Love’s Labour ’s Lost, by William Shakespeare

Act I

Scene I. The king of Navarre’s park.

Enter Ferdinand king of Navarre, Biron, Longaville and Dumain

Ferdinand Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register’d upon our brazen tombs
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
The endeavor of this present breath may buy
That honour which shall bate his scythe’s keen edge
And make us heirs of all eternity.
Therefore, brave conquerors — for so you are,
That war against your own affections
And the huge army of the world’s desires —
Our late edict shall strongly stand in force:
Navarre shall be the wonder of the world;
Our court shall be a little Academe,
Still and contemplative in living art.
You three, Biron, Dumain, and Longaville,
Have sworn for three years’ term to live with me
My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes
That are recorded in this schedule here:
Your oaths are pass’d; and now subscribe your names,
That his own hand may strike his honour down
That violates the smallest branch herein:
If you are arm’d to do as sworn to do,
Subscribe to your deep oaths, and keep it too.

Longaville I am resolved; ’tis but a three years’ fast:
The mind shall banquet, though the body pine:
Fat paunches have lean pates, and dainty bits
Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits.

Dumain My loving lord, Dumain is mortified:
The grosser manner of these world’s delights
He throws upon the gross world’s baser slaves:
To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die;
With all these living in philosophy.

Biron I can but say their protestation over;
So much, dear liege, I have already sworn,
That is, to live and study here three years.
But there are other strict observances;
As, not to see a woman in that term,
Which I hope well is not enrolled there;
And one day in a week to touch no food
And but one meal on every day beside,
The which I hope is not enrolled there;
And then, to sleep but three hours in the night,
And not be seen to wink of all the day —
When I was wont to think no harm all night
And make a dark night too of half the day —
Which I hope well is not enrolled there:
O, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep,
Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep!

Ferdinand Your oath is pass’d to pass away from these.

Biron Let me say no, my liege, an if you please:
I only swore to study with your grace
And stay here in your court for three years’ space.

Longaville You swore to that, Biron, and to the rest.

Biron By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest.
What is the end of study? let me know.

Ferdinand Why, that to know, which else we should not know.

Biron Things hid and barr’d, you mean, from common sense?

Ferdinand Ay, that is study’s godlike recompense.

Biron Come on, then; I will swear to study so,
To know the thing I am forbid to know:
As thus — to study where I well may dine,
When I to feast expressly am forbid;
Or study where to meet some mistress fine,
When mistresses from common sense are hid;
Or, having sworn too hard a keeping oath,
Study to break it and not break my troth.
If study’s gain be thus and this be so,
Study knows that which yet it doth not know:
Swear me to this, and I will ne’er say no.

Ferdinand These be the stops that hinder study quite
And train our intellects to vain delight.

Biron Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain,
Which with pain purchased doth inherit pain:
As, painfully to pore upon a book
To seek the light of truth; while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look:
Light seeking light doth light of light beguile:
So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
Study me how to please the eye indeed
By fixing it upon a fairer eye,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed
And give him light that it was blinded by.
Study is like the heaven’s glorious sun
That will not be deep-search’d with saucy looks:
Small have continual plodders ever won
Save base authority from others’ books
These earthly godfathers of heaven’s lights
That give a name to every fixed star
Have no more profit of their shining nights
Than those that walk and wot not what they are.
Too much to know is to know nought but fame;
And every godfather can give a name.

Ferdinand How well he’s read, to reason against reading!

Dumain Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!

Longaville He weeds the corn and still lets grow the weeding.

Biron The spring is near when green geese are a-breeding.

Dumain How follows that?

Biron   Fit in his place and time.

Dumain In reason nothing.

Biron   Something then in rhyme.

Ferdinand Biron is like an envious sneaping frost,
That bites the first-born infants of the spring.

Biron Well, say I am; why should proud summer boast
Before the birds have any cause to sing?
Why should I joy in any abortive birth?
At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.
So you, to study now it is too late,
Climb o’er the house to unlock the little gate.

Ferdinand Well, sit you out: go home, Biron: adieu.

Biron No, my good lord; I have sworn to stay with you:
And though I have for barbarism spoke more
Than for that angel knowledge you can say,
Yet confident I’ll keep what I have swore
And bide the penance of each three years’ day.
Give me the paper; let me read the same;
And to the strict’st decrees I’ll write my name.

Ferdinand How well this yielding rescues thee from shame!

Biron [Reads] ‘Item, That no woman shall come within a mile of my court:’

Hath this been proclaimed?

Longaville Four days ago.

Biron Let’s see the penalty.

[Reads] ‘On pain of losing her tongue.’

Who devised this penalty?

Longaville Marry, that did I.

Biron Sweet lord, and why?

Longaville To fright them hence with that dread penalty.

Biron A dangerous law against gentility!

[Reads] ‘Item, If any man be seen to talk with a woman within the term of three years, he shall endure such public shame as the rest of the court can possibly devise.’

This article, my liege, yourself must break;
For well you know here comes in embassy
The French king’s daughter with yourself to speak —
A maid of grace and complete majesty —
About surrender up of Aquitaine
To her decrepit, sick and bedrid father:
Therefore this article is made in vain,
Or vainly comes the admired princess hither.

Ferdinand What say you, lords? Why, this was quite forgot.

Biron So study evermore is overshot:
While it doth study to have what it would
It doth forget to do the thing it should,
And when it hath the thing it hunteth most,
’Tis won as towns with fire, so won, so lost.

Ferdinand We must of force dispense with this decree;
She must lie here on mere necessity.

Biron Necessity will make us all forsworn
Three thousand times within this three years’ space;
For every man with his affects is born,
Not by might master’d but by special grace:
If I break faith, this word shall speak for me;
I am forsworn on ‘mere necessity.’
So to the laws at large I write my name:


And he that breaks them in the least degree
Stands in attainder of eternal shame:
Suggestions are to other as to me;
But I believe, although I seem so loath,
I am the last that will last keep his oath.
But is there no quick recreation granted?

Ferdinand Ay, that there is. Our court, you know, is haunted
With a refined traveller of Spain;
A man in all the world’s new fashion planted,
That hath a mint of phrases in his brain;
One whom the music of his own vain tongue
Doth ravish like enchanting harmony;
A man of complements, whom right and wrong
Have chose as umpire of their mutiny:
This child of fancy, that Armado hight,
For interim to our studies shall relate
In high-born words the worth of many a knight
From tawny Spain lost in the world’s debate.
How you delight, my lords, I know not, I;
But, I protest, I love to hear him lie
And I will use him for my minstrelsy.

Biron Armado is a most illustrious wight,
A man of fire-new words, fashion’s own knight.

Longaville Costard the swain and he shall be our sport;
And so to study, three years is but short.

Enter Dull with a letter, and Costard

Dull Which is the duke’s own person?

Biron This, fellow: what wouldst?

Dull I myself reprehend his own person, for I am his grace’s tharborough: but I would see his own person in flesh and blood.

Biron This is he.

Dull Signior Arme — Arme — commends you. There’s villany abroad: this letter will tell you more.

Costard Sir, the contempts thereof are as touching me.

Ferdinand A letter from the magnificent Armado.

Biron How low soever the matter, I hope in God for high words.

Longaville A high hope for a low heaven: God grant us patience!

Biron To hear? or forbear laughing?

Longaville To hear meekly, sir, and to laugh moderately; or to forbear both.

Biron Well, sir, be it as the style shall give us cause to climb in the merriness.

Costard The matter is to me, sir, as concerning Jaquenetta.
The manner of it is, I was taken with the manner.

Biron In what manner?

Costard In manner and form following, sir; all those three: I was seen with her in the manor-house, sitting with her upon the form, and taken following her into the park; which, put together, is in manner and form following. Now, sir, for the manner — it is the manner of a man to speak to a woman: for the form — in some form.

Biron For the following, sir?

Costard As it shall follow in my correction: and God defend the right!

Ferdinand Will you hear this letter with attention?

Biron As we would hear an oracle.

Costard Such is the simplicity of man to hearken after the flesh.

Ferdinand [Reads] ‘Great deputy, the welkin’s vicegerent and sole dominator of Navarre, my soul’s earth’s god, and body’s fostering patron.’

Costard Not a word of Costard yet.

Ferdinand [Reads] ‘so it is,’—

Costard It may be so: but if he say it is so, he is, in telling true, but so.

Ferdinand Peace!

Costard Be to me and every man that dares not fight!

Ferdinand No words!

Costard Of other men’s secrets, I beseech you.

Ferdinand [Reads] ‘so it is, besieged with sable-coloured melancholy, I did commend the black-oppressing humour to the most wholesome physic of thy health-giving air; and, as I am a gentleman, betook myself to walk. The time when. About the sixth hour; when beasts most graze, birds best peck, and men sit down to that nourishment which is called supper: so much for the time when. Now for the ground which; which, I mean, I walked upon: it is y-cleped thy park. Then for the place where; where, I mean, I did encounter that obscene and preposterous event, that draweth from my snow-white pen the ebon-coloured ink, which here thou viewest, beholdest, surveyest, or seest; but to the place where; it standeth north-north-east and by east from the west corner of thy curious- knotted garden: there did I see that low-spirited swain, that base minnow of thy mirth,’—

Costard Me?

Ferdinand [Reads] ’that unlettered small-knowing soul,’—

Costard Me?

Ferdinand [Reads] ’that shallow vassal,’—

Costard Still me?

Ferdinand [Reads] ‘which, as I remember, hight Costard,’—

Costard O, me!

Ferdinand [Reads] ‘sorted and consorted, contrary to thy established proclaimed edict and continent canon, which with — O, with — but with this I passion to say wherewith —

Costard With a wench.

Ferdinand [Reads] ‘with a child of our grandmother Eve, a female; or, for thy more sweet understanding, a woman. Him I, as my ever-esteemed duty pricks me on, have sent to thee, to receive the meed of punishment, by thy sweet grace’s officer, Anthony Dull; a man of good repute, carriage, bearing, and estimation.’

Dull Me, an’t shall please you; I am Anthony Dull.

Ferdinand [Reads] ‘For Jaquenetta — so is the weaker vessel called which I apprehended with the aforesaid swain — I keep her as a vessel of the law’s fury; and shall, at the least of thy sweet notice, bring her to trial. Thine, in all compliments of devoted and heart-burning heat of duty. Don Adriano de Armado.’

Biron This is not so well as I looked for, but the best that ever I heard.

Ferdinand Ay, the best for the worst. But, sirrah, what say you to this?

Costard Sir, I confess the wench.

Ferdinand Did you hear the proclamation?

Costard I do confess much of the hearing it but little of the marking of it.

Ferdinand It was proclaimed a year’s imprisonment, to be taken with a wench.

Costard I was taken with none, sir: I was taken with a damsel.

Ferdinand Well, it was proclaimed ‘damsel.’

Costard This was no damsel, neither, sir; she was a virgin.

Ferdinand It is so varied, too; for it was proclaimed ’virgin.’

Costard If it were, I deny her virginity: I was taken with a maid.

Ferdinand This maid will not serve your turn, sir.

Costard This maid will serve my turn, sir.

Ferdinand Sir, I will pronounce your sentence: you shall fast a week with bran and water.

Costard I had rather pray a month with mutton and porridge.

Ferdinand And Don Armado shall be your keeper.
My Lord Biron, see him deliver’d o’er:
And go we, lords, to put in practise that
Which each to other hath so strongly sworn.

Exeunt Ferdinand, Longaville, and Dumain

Biron I’ll lay my head to any good man’s hat,
These oaths and laws will prove an idle scorn.
Sirrah, come on.

Costard I suffer for the truth, sir; for true it is, I was taken with Jaquenetta, and Jaquenetta is a true girl; and therefore welcome the sour cup of prosperity! Affliction may one day smile again; and till then, sit thee down, sorrow!


Scene II. The same.

Enter Don Adriano de Armado and Moth

Don Adriano de Armado Boy, what sign is it when a man of great spirit grows melancholy?

Moth A great sign, sir, that he will look sad.

Don Adriano de Armado Why, sadness is one and the self-same thing, dear imp.

Moth No, no; O Lord, sir, no.

Don Adriano de Armado How canst thou part sadness and melancholy, my tender juvenal?

Moth By a familiar demonstration of the working, my tough senior.

Don Adriano de Armado Why tough senior? why tough senior?

Moth Why tender juvenal? why tender juvenal?

Don Adriano de Armado I spoke it, tender juvenal, as a congruent epitheton appertaining to thy young days, which we may nominate tender.

Moth And I, tough senior, as an appertinent title to your old time, which we may name tough.

Don Adriano de Armado Pretty and apt.

Moth How mean you, sir? I pretty, and my saying apt? or
I apt, and my saying pretty?

Don Adriano de Armado Thou pretty, because little.

Moth Little pretty, because little. Wherefore apt?

Don Adriano de Armado And therefore apt, because quick.

Moth Speak you this in my praise, master?

Don Adriano de Armado In thy condign praise.

Moth I will praise an eel with the same praise.

Don Adriano de Armado What, that an eel is ingenious?

Moth That an eel is quick.

Don Adriano de Armado I do say thou art quick in answers: thou heatest my blood.

Moth I am answered, sir.

Don Adriano de Armado I love not to be crossed.

Moth [Aside] He speaks the mere contrary; crosses love not him.

Don Adriano de Armado I have promised to study three years with the duke.

Moth You may do it in an hour, sir.

Don Adriano de Armado Impossible.

Moth How many is one thrice told?

Don Adriano de Armado I am ill at reckoning; it fitteth the spirit of a tapster.

Moth You are a gentleman and a gamester, sir.

Don Adriano de Armado I confess both: they are both the varnish of a complete man.

Moth Then, I am sure, you know how much the gross sum of deuce-ace amounts to.

Don Adriano de Armado It doth amount to one more than two.

Moth Which the base vulgar do call three.

Don Adriano de Armado True.

Moth Why, sir, is this such a piece of study? Now here is three studied, ere ye’ll thrice wink: and how easy it is to put ‘years’ to the word ’three,’ and study three years in two words, the dancing horse will tell you.

Don Adriano de Armado A most fine figure!

Moth To prove you a cipher.

Don Adriano de Armado I will hereupon confess I am in love: and as it is base for a soldier to love, so am I in love with a base wench. If drawing my sword against the humour of affection would deliver me from the reprobate thought of it, I would take Desire prisoner, and ransom him to any French courtier for a new-devised courtesy. I think scorn to sigh: methinks I should outswear Cupid. Comfort, me, boy: what great men have been in love?

Moth Hercules, master.

Don Adriano de Armado Most sweet Hercules! More authority, dear boy, name more; and, sweet my child, let them be men of good repute and carriage.

Moth Samson, master: he was a man of good carriage, great carriage, for he carried the town-gates on his back like a porter: and he was in love.

Don Adriano de Armado O well-knit Samson! strong-jointed Samson! I do excel thee in my rapier as much as thou didst me in carrying gates. I am in love too. Who was Samson’s love, my dear Moth?

Moth A woman, master.

Don Adriano de Armado Of what complexion?

Moth Of all the four, or the three, or the two, or one of the four.

Don Adriano de Armado Tell me precisely of what complexion.

Moth Of the sea-water green, sir.

Don Adriano de Armado Is that one of the four complexions?

Moth As I have read, sir; and the best of them too.

Don Adriano de Armado Green indeed is the colour of lovers; but to have a love of that colour, methinks Samson had small reason for it. He surely affected her for her wit.

Moth It was so, sir; for she had a green wit.

Don Adriano de Armado My love is most immaculate white and red.

Moth Most maculate thoughts, master, are masked under such colours.

Don Adriano de Armado Define, define, well-educated infant.

Moth My father’s wit and my mother’s tongue, assist me!

Don Adriano de Armado Sweet invocation of a child; most pretty and pathetical!


If she be made of white and red,

 Her faults will ne’er be known,

For blushing cheeks by faults are bred

 And fears by pale white shown:

Then if she fear, or be to blame,

 By this you shall not know,

For still her cheeks possess the same

 Which native she doth owe.

A dangerous rhyme, master, against the reason of white and red.

Don Adriano de Armado Is there not a ballad, boy, of the King and the Beggar?

Moth The world was very guilty of such a ballad some three ages since: but I think now ’tis not to be found; or, if it were, it would neither serve for the writing nor the tune.

Don Adriano de Armado I will have that subject newly writ o’er, that I may example my digression by some mighty precedent. Boy, I do love that country girl that I took in the park with the rational hind Costard: she deserves well.

Moth [Aside] To be whipped; and yet a better love than my master.

Don Adriano de Armado Sing, boy; my spirit grows heavy in love.

Moth And that’s great marvel, loving a light wench.

Don Adriano de Armado I say, sing.

Moth Forbear till this company be past.

Enter Dull, Costard, and Jaquenetta

Dull Sir, the duke’s pleasure is, that you keep Costard safe: and you must suffer him to take no delight nor no penance; but a’ must fast three days a week. For this damsel, I must keep her at the park: she is allowed for the day-woman. Fare you well.

Don Adriano de Armado I do betray myself with blushing. Maid!

Jaquenetta Man?

Don Adriano de Armado I will visit thee at the lodge.

Jaquenetta That’s hereby.

Don Adriano de Armado I know where it is situate.

Jaquenetta Lord, how wise you are!

Don Adriano de Armado I will tell thee wonders.

Jaquenetta With that face?

Don Adriano de Armado I love thee.

Jaquenetta So I heard you say.

Don Adriano de Armado And so, farewell.

Jaquenetta Fair weather after you!

Dull Come, Jaquenetta, away!

Exeunt Dull and Jaquenetta

Don Adriano de Armado Villain, thou shalt fast for thy offences ere thou be pardoned.

Costard Well, sir, I hope, when I do it, I shall do it on a full stomach.

Don Adriano de Armado Thou shalt be heavily punished.

Costard I am more bound to you than your fellows, for they are but lightly rewarded.

Don Adriano de Armado Take away this villain; shut him up.

Moth Come, you transgressing slave; away!

Costard Let me not be pent up, sir: I will fast, being loose.

Moth No, sir; that were fast and loose: thou shalt to prison.

Costard Well, if ever I do see the merry days of desolation that I have seen, some shall see.

Moth What shall some see?

Costard Nay, nothing, Master Moth, but what they look upon. It is not for prisoners to be too silent in their words; and therefore I will say nothing: I thank God I have as little patience as another man; and therefore I can be quiet.

Exeunt Moth and Costard

Don Adriano de Armado I do affect the very ground, which is base, where her shoe, which is baser, guided by her foot, which is basest, doth tread. I shall be forsworn, which is a great argument of falsehood, if I love. And how can that be true love which is falsely attempted? Love is a familiar; Love is a devil: there is no evil angel but Love. Yet was Samson so tempted, and he had an excellent strength; yet was Solomon so seduced, and he had a very good wit. Cupid’s butt-shaft is too hard for Hercules’ club; and therefore too much odds for a Spaniard’s rapier. The first and second cause will not serve my turn; the passado he respects not, the duello he regards not: his disgrace is to be called boy; but his glory is to subdue men. Adieu, valour! rust rapier! be still, drum! for your manager is in love; yea, he loveth. Assist me, some extemporal god of rhyme, for I am sure I shall turn sonnet. Devise, wit; write, pen; for I am for whole volumes in folio.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59