Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 297
Context: Bertram, Count of Rousillon, has been forced by the King of France to marry Helena. She has miraculously cured the king of a fistula and been granted the boon of selecting a husband from among the bachelors at court. Actually, Helena has traveled to the court and cured the king primarily to win Bertram, with whom she has long been secretly in love. Bertram, however, forced to wed at the king's pleasure, has nothing but scorn for his new bride, and, without so much as a kiss, he orders her home while he leaves the country to fight under the banner of the Duke of Florence. Parolles, a follower of Bertram, accompanies the count in his military adventures. And while Bertram distinguishes himself in battle, Parolles–whose name signifies mere empty words–reveals his true colors as an arrant coward and braggadocio. In one scene the bully is taken blindfold among his old acquaintances, and he vilifies their characters to their faces in the belief that he is talking to their enemies. The Count of Rousillon observes the truth indeed of Helena's previous comment that Parolles is "a notorious liar," "a great fool," "solely a coward." Exposed and shamed, the braggart is nonetheless determined to find another position in which to exercise his talents:
Yet I am thankful. If my heart were great
'Twould burst at this. Captain I'll be no more;
But I will eat and drink, and sleep as soft
As captain shall. Simply the thing I am
Shall make me live. Who knows himself a braggart,
Let him fear this; for it shall come to pass,
That every braggart shall be found an ass.
Rust sword, cool blushes, and Parolles, live
Safest in shame. Being fooled, by foolery thrive.
There's place and means for every man alive.
. . .
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support