married Diana and then abandoned her. Bertram is brought back out and, naturally, tries to deny everything. Then, Diana produces the ring and, if anyone believed his lies, no one does now. Diana also has a witness, Parolles, who is called forward. Diana also explains that she gave Bertram the King’s ring. The King is hesitant to believe her because of Bertram’s story, but Bertram Quickly abandons his lie.
Parolles doesn’t give a straight answer because he’s Parolles and the King quickly returns his attention to the ring. He asks Diana how she got the ring. She gives cryptic answers about how she never had it and never gave it to Bertram. The King gets frustrated and has her arrested too. At this point, Diana calls forth her final witness.
Out come Helena and all is revealed. She explains that she fulfilled the requirements Bertram delivered in his letter. Bertram confesses his love for Helena. The King promises to give Diana any husband she wants (because it worked super well last time) and pay her dowry.
And everyone lives happily ever after…?