The Florentine camp.
(French Lords; First Soldier as Interpreter; Second Soldier; Messenger; Bertram; Parolles)
The French lords discuss the situation. They report that Bertram has been affected greatly by three bits of news: the first, of his mother’s reproaches, the second of the King’s anger, and the third of Helena’s death at the shrine of St. Jacques. Now Bertram arrives, having kept his rendezvous; they try the blindfolded Parolles. Parolles basely and insultingly discloses the nature of the Florentine forces to his captors. After he has completely proven himself a liar, a coward and a faithless cheat, Parolles is unmasked and put to scorn by his erstwhile friends. He now realizes the game is up and realizes that “it will come to pass That every braggart shall be found an ass.” (143 lines)
Enter the two French Lords and some two or three Soldiers.
You have not given him his mother’s letter?
I have deliv’red it an hour since. There is something in’t that stings his nature; for on the reading it he chang’d almost into another man.
He has much worthy blame laid upon him for shaking off so good a wife and so sweet a lady.
Especially he hath incurr’d the everlasting displeasure of the King, who had even tun’d his bounty to sing happiness to him. I will tell you a thing, but you shall let it dwell darkly with you.
When you have spoken it, ’tis dead, and I am the grave of it.
He hath perverted a young gentlewoman here in Florence, of a most chaste renown, and this night he fleshes his will in the spoil of her honor. He hath given her his monumental ring, and thinks himself made in the unchaste composition.
Now God delay our rebellion! As we are ourselves, what things are we!
Merely our own traitors. And as in the common course of all treasons, we still see them reveal themselves, till they attain to their abhorr’d ends; so he that in this action contrives against his own nobility in his proper stream o’erflows himself.
Is it not meant damnable in us, to be trumpeters of our unlawful intents? We shall not then have his company tonight?
Not till after midnight; for he is dieted to his hour.
That approaches apace. I would gladly have him see his company anatomiz’d, that he might take a measure of his own judgments, wherein so curiously he had set this counterfeit.
We will not meddle with him till he come; for his presence must be the whip of the other.
In the meantime, what hear you of these wars?
I hear there is an overture of peace.
Nay, I assure you a peace concluded.
What will Count Roussillion do then? Will he travel higher, or return again into France?
I perceive by this demand, you are not altogether of his counsel.
Let it be forbid, sir, so should I be a great deal of his act.
Sir, his wife some two months since fled from his house. Her pretense is a pilgrimage to Saint Jaques le Grand; which holy undertaking with most austere sanctimony she accomplish’d; and there residing, the tenderness of her nature became as a prey to her grief; in fine, made a groan of her last breath, and now she sings in heaven.
How is this justified?
The stronger part of it by her own letters, which makes her story true, even to the point of her death. Her death itself, which could not be her office to say is come, was faithfully confirm’d by the rector of the place.
Hath the Count all this intelligence?
Ay, and the particular confirmations, point from point, to the full arming of the verity.
I am heartily sorry that he’ll be glad of this.
How mightily sometimes we make us comforts of our losses!
And how mightily some other times we drown our gain in tears! The great dignity that his valor hath here acquir’d for him shall at home be encount’red with a shame as ample.
The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together: our virtues would be proud, if our faults whipt them not, and our crimes would despair, if they were not cherish’d by our virtues.
Enter a Messenger.
How now? Where’s your master?
He met the Duke in the street, sir, of whom he hath taken a solemn leave. His lordship will next morning for France. The Duke hath offer’d him letters of commendations to the King.
They shall be no more than needful there, if they were more than they can commend.
Enter (Bertram) Count Roussillion.
They cannot be too sweet for the King’s tartness. Here’s his lordship now. How now, my lord, is’t not after midnight?
I have tonight dispatch’d sixteen businesses, a month’s length a-piece, by an abstract of success: I have congied with the Duke, done my adieu with his nearest; buried a wife, mourn’d for her, writ to my lady mother I am returning, entertain’d my convoy, and between these main parcels of dispatch effected many nicer needs. The last was the greatest, but that I have not ended yet.
If the business be of any difficulty, and this morning your departure hence, it requires haste of your lordship.
I mean the business is not ended, as fearing to hear of it hereafter. But shall we have this dialogue between the fool and the soldier? Come, bring forth this counterfeit module, h’as deceiv’d me like a double-meaning prophesier.
Bring him forth, h’as sate i’ th’ stocks all night, poor gallant knave.
No matter, his heels have deserv’d it, in usurping his spurs so long. How does he carry himself?
I have told your lordship already: the stocks carry him. But to answer you as you would be understood, he weeps like a wench that had shed her milk. He hath confess’d himself to Morgan, whom he supposes to be a friar, from the time of his remembrance to this very instant disaster of his setting i’ th’ stocks; and what think you he hath confess’d?
Nothing of me, has ’a?
His confession is taken, and it shall be read to his face. If your lordship be in’t, as I believe you are, you must have the patience to hear it.
Enter Soldiers and Parolles, with First Soldier as his Interpreter.
A plague upon him! Muffled! He can say nothing of me.
Hush, hush! Hoodman comes! Porto-tartarossa.
He calls for the tortures. What will you say without ’em?
I will confess what I know without constraint. If ye pinch me like a pasty, I can say no more.
You are a merciful general. Our general bids you answer to what I shall ask you out of a note.
And truly, as I hope to live.
“First demand of him, how many horse the Duke is strong.”What say you to that?
Five or six thousand, but very weak and unserviceable. The troops are all scatter’d, and the commanders very poor rogues, upon my reputation and credit and as I hope to live.
Shall I set down your answer so?
Do, I’ll take the sacrament on’t, how and which way you will.
All’s one to him. What a past-saving slave is this!
Y’ are deceiv’d, my lord, this is Monsieur Parolles, the gallant militarist—that was his own phrase—that had the whole theoric of war in the knot of his scarf, and the practice in the chape of his dagger.
I will never trust a man again for keeping his sword clean, nor believe he can have every thing in him by wearing his apparel neatly.
Well, that’s set down.
“Five or six thousand horse,” I said—I will say true— “or thereabouts,” set down, for I’ll speak truth.
He’s very near the truth in this.
But I con him no thanks for’t, in the nature he delivers it.
“Poor rogues,” I pray you say.
Well, that’s set down.
I humbly thank you, sir. A truth’s a truth, the rogues are marvellous poor.
“Demand of him, of what strength they are afoot.”What say you to that?
By my troth, sir, if I were to live this present hour, I will tell true. Let me see: Spurio, a hundred and fifty; Sebastian, so many; Corambus, so many; Jaques, so many; Guiltian, Cosmo, Lodowick, and Gratii, two hundred fifty each; mine own company, Chitopher, Vaumond, Bentii, two hundred fifty each; so that the muster-file, rotten and sound, upon my life, amounts not to fifteen thousand pole, half of the which dare not shake the snow from off their cassocks, lest they shake themselves to pieces.
What shall be done to him?
Nothing, but let him have thanks. Demand of him my condition, and what credit I have with the Duke.
Well, that’s set down.
“You shall demand of him, whether one Captain Dumaine be i’ th’ camp, a Frenchman; what his reputation is with the Duke; what his valor, honesty, and expertness in wars; or whether he thinks it were not possible with well-weighing sums of gold to corrupt him to a revolt.”What say you to this? What do you know of it?
I beseech you let me answer to the particular of the inter’gatories. Demand them singly.
Do you know this Captain Dumaine?
I know him. ’A was a botcher’s prentice in Paris, from whence he was whipt for getting the shrieve’s fool with child, a dumb innocent, that could not say him nay.
Nay, by your leave, hold your hands—though I know his brains are forfeit to the next tile that falls.
Well, is this captain in the Duke of Florence’s camp?
Upon my knowledge, he is, and lousy.
Nay, look not so upon me; we shall hear of your lordship anon.
What is his reputation with the Duke?
The Duke knows him for no other but a poor officer of mine, and writ to me this other day to turn him out a’ th’ band. I think I have his letter in my pocket.
Marry, we’ll search.
In good sadness, I do not know. Either it is there, or it is upon a file with the Duke’s other letters in my tent.
Here ’tis, here’s a paper. Shall I read it to you?
I do not know if it be it or no.
Our interpreter does it well.
“Dian, the Count’s a fool, and full of gold”—
That is not the Duke’s letter, sir; that is an advertisement to a proper maid in Florence, one Diana, to take heed of the allurement of one Count Roussillion, a foolish idle boy, but for all that very ruttish. I pray you, sir, put it up again.
Nay, I’ll read it first, by your favor.
My meaning in’t, I protest, was very honest in the behalf of the maid; for I knew the young Count to be a dangerous and lascivious boy, who is a whale to virginity, and devours up all the fry it finds.
Damnable both-sides rogue!
Reads the letter.
“When he swears oaths, bid him drop gold, and take it;
After he scores, he never pays the score.
Half won is match well made; match, and well make it;
He ne’er pays after-debts, take it before,
And say a soldier, Dian, told thee this:
Men are to mell with, boys are not to kiss;
For count of this, the Count’s a fool, I know it,
Who pays before, but not when he does owe it.
Thine, as he vow’d to thee in thine ear,
He shall be whipt through the army with this rhyme in ’s forehead.
This is your devoted friend, sir, the manifold linguist and the armipotent soldier.
I could endure any thing before but a cat, and now he’s a cat to me.
I perceive, sir, by the general’s looks, we shall be fain to hang you.
My life, sir, in any case! Not that I am afraid to die, but that my offenses being many, I would repent out the remainder of nature. Let me live, sir, in a dungeon, i’ th’ stocks, or any where, so I may live.
We’ll see what may be done, so you confess freely; therefore once more to this Captain Dumaine. You have answer’d to his reputation with the Duke, and to his valor; what is his honesty?
He will steal, sir, an egg out of a cloister. For rapes and ravishments he parallels Nessus. He professes not keeping of oaths; in breaking ’em he is stronger than Hercules. He will lie, sir, with such volubility, that you would think truth were a fool. Drunkenness is his best virtue, for he will be swine-drunk, and in his sleep he does little harm, save to his bed-clothes about him; but they know his conditions, and lay him in straw. I have but little more to say, sir, of his honesty. He has every thing that an honest man should not have; what an honest man should have, he has nothing.
I begin to love him for this.
For this description of thine honesty? A pox upon him for me, he’s more and more a cat.
What say you to his expertness in war?
Faith, sir, h’as led the drum before the English tragedians. To belie him I will not, and more of his soldiership I know not, except in that country he had the honor to be the officer at a place there call’d Mile-end, to instruct for the doubling of files. I would do the man what honor I can, but of this I am not certain.
He hath out-villain’d villainy so far, that the rarity redeems him.
A pox on him, he’s a cat still.
His qualities being at this poor price, I need not to ask you if gold will corrupt him to revolt.
Sir, for a cardecue he will sell the fee-simple of his salvation, the inheritance of it, and cut th’ entail from all remainders, and a perpetual succession for it perpetually.
What’s his brother, the other Captain Dumaine?
Why does he ask him of me?
E’en a crow a’ th’ same nest; not altogether so great as the first in goodness, but greater a great deal in evil. He excels his brother for a coward, yet his brother is reputed one of the best that is. In a retreat he outruns any lackey; marry, in coming on he has the cramp.
If your life be sav’d, will you undertake to betray the Florentine?
Ay, and the captain of his horse, Count Roussillion.
I’ll whisper with the general, and know his pleasure.
I’ll no more drumming, a plague of all drums! Only to seem to deserve well, and to beguile the supposition of that lascivious young boy the Count, have I run into this danger. Yet who would have suspected an ambush where I was taken?
There is no remedy, sir, but you must die. The general says, you that have so traitorously discover’d the secrets of your army, and made such pestiferous reports of men very nobly held, can serve the world for no honest use; therefore you must die. Come, headsman, off with his head.
O Lord, sir, let me live, or let me see my death!
That shall you, and take your leave of all your friends.
So, look about you. Know you any here?
Good morrow, noble captain.
God bless you, Captain Parolles.
God save you, noble captain.
Captain, what greeting will you to my Lord Lafew? I am for France.
Good captain, will you give me a copy of the sonnet you writ to Diana in behalf of the Count Roussillion? And I were not a very coward, I’d compel it of you, but fare you well.
Exeunt Bertram and Lords.
You are undone, captain, all but your scarf; that has a knot on’t yet.
Who cannot be crush’d with a plot?
If you could find out a country where but women were that had receiv’d so much shame, you might begin an impudent nation. Fare ye well, sir, I am for France too. We shall speak of you there.
Exit with Soldiers.
Yet am I 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 will come to pass
That every braggart shall be found an ass.
Rust sword, cool blushes, and, Parolles, live
Safest in shame! Being fool’d, by fool’ry thrive!
There’s place and means for every man alive.
I’ll after them.