Bertram is a young lord of France, recently become Count of Roussillon by his father’s death.
Being still underage, he is taken into wardship by the King, meaning among other things that the monarch may force him to marry whomsoever he chooses. He dearly wishes to go away to the Florentine wars, but is prevented from doing so by the King on the basis of his age. He is very proud of his lineage, and disdains Helena, whom he has grown up with, for her low birth. He only accepts to marry her when ordered to by the King on pain of losing his favor forever, and quickly plans to leave her. He callously sends her back to his mother, refuses to let her call him husband unless she fulfills an impossible obligation, and swears never to consummate the marriage. Arriving in Florence, he is named general of the horse, and acts valorously in the wars, gaining great renown. Egged on by Parolles, whom he listens to above all others, he attempts to seduce Diana, using flowery language in an attempt to get into her bed. When she asks him for an ancestral ring he carries, he at first refuses, but on being promised sex he immediately hands it over to her. He agrees to the two French Lords’ plan to abduct Parolles to test whether he actually is no more than a braggart, and is quickly convinced, especially on hearing Parolles’s opinion of him and the letters the braggart has sent to Diana recommended that she milk Bertram for all he’s worth. Hearing of Helena’s death, he perfunctorily mourns for her and plans to return to France, where he begs the King’s pardon, swearing that he began to love Helena after she was gone. He accepts to marry Lafew’s daughter, and is confused when told that the ring he gives the old lord as a token is Helena’s, and once belonged to the King. Challenged as to his actions in Florence, he proceeds to lie again and again, slandering Diana as a whore. On Helena’s reappearance, he begs pardon, and conditionally promises to love her. He is not the most attractive of characters, but it must be remembered that he is very young.