Scene 1 begins with a flourish and the entrance of the Duke of Florence attended by two Frenchmen who lead a troop of Soldiers. The Duke asks why the King of France is remaining nuetral in the war. Both French Lords tell the Duke that they do not know the reason. The main purpose to this scene is to introduce Florence.
Scene 2 takes place in Rousillon and begins with the Countess and Clown entering the scene. The Clown has given the Countess a letter then leaves. The Countess reads the letter which is from her son Bertram. The Countess reads the letter aloud. In the letter Bertram tells her that while he has wed Helen he will not bed her and instead has run away and has no intention of ever being with Helen. The Countess is then joined again by the clown who announces that soldiers are coming.
The Clown exits as Helena who is escorted by two gentlemen. Helena tells the Countess that Bertram has run from her and told her in a letter that he will never return to France as long as she is there. The Countess is very upset at her son and states that there is nothing in France that not good enough for him including Helena. She asks the soldiers who Bertram was with and they tell her he was with Parolles. The Countess calls Parolles a wicked man and then asks the gentlemen to tell her son that no amount of glory in war will erase the dishonor he has shown Helena. The Countess and the Gentlemen leave Helena to her own. In a monologue Helena decides to leave France so that Bertram can come back from the war before he is hurt. Helena exits the scene.
Scene 3 takes place in Florence in front of the Dukes Palace. A flourish sounds and the Duke of Florence, Bertram, Parolles, and soldiers with drums and trumpets enter the scene. The Duke tells Bertram that he is now the general of the Calvary. Bertram says that he is not strong enough for the position but will do his best. The reason for this scene is to show that Bertram is now under the liege of the Duke of Florence.
Scene 4 takes place in Rousillon in the Count's palace. The Countess and the Steward enter. The Countess asks the Steward to read a letter from Helen again. As the Steward reads the letter it is learned that Helen has left Rousillon to enter a religious pilgrimage to Italy. The Countess says this makes her very sad and both the Countess and Steward exit the scene. The purpose of this very short scene is to reveal the Helen has left for Italy.
Scene 5 takes place in Florence outside the city walls, a tucket (a military sounding flourish) sounds as a Widow of Florence, Diana, Violenta, and Mirana enter with other citizens. The women talk about the fact that the French Count (Bertram) has done well in the war. During this conversation it is also revealed that Bertram has been courting Diana through Parolles. As they speak among themselves, Helena, disguised as a pilgrim enters the scene. The widow offers Helena a place to stay. Helena is asked if she has heard of Bertram and she says she has.
The women then talk about how Betram ran away from France to avoid the woman he married. They also tell Helena that Paolles speaks ill of Bertram's wife. Helena says that the reason Bertram does not like his wife is because she was not born of noble station. The women spend a moment feeling bad for Helena, who they do not know is with them. Then the widow suggests to Diana that the young woman not allow Bertram to win her heart.
The sounds of drums are heard and Bertram, Parolles, and the whole army (a few soldiers) enter the scene. The women point out Bertram to the disguised Helena. They also point out Parolles and talk about how he should be poisoned. It is also revealed that Parolles lost a drum during the battle (this is a huge dishonor), then Bertram, Parolles, and the army exit. The Widow offers to guide Helena to her home, and Helena invites Diana and Mariana to eat dinner with them that night.
Scene 6 takes place in a military camp outside of Florence. Bertram and two French Lords enter the scene. The two French Lords are calling Parolles a coward and a liar. Bertram asks if they really believe what they are saying. The two French lords say that they do believe Parolles to be a liar and a coward and ask to set a trap for Parolles so they can prove it. Bertram asks them how they plan to prove it. The two French lords tell Bertram that he should send Parolles to fetch the drum he lost which Parolles told Bertram he would do. The two French lords then tell Bertram that as Parolles leaves to get the drum they will surprise him and blindfold him and then show Bertram Parolles's true nature.
Parolles enters the scene and Bertram says that it is obvious the loss of the drum hurts Parolles. Parolles eventually promises to recover the drum. Bertram says that if Parolles recovers the drum he is sure to gain reward from the Duke of Florence. Parolles then says he will get the drum back by Midnight. Parolles then leaves the scene. After he leaves one of the French lords says he will go set the trap for Parolles. Bertram asks the other lord to stay with him so that they may both go visit a pretty girl who Bertram has been trying to court (Diana) as they exit the scene.
Scene 7 takes place in Florence in the widows house. Helana and the Widow enter the scene and are talking about Helena's true identity. As they talk Helena gives the widow a great deal of money with the promise of more if she will help her trick Bertram. The widow asks how, and Helena explains that she wants the widow to tell her daughter Diana to make Bertram believe she is responding favorably to his courtship. Once this is done Helena wants Diana to demand Bertram give her his ring by promising him what he wants. Once Bertram agrees to this Diana is to set up an encounter with him. The widow agrees and Helena plans for this trap to happen that night as both exit the scene.