All's Well that Ends Well Act 4, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis
New! Understand every line of All's Well that Ends Well.Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Elsewhere in Florence, Bertram tries to seduce Diana. He tells her that she is cold to rebuff his advances, and says that he was forced to marry Helen but does not love her. He promises to love Diana and give her “all rights of service,” but she says that his oaths are empty. He swears that he is an honest man.
Issues of dishonesty and deception are important not only in battle (as with Parolles betraying his fellow soldiers) but also in romantic affairs, as Bertram tries to seduce Diana with his promises and oaths.
Diana asks Bertram to give her a ring he is wearing, but he says he cannot, as it is “an honor . . . bequeathed down from many ancestors.” Diana says that her chastity is similarly a “jewel. . . bequeathed down from many ancestors,” and demands the ring. Bertram gives it to her, and Diana tells him to come to her room at midnight. She tells him that after they sleep together he can only stay in her bed an hour and should not speak to her.
Diana is able to use her virginity to her own advantage, bargaining with it as if it were a precious jewel, in order to take an active role in her dealings with Bertram. Bertram’s ring is associated with his noble ancestors, and thus to some degree symbolizes the noble heritage that he refuses to share with Helen as his wife.
Diana tells Bertram that she will give him a ring as a sign of their time together. She says to him, “You have won / A wife of me.” Bertram is elated, and leaves. Diana comments that Bertram tried to woo her in precisely the manner her mother said he would, since “all men / Have the like oaths.” She promises to remain unmarried all her life, and says that Bertram deserves to be tricked.
Just after accusing Bertram of swearing false oaths, Diana herself lies to Bertram as part of Helen’s deceptive plot. But like Helen, Diana thinks her deception is justified. Diana’s comment about men suggests a wry awareness on the part of women about stereotypical, clichéd male wooing tactics.