All's Well That Ends Well | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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All's Well That Ends Well | Act 4, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Bertram has come to Diana still hoping to win her affections—or, more truthfully, win his way to her bed. Referring to her earlier coldness, he warns her that "if the quick fire of youth" does not light her mind, she is no more than a statue. Diana reminds him he should be making love to his wife, not her. Bertram swears he was forced to marry but he truly loves Diana. She counters he will say anything necessary to bed her, but having accomplished that, he will leave her.

Bertram continues to pledge his love, saying he is not like other men and if she gives herself to him his love will remain as strong in the future as it is at present. Diana, though, says she requires more than a verbal promise—she wants the ring Bertram wears. He protests it is not his to give since it represents the honor of his house and has been passed down through generations. Diana responds her honor is equally valuable, the jewel of her own family, and Bertram finally capitulates, giving her the ring. Diana continues on to the next phase of Helen's plan and invites Bertram to come to her at midnight, conquer her "yet maiden bed" and remain there without speaking for an hour. She tells him the reasons for her odd request will be clear when the ring is returned to him and she will give him another ring to keep until that time. Bertram leaves swearing he has won a "heaven on Earth." Now alone, Diana muses Bertram said all of the things her mother warned her a man would say, even promising to marry her once his wife is dead. She doesn't feel guilty for helping to trick such a dishonest man.

Analysis

Diana proves herself to be both intelligent and clever in this scene, seeing through Bertram's empty promises and tricking him into doing exactly what is necessary for Helen's plan to be successful. Her statements, combined with Bertram's actions, also provide a cynical commentary on men, portraying them as both deceitful and callow, all willing to swear the same oaths to take advantage of women who are smarter than they realize. In some ways Diana provides the "missing piece" to Helen's character since she is able to see Bertram for what he is and will take delight in helping to trap him.

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