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Love's Labour's Lost

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Act I, Scene 1

The king of Navarre’s park.


[Enter FERDINAND king of Navarre, BIRON, LONGAVILLE] [p]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; 5
    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, 10
    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, 15
    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: 20
    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. 25
  • 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: 30
    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; 35
    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; 40
    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— 45
    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! 50
  • 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. 55
  • 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. 60
  • 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, 65
    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: 70
    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: 75
    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, 80
    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. 85
    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 90
    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. 95
  • 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.
  • Biron. Fit in his place and time.
  • Biron. Something then in rhyme.
  • Ferdinand. Biron is like an envious sneaping frost,
    That bites the first-born infants of the spring. 105
  • 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; 110
    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: 115
    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; 120
    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?
  • Biron. Let's see the penalty.
    'On pain of losing her tongue.' Who devised this penalty?
  • Biron. Sweet lord, and why? 130
  • Longaville. To fright them hence with that dread penalty.
  • Biron. A dangerous law against gentility!
    'Item, If any man be seen to talk with a woman
    within the term of three years, he shall endure such 135
    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— 140
    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. 145
  • 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. 150
  • 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, 155
    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:
    [Subscribes] 160
    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. 165
    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; 170
    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, 175
    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 180
    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. 185

[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 190
    in flesh and blood.
  • 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. 195
  • 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 200
    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. 205
  • 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 210
    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 215
    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 220
    sole dominator of Navarre, my soul's earth's god,
    and body's fostering patron.'
  • Costard. Not a word of Costard yet.
  • Costard. It may be so: but if he say it is so, he is, in 225
    telling true, but so.
  • Costard. Be to me and every man that dares not fight!
  • Costard. Of other men's secrets, I beseech you. 230
  • 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 235
    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 240
    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- 245
    knotted garden: there did I see that low-spirited
    swain, that base minnow of thy mirth,'—
  • Ferdinand. [Reads] 'that unlettered small-knowing soul,'—
  • Ferdinand. [Reads] 'that shallow vassal,'—
  • Ferdinand. [Reads] 'which, as I remember, hight Costard,'—
  • Ferdinand. [Reads] 'sorted and consorted, contrary to thy 255
    established proclaimed edict and continent canon,
    which with,—O, with—but with this I passion to say
  • Ferdinand. [Reads] 'with a child of our grandmother Eve, a 260
    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 265
  • 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; 270
    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.
  • Biron. This is not so well as I looked for, but the best 275
    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? 280
  • 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. 285
  • 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. 290
  • 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. 295
    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.


  • Biron. I'll lay my head to any good man's hat, 300
    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 305
    prosperity! Affliction may one day smile again; and
    till then, sit thee down, sorrow!