Parolles’ role in the play All’s Well That Ends Well

All's Well That Ends WellBertram’s companion is, by general agreement, a boastful, cowardly, treacherous character. Bertram’s unpleasant qualities have occasioned some critics to argue that it is Parolles who leads Bertram astray–that he is the villain of the piece. This, however, elevates Parolles higher than he deserves, raising him to the level of true Shakespearen evil, akin to Iago in Othello or Edmund in King Lear. These villains are masters of deception, but Parolles is no such thing–he is eminently transparent, and beginning with Lafew in the second act, every character of good will sees through him. Bertram’s failure to do the same is not a reflection of Parolles’ evil genius, but rather Bertram’s own blindness. Indeed, Parolles’ villainy is transformed into comedy in the long scene where he is made to believe that he is a prisoner, and, blindfolded, proceeds to betray all his supposed friends while they look on and laugh. After that point, he is harmless, and Shakespeare will even rehabilitate him, bringing him back to Rousillon as a servant to Lafew, and giving him a role as a witness in the final scene. The play’s comedy, in the end, triumphs over Parolles’ dishonest nature