All's Well that Ends Well

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Parolles Character Analysis

A friend of Bertram, Parolles is a deceitful, tricky character. Bertram trusts him early on in the play, even though Lafew and other French noblemen try to warn him that Parolles is a liar. Parolles brags about his bravery in war, but in Florence is proved to be actually a coward, when a group of French soldiers kidnap him and pretend to be enemy forces. Parolles almost immediately promises to divulge military secrets and betray Bertram in order to save his own life. When Bertram learns of Parolles’ true character, he leaves his former friend behind. By the end of the play, Parolles has fallen significantly in society, and must beg Lafew to let him serve him.

Parolles Quotes in All's Well that Ends Well

The All's Well that Ends Well quotes below are all either spoken by Parolles or refer to Parolles. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of All's Well that Ends Well published in 2006.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

Parolles:
Are you meditating on virginity?

Helen:
Ay. You have some stain of soldier in you; let me ask you a question. Man is enemy to virginity. How may we barricado it against him?

Parolles:
Keep him out.

Helen:
But he assails, and our virginity, though valiant in the defense, yet is weak. Unfold to us some warlike resistance.

Parolles:
There is none. Man setting down before you will undermine you and blow you up.

Helen:
Bless our poor virginity from underminers and blowers-up! Is there no military policy how virgins might blow up men?

Parolles:
Virginity being blown down, man will quicklier be blown up.

Related Characters: Helen (speaker), Parolles (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.115-129
Explanation and Analysis:

After Helen's mournful speech about Bertram, her next dialogue with Parolles strikes a very different tone, as they banter about the subject of virginity. Although their retorts may seem simply bawdy and comic, they actually bring up a vital theme: the close connection, within All's Well That Ends Well, between love and war.

As Parolles and Helen discuss relations between men and women, they consistently use warlike metaphors to express themselves. In fact, they describe the entire act of losing one's virginity as a siege that ends only when (presumably female) virginity is at last "blown down." 

Although she claims to be a meek and modest maiden, it is important to note that Helen is not shocked or frightened by Parolles' vulgar talk. Instead, she meets him on his own turf, challenging his wit with sharp replies of her own, and proving herself a master of metaphor and language. 

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Virginity, like an old courtier, wears her cap out of fashion, richly suited but unsuitable, just like the brooch and the toothpick, which wear not now. . . . And your virginity, your old virginity, is like one of our French withered pears: it looks ill, it eats dryly; marry, ‘tis a withered pear. It was formerly better; marry, yet ‘tis a withered pear. Will you anything with it?

Related Characters: Parolles (speaker), Helen
Page Number: 1.1.161-170
Explanation and Analysis:

As he continues his banter about virginity with Helen, Parolles launches into a long explanation of the definition of virginity. Trying to explain to Helen why maidens should attempt to lose their virginities, he explains that virginity is like "an old courtier" who is out of fashion. He then compares it to "a withered pear" that "looks ill" and is dry. Finally, he asks Helen why she wants to keep it.

In this speech, we see how contradictory the idea of virginity is in this play, and how obsessed the characters are with it. On one hand, characters like Parolles selfishly want women to give up their virginities. On the other hand, unmarried women who are not virgins are thought of as little better than prostitutes. For a poor, unmarried woman like Helen, the situation appears to be lose-lose. 

Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

Lafew:
I have seen a medicine
That’s able to breathe life into a stone,
Quicken a rock, and make you dance canary
With sprightly fire and motion, whose simple touch
Is powerful to araise King Pippen, nay,
To give great Charlemagne a pen in ‘s hand
And write to her a love line.

King:
What “her” is this?

Lafew:
Why, Doctor She. My lord, there’s one arrived,
If you will see her. Now, by my faith and honor,
If seriously I may convey my thoughts
In this my light deliverance, I have spoke
With one that in her sex, her years, profession,
Wisdom, and constancy hath amazed me more
Than I dare blame my weakness. Will you see her—
For that is her demand—and know her business?
That done, laugh well at me.

King:
Now, good Lafew,
Bring in the admiration, that we with thee
May spend our wonder too, or take off thine
By wond’ring how thou took’st it.

Related Characters: The King of France (speaker), Parolles (speaker), Helen
Page Number: 2.1.84-104
Explanation and Analysis:

The high-ranking lord Lafew has decided to help Helen, and so makes her presence known to the King, telling him that there is a "Doctor She" who can even raise the dead, and who has amazed him with "her sex, her years...Wisdom, and constancy." Although Lafew can hardly believe what he is saying, the King responds positively, saying that he will meet with Helen either to wonder at her with Lafew, or to cure his friend of his (presumably falsely inspired) amazement. 

The King and Lafew's surprise makes a great deal of sense, given the classist, sexist, hierarchical nature of their court. Young women like Helen were not supposed to have "wisdom" or learning, and yet she seems to possess a "medicine" so powerful that it could raise the King's famous ancestors. Despite their skepticism and the rigid hierarchies of their society, though, both men are open to the idea of seeing Helen, proof of their desperation, given the King's long illness. 

Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

I did think thee, for two ordinaries, to be a pretty wise fellow; thou didst make tolerable vent of thy travel; it might pass. Yet the scarves and the bannerets about thee did manifoldly dissuade me from believing thee a vessel of too great a burden. I have now found thee. When I lose thee again, I care not. Yet art thou good for nothing but taking up, and that thou’rt scarce worth.

Related Characters: Lafew (speaker), Parolles
Page Number: 2.3.215-222
Explanation and Analysis:

Lafew, the dignified courtier, meets Parolles, Bertram's undignified, dishonest, and vain manservant. The two take an instant dislike to each other, and immediately begin to trade insults. Here, Lafew takes aim at Parolles' fondness for flamboyant clothing, especially "scarves." Sarcastically, Lafew tells Parolles that he believed him to be "a pretty wise fellow," but subsequently mocks his various adornments, calling him worthless and utterly dismissing him. 

Although Lafew may seem somewhat stuffy, he also happens to be correct: Parolles is generally treacherous and two-faced. He will do or say anything if it is advantageous to him, and he has seemingly no sense of loyalty or morality. 

To th’ wars, my boy, to th’ wars!
He wears his honor in a box unseen
That hugs his kicky-wicky here at home,
Spending his manly marrow in her arms
Which should sustain the bound and high curvet
Of Mars’s fiery steed. To other regions!
France is a stable, we that dwell in ‘t jades.
Therefore, to th’ war!

Related Characters: Parolles (speaker)
Page Number: 2.3.294-301
Explanation and Analysis:

Bertram has just informed Parolles that rather than stay with his new wife, he will escape to the wars in Italy. The fickle Parolles thinks that this is an excellent plan, even though it goes against the direct wishes of the King. Parolles begins to tell Bertram about the honor of going to war, and scorns men who choose to stay at home out of love or sexual desire for women. 

This speech is mostly ironic, of course, as it comes from the cowardly Parolles. Although he claims to wish to participate in the bravery of the battlefield, he is in fact out to save his own skin, and nothing else. Parolles is merely telling the shallow Bertram what he wants to hear, rather than voicing a valid or informed opinion. He also again displays a contempt for women, viewing them as objects to be conquered and left behind, rather than as people in their own right. 

Act 2, Scene 5 Quotes

Fare you well, my lord, and believe this of me: there can be no kernel in this light nut. The soul of this man is his clothes. Trust him not in matter of heavy consequence.

Related Characters: Lafew (speaker), Bertram, Parolles
Page Number: 2.5.43-46
Explanation and Analysis:

As Bertram and Parolles prepare to go, Lafew urges the younger man not to trust his servant. By saying that Parolles is a "nut" without a "kernel," Lafew means to express that Parolles has no core sense of morality or character, and cannot be counted upon. Instead, Parolles is wholly shallow--his "soul...is his clothes." Like clothes, Parolles can change himself at will, shifting his identity, his views, and his allegiances based on what will be most advantageous to him. 

Lafew's warning, while astute, goes unheeded by Bertram. This theme of refusing to listen to sound advice is a common one in All's Well That Ends Well, especially when it comes to Bertram. Just as he refused to be convinced of Helen's worth by the King, so too does he refuse to believe in Parolles' faithlessness. 

Act 3, Scene 5 Quotes

I know that knave, hang him! One Parolles, a filthy officer he is in those suggestions for the young earl. –Beware of them, Diana. Their promises, enticements, oaths, tokens, and all these enginges of lust are not the things they go under. Many a maid hath been seduced by them; and the misery is example that so terrible shows in the wrack of maidenhood cannot for all that dissuade succession, but that they are limed with the twigs that threatens them. I hope I need not to advise you further; but I hope your own grace will keep you where you are, though there were no further danger known but the modesty which is so lost.

Related Characters: Mariana (speaker), Bertram, Parolles
Page Number: 3.5.17-29
Explanation and Analysis:

The Italian women, along with a disguised Helen, watch the French soldiers process into their city. One of the women is Diana, the brand-new object of Bertram's affections. As Parolles goes by, Diana's friend, Mariana, speaks her mind, voicing how much she hates Parolles, and how she believes that he has corrupted Bertram. 

Mariana's tirade continues, encompassing her feelings about men in general. She believes that men can promise and entice a maiden only to take her virginity, leave her, and ruin her. In short, her view is that all men are deceitful, immoral, and immune to the consequences of their actions, and so the best thing a young woman can do is to stay far away from them. 

In Mariana's rant the somewhat-secret war between men and women within All's Well That Ends Well becomes fully apparent. Men believe that women are tricksters who use their wiles to seduce and manipulate men. Women, meanwhile, believe that men are destructive liars, who care only about "conquering" a woman and are happy to leave her high and dry afterwards. In short, each sex thinks the worst of the other. 

Act 3, Scene 6 Quotes

Bertram:
Do you believe I am so far deceived in him?

Lord:
Believe it, my lord. In mine own direct knowledge, without any malice, but to speak of him as my kinsman, he’s a most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise-breaker, the owner of no one good quality worthy your Lordship’s entertainment.

Related Characters: Bertram (speaker), Parolles
Page Number: 3.6.6-12
Explanation and Analysis:

Back in the French military camp, a group of lords tries to convince Bertram that Parolles is dishonest and corrupt. Bertram is disbelieving, though one of the lords urges him on, telling him that Parolles is a "coward," a "liar," a "promise-breaker," and in short has not "one good quality." 

As happens so often in All's Well that Ends Well, a net of treachery and deceit has sprung up among several different characters. Parolles has fooled Bertram into thinking him a good and faithful friend. The lords are now undercutting Parolles by talking behind his back to Bertram. And soon Bertram, with the help of the lords, will take revenge on Parolles--but only through further trickery and deceit. This type of tangled interaction is common for All's Well, where seemingly everyone--even the most well-meaning of characters--has the capacity for deceit. 

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Parolles Character Timeline in All's Well that Ends Well

The timeline below shows where the character Parolles appears in All's Well that Ends Well. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Bertram’s friend Parolles enters. Helen says to herself that she knows Parolles to be “a great way fool,... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Parolles opines that virginity is “too cold a companion,” and says that women should try to... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
...laments that all she can do is wish Bertram well. A page enters and tells Parolles that Bertram is calling for him. Before Parolles leaves, he and Helen trade some quips... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Helen jokes that Parolles must have been born when Mars was in retrograde (moving in reverse), because he flees... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
...the fight are free to do so, on either side they wish. Bertram, Lafew, and Parolles then arrive from Rossillion, and the king remarks on how much Bertram resembles his late... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...them not to fall in love with any Italian women while they are fighting there. Parolles and Bertram enter and speak to the departing noblemen. Bertram is upset that the king... (full context)
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Bertram and Parolles say goodbye to the noblemen, and Parolles tells them to give his greetings to an... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
At the king’s court, Parolles, Bertram, and Lafew discuss the miracle of the king’s recovery. Lafew remarks on how all... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
...Helen’s hand. The king says that they will be married this very night. Everyone but Parolles and Lafew leaves. (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Social Classes Theme Icon
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Lafew tells Parolles, “Your lord and master did well to make his recantation,” and Parolles takes offense at... (full context)
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Lafew and Parolles continue to trade angry quips, and Lafew again makes fun of Parolles’ flamboyant appearance. He... (full context)
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
...will send Helen to Rossillion to wait for him, but plans never to return there. Parolles asks if he is sure of this plan, and Bertram says he is. He plans... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Social Classes Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...The fool jokes that the countess is “not well, but yet she has her health.” Parolles enters and the fool teases him with clever jokes. Ignoring the fool, Parolles tells Helen... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
As Bertram prepares to leave the royal court, Lafew warns him not to trust Parolles, but Bertram says that he believes Parolles is a valiant soldier. Parolles enters and informs... (full context)
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Bertram asks if there is any ill will between Parolles and Lafew. Parolles says he doesn’t know what he has done to make Lafew dislike... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
...exits, and Bertram says that he will never go home to see her. He and Parolles leave. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Social Classes Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
...France.” The countess asks who has gone to Italy with Bertram and upon learning that Parolles is with him, says that Parolles is “a very tainted fellow, and full of wickedness.”... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 5
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
...feats of Bertram, who has “done most honorable service” in battle. The widow says that Parolles has tried to woo Diana on Bertram’s behalf, and Mariana warns Diana to be careful... (full context)
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
...Diana says that the count has been married “against his liking,” and that his man Parolles speaks poorly of this wife. (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Helen says that she believes Parolles’ assessment of the wife’s character and says the wife is “too mean / To have... (full context)
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Pointing out Parolles—whom she calls “that jackanapes with scarves”—Diana says that he is leading Bertram astray. The troops... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 6
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
In Florence, some French noblemen warn Bertram that Parolles is not to be trusted. One calls Parolles “a most notable coward, an infinite and... (full context)
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
The noblemen plan to ambush Parolles, pretend to be the enemy, and kidnap him. Once he is blindfolded, they tell Bertram... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Bertram tells Parolles that he is confident in Parolles’ bravery and ability, and Parolles promises to go get... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Some French lords and soldiers hide in a hedge, ready to ambush Parolles. They plan to speak nonsense around Parolles, so he thinks he is being captured by... (full context)
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Parolles plans to give himself “some hurts” and say that he was hurt while fighting the... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
The soldier pretending to be an interpreter tells Parolles that his life will be spared if he can share some valuable information about the... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Remedy and Resolution Theme Icon
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
...his newly deceased wife, made preparations for leaving Florence, and wooed Diana. He asks about Parolles, and one of the noblemen informs him that Parolles has confessed information to those he... (full context)
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
The French soldiers and noblemen speak in gibberish around Parolles, and the “interpreter” tells him that he will be tortured unless he gives some information.... (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
The noblemen ask Parolles about one of them, Captain Dumaine. Parolles, not realizing that Dumaine is one of his... (full context)
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
The “interpreter” tells Parolles that he will die, and Parolles begs to be spared. The soldier asks him again... (full context)
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
The “interpreter” tells Parolles that he must die, and Parolles begs for his life, or at least for his... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Social Classes Theme Icon
Parolles arrives in Rossillion and meets the fool. He asks the fool to give a letter... (full context)
Social Classes Theme Icon
Parolles tells Lafew that he has suffered misfortune, but Lafew has little sympathy for him. Parolles... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Diana says that Parolles can testify to her case, and the king orders for Parolles to be brought to... (full context)
Character and Judgment Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
...to him out a window is false, and Bertram confesses that this was a lie. Parolles enters and the king asks him about Diana and Bertram. (full context)
Virginity, Sex, and Marriage Theme Icon
Lies, Deceit, and Trickery Theme Icon
Parolles says that Bertram had “tricks . . . which gentlemen have,” and “did love her... (full context)