All's Well that Ends Well Act 2, Scene 5 Summary & Analysis
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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 Bertram that Helen will obey his wishes and leave for Rossillion immediately.
Bertram is confident in his (false) estimation of Parolles’ character—just as the king thought he knew the extent of Helen’s knowledge and abilities.
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 him, and Lafew says that Parolles has deliberately offended him. Bertram tells Lafew that he has misjudged Parolles’ character. Lafew responds by again telling Bertram not to trust Parolles and then leaves.
Bertram tells Lafew that he has the wrong idea about Parolles, when ironically it is Bertram himself who has misjudged Parolles’ character. Parolles has (so far) successfully deceived Bertram.
Helen enters and tells Bertram that she has made arrangements for her departure from the royal court. She says the king wants to speak with Bertram. Bertram apologizes for not fulfilling his husbandly duty on their wedding night, but says that he has good reason, and assures her that his “respects are better than they seem.” Helen tells Bertram that she is his “most obedient servant.” She asks for a kiss before they part, but Bertram says he’s in too much of a hurry. Helen exits, and Bertram says that he will never go home to see her. He and Parolles leave.
Bertram plainly lies to Helen and pretends to be a dutiful husband. His true feelings are displayed when he neglects to kiss his new wife goodbye. Helen promises to fulfill the traditional role of a subservient wife, as Bertram’s “most obedient servant.” When she realizes his deception, though, she will take a much more active role in their relationship.