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All's Well That Ends Well | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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All's Well That Ends Well | Act 4, Scene 1 | Summary



The plan to capture Parolles is underway with the French lords and several soldiers waiting in ambush. They agree to speak gibberish when he appears, to give the impression they are from another country, and appoint one man to act as interpreter. Parolles enters, unaware of the waiting soldiers, and speaks honestly for the first time. He realizes he must come up with a plausible reason for not returning with the drum since he knows his "tongue is too foolhardy" and he has disgraced himself too often lately. He considers giving himself some cuts, breaking his sword, and tearing off his clothes, so it will appear as though he was stripped naked during an attempt to retrieve the drum.

Before Parolles can continue, First Lord Dumaine and first soldier seize him and blindfold him, speaking unintelligibly. The one "translator" informs Parolles their general may be willing to save his life if he provides useful information. Parolles swears he will divulge "all the secrets of our camp," including the number of soldiers and their plans, and will provide them with enough intelligence to astonish them. The soldiers take him away while First Lord Dumaine tells second soldier to find his brother Second Lord Dumaine and Count Rossillion (Bertram), so the count may observe Parolles's treachery firsthand.


In this scene Parolles shows he is very aware of his flaws, but he also has no plans to change. He simply worries his tendency to prattle and deceive others may land him in trouble. His plans for telling a believable story—complete with one variation where he leaps 30 fathoms (180 feet) to safety from the window of a citadel—to the count, upon Parolles's return, were likely delivered comically, providing the audience with an opportunity for some welcome laughter.

The nonsense language of the soldiers and the speed with which Parolles agrees to betray his own army may also have added to the comic effect, with Parolles promising not only to divulge information but to provide details they "will wonder at." When asked if he will deliver this information faithfully, he responds, "If I do not, damn me." He doesn't realize, of course, he is damning himself if he does reveal critical information to the "General"—in actuality, The French lords and his friend Bertram.
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