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For when did friendship take
A breed for barren metal of his friend?

      — The Merchant of Venice, Act I Scene 3


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Love's Labour's Lost

Act IV

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Scene 1. The same.

Scene 2. The same.

Scene 3. The same.


Act IV, Scene 1

The same.

      next scene .

[Enter the PRINCESS, and her train, a Forester,] [p]BOYET, ROSALINE, MARIA, and KATHARINE]

  • Princess of France. Was that the king, that spurred his horse so hard
    Against the steep uprising of the hill?
  • Boyet. I know not; but I think it was not he.
  • Princess of France. Whoe'er a' was, a' show'd a mounting mind. 975
    Well, lords, to-day we shall have our dispatch:
    On Saturday we will return to France.
    Then, forester, my friend, where is the bush
    That we must stand and play the murderer in?
  • Forester. Hereby, upon the edge of yonder coppice; 980
    A stand where you may make the fairest shoot.
  • Princess of France. I thank my beauty, I am fair that shoot,
    And thereupon thou speak'st the fairest shoot.
  • Forester. Pardon me, madam, for I meant not so.
  • Princess of France. What, what? first praise me and again say no? 985
    O short-lived pride! Not fair? alack for woe!
  • Princess of France. Nay, never paint me now:
    Where fair is not, praise cannot mend the brow.
    Here, good my glass, take this for telling true: 990
    Fair payment for foul words is more than due.
  • Forester. Nothing but fair is that which you inherit.
  • Princess of France. See see, my beauty will be saved by merit!
    O heresy in fair, fit for these days!
    A giving hand, though foul, shall have fair praise. 995
    But come, the bow: now mercy goes to kill,
    And shooting well is then accounted ill.
    Thus will I save my credit in the shoot:
    Not wounding, pity would not let me do't;
    If wounding, then it was to show my skill, 1000
    That more for praise than purpose meant to kill.
    And out of question so it is sometimes,
    Glory grows guilty of detested crimes,
    When, for fame's sake, for praise, an outward part,
    We bend to that the working of the heart; 1005
    As I for praise alone now seek to spill
    The poor deer's blood, that my heart means no ill.
  • Boyet. Do not curst wives hold that self-sovereignty
    Only for praise sake, when they strive to be
    Lords o'er their lords? 1010
  • Princess of France. Only for praise: and praise we may afford
    To any lady that subdues a lord.
  • Boyet. Here comes a member of the commonwealth.


  • Costard. God dig-you-den all! Pray you, which is the head lady? 1015
  • Costard. Which is the greatest lady, the highest?
  • Costard. The thickest and the tallest! it is so; truth is truth.
    An your waist, mistress, were as slender as my wit, 1020
    One o' these maids' girdles for your waist should be fit.
    Are not you the chief woman? you are the thickest here.
  • Costard. I have a letter from Monsieur Biron to one Lady Rosaline.
  • Princess of France. O, thy letter, thy letter! he's a good friend of mine: 1025
    Stand aside, good bearer. Boyet, you can carve;
    Break up this capon.
  • Boyet. I am bound to serve.
    This letter is mistook, it importeth none here;
    It is writ to Jaquenetta. 1030
  • Princess of France. We will read it, I swear.
    Break the neck of the wax, and every one give ear.


  • Boyet. 'By heaven, that thou art fair, is most infallible;
    true, that thou art beauteous; truth itself, that 1035
    thou art lovely. More fairer than fair, beautiful
    than beauteous, truer than truth itself, have
    commiseration on thy heroical vassal! The
    magnanimous and most illustrate king Cophetua set
    eye upon the pernicious and indubitate beggar 1040
    Zenelophon; and he it was that might rightly say,
    Veni, vidi, vici; which to annothanize in the
    vulgar,—O base and obscure vulgar!—videlicet, He
    came, saw, and overcame: he came, one; saw two;
    overcame, three. Who came? the king: why did he 1045
    come? to see: why did he see? to overcome: to
    whom came he? to the beggar: what saw he? the
    beggar: who overcame he? the beggar. The
    conclusion is victory: on whose side? the king's.
    The captive is enriched: on whose side? the 1050
    beggar's. The catastrophe is a nuptial: on whose
    side? the king's: no, on both in one, or one in
    both. I am the king; for so stands the comparison:
    thou the beggar; for so witnesseth thy lowliness.
    Shall I command thy love? I may: shall I enforce 1055
    thy love? I could: shall I entreat thy love? I
    will. What shalt thou exchange for rags? robes;
    for tittles? titles; for thyself? me. Thus,
    expecting thy reply, I profane my lips on thy foot,
    my eyes on thy picture. and my heart on thy every 1060
    part. Thine, in the dearest design of industry,
    Thus dost thou hear the Nemean lion roar
    'Gainst thee, thou lamb, that standest as his prey.
    Submissive fall his princely feet before, 1065
    And he from forage will incline to play:
    But if thou strive, poor soul, what art thou then?
    Food for his rage, repasture for his den.
  • Princess of France. What plume of feathers is he that indited this letter?
    What vane? what weathercock? did you ever hear better? 1070
  • Boyet. I am much deceived but I remember the style.
  • Boyet. This Armado is a Spaniard, that keeps here in court;
    A phantasime, a Monarcho, and one that makes sport
    To the prince and his bookmates. 1075
  • Costard. From my lord to my lady. 1080
  • Costard. From my lord Biron, a good master of mine,
    To a lady of France that he call'd Rosaline.
  • Princess of France. Thou hast mistaken his letter. Come, lords, away.
    [To ROSALINE] 1085
    Here, sweet, put up this: 'twill be thine another day.

[Exeunt PRINCESS and train]

  • Boyet. Who is the suitor? who is the suitor?
  • Boyet. Ay, my continent of beauty. 1090
  • Rosaline. Why, she that bears the bow.
    Finely put off!
  • Boyet. My lady goes to kill horns; but, if thou marry,
    Hang me by the neck, if horns that year miscarry.
    Finely put on! 1095
  • Rosaline. Well, then, I am the shooter.
  • Boyet. And who is your deer?
  • Rosaline. If we choose by the horns, yourself come not near.
    Finely put on, indeed!
  • Maria. You still wrangle with her, Boyet, and she strikes 1100
    at the brow.
  • Boyet. But she herself is hit lower: have I hit her now?
  • Rosaline. Shall I come upon thee with an old saying, that was
    a man when King Pepin of France was a little boy, as
    touching the hit it? 1105
  • Boyet. So I may answer thee with one as old, that was a
    woman when Queen Guinover of Britain was a little
    wench, as touching the hit it.
  • Rosaline. Thou canst not hit it, hit it, hit it,
    Thou canst not hit it, my good man. 1110
  • Boyet. An I cannot, cannot, cannot,
    An I cannot, another can.


  • Costard. By my troth, most pleasant: how both did fit it!
  • Maria. A mark marvellous well shot, for they both did hit it. 1115
  • Boyet. A mark! O, mark but that mark! A mark, says my lady!
    Let the mark have a prick in't, to mete at, if it may be.
  • Maria. Wide o' the bow hand! i' faith, your hand is out.
  • Costard. Indeed, a' must shoot nearer, or he'll ne'er hit the clout.
  • Boyet. An if my hand be out, then belike your hand is in. 1120
  • Costard. Then will she get the upshoot by cleaving the pin.
  • Maria. Come, come, you talk greasily; your lips grow foul.
  • Costard. She's too hard for you at pricks, sir: challenge her to bowl.
  • Boyet. I fear too much rubbing. Good night, my good owl.

[Exeunt BOYET and MARIA]

  • Costard. By my soul, a swain! a most simple clown!
    Lord, Lord, how the ladies and I have put him down!
    O' my troth, most sweet jests! most incony
    vulgar wit!
    When it comes so smoothly off, so obscenely, as it 1130
    were, so fit.
    Armado o' th' one side,—O, a most dainty man!
    To see him walk before a lady and to bear her fan!
    To see him kiss his hand! and how most sweetly a'
    will swear! 1135
    And his page o' t' other side, that handful of wit!
    Ah, heavens, it is a most pathetical nit!
    Sola, sola!

[Shout within]

[Exit COSTARD, running]

. previous scene      

Act IV, Scene 2

The same.

      next scene .


  • Sir Nathaniel. Very reverend sport, truly; and done in the testimony
    of a good conscience.
  • Holofernes. The deer was, as you know, sanguis, in blood; ripe
    as the pomewater, who now hangeth like a jewel in 1145
    the ear of caelo, the sky, the welkin, the heaven;
    and anon falleth like a crab on the face of terra,
    the soil, the land, the earth.
  • Sir Nathaniel. Truly, Master Holofernes, the epithets are sweetly
    varied, like a scholar at the least: but, sir, I 1150
    assure ye, it was a buck of the first head.
  • Dull. 'Twas not a haud credo; 'twas a pricket.
  • Holofernes. Most barbarous intimation! yet a kind of
    insinuation, as it were, in via, in way, of 1155
    explication; facere, as it were, replication, or
    rather, ostentare, to show, as it were, his
    inclination, after his undressed, unpolished,
    uneducated, unpruned, untrained, or rather,
    unlettered, or ratherest, unconfirmed fashion, to 1160
    insert again my haud credo for a deer.
  • Dull. I said the deer was not a haud credo; twas a pricket.
  • Holofernes. Twice-sod simplicity, his coctus!
    O thou monster Ignorance, how deformed dost thou look!
  • Sir Nathaniel. Sir, he hath never fed of the dainties that are bred 1165
    in a book; he hath not eat paper, as it were; he
    hath not drunk ink: his intellect is not
    replenished; he is only an animal, only sensible in
    the duller parts:
    And such barren plants are set before us, that we 1170
    thankful should be,
    Which we of taste and feeling are, for those parts that
    do fructify in us more than he.
    For as it would ill become me to be vain, indiscreet, or a fool,
    So were there a patch set on learning, to see him in a school: 1175
    But omne bene, say I; being of an old father's mind,
    Many can brook the weather that love not the wind.
  • Dull. You two are book-men: can you tell me by your wit
    What was a month old at Cain's birth, that's not five
    weeks old as yet? 1180
  • Holofernes. Dictynna, goodman Dull; Dictynna, goodman Dull.
  • Dull. What is Dictynna?
  • Holofernes. The moon was a month old when Adam was no more,
    And raught not to five weeks when he came to 1185
    The allusion holds in the exchange.
  • Dull. 'Tis true indeed; the collusion holds in the exchange.
  • Holofernes. God comfort thy capacity! I say, the allusion holds
    in the exchange. 1190
  • Dull. And I say, the pollusion holds in the exchange; for
    the moon is never but a month old: and I say beside
    that, 'twas a pricket that the princess killed.
  • Holofernes. Sir Nathaniel, will you hear an extemporal epitaph
    on the death of the deer? And, to humour the 1195
    ignorant, call I the deer the princess killed a pricket.
  • Sir Nathaniel. Perge, good Master Holofernes, perge; so it shall
    please you to abrogate scurrility.
  • Holofernes. I will something affect the letter, for it argues facility.
    The preyful princess pierced and prick'd a pretty 1200
    pleasing pricket;
    Some say a sore; but not a sore, till now made
    sore with shooting.
    The dogs did yell: put L to sore, then sorel jumps
    from thicket; 1205
    Or pricket sore, or else sorel; the people fall a-hooting.
    If sore be sore, then L to sore makes fifty sores
    one sorel.
    Of one sore I an hundred make by adding but one more L.
  • Dull. [Aside] If a talent be a claw, look how he claws
    him with a talent.
  • Holofernes. This is a gift that I have, simple, simple; a
    foolish extravagant spirit, full of forms, figures,
    shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions, 1215
    revolutions: these are begot in the ventricle of
    memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater, and
    delivered upon the mellowing of occasion. But the
    gift is good in those in whom it is acute, and I am
    thankful for it. 1220
  • Sir Nathaniel. Sir, I praise the Lord for you; and so may my
    parishioners; for their sons are well tutored by
    you, and their daughters profit very greatly under
    you: you are a good member of the commonwealth.
  • Holofernes. Mehercle, if their sons be ingenuous, they shall 1225
    want no instruction; if their daughters be capable,
    I will put it to them: but vir sapit qui pauca
    loquitur; a soul feminine saluteth us.


  • Jaquenetta. God give you good morrow, master Parson. 1230
  • Holofernes. Master Parson, quasi pers-on. An if one should be
    pierced, which is the one?
  • Costard. Marry, master schoolmaster, he that is likest to a hogshead.
  • Holofernes. Piercing a hogshead! a good lustre of conceit in a
    tuft of earth; fire enough for a flint, pearl enough 1235
    for a swine: 'tis pretty; it is well.
  • Jaquenetta. Good master Parson, be so good as read me this
    letter: it was given me by Costard, and sent me
    from Don Armado: I beseech you, read it.
  • Holofernes. Fauste, precor gelida quando pecus omne sub umbra 1240
    Ruminat,—and so forth. Ah, good old Mantuan! I
    may speak of thee as the traveller doth of Venice;
    Venetia, Venetia,
    Chi non ti vede non ti pretia.
    Old Mantuan, old Mantuan! who understandeth thee 1245
    not, loves thee not. Ut, re, sol, la, mi, fa.
    Under pardon, sir, what are the contents? or rather,
    as Horace says in his—What, my soul, verses?
  • Holofernes. Let me hear a staff, a stanze, a verse; lege, domine. 1250
  • Sir Nathaniel. [Reads]
    If love make me forsworn, how shall I swear to love?
    Ah, never faith could hold, if not to beauty vow'd!
    Though to myself forsworn, to thee I'll faithful prove:
    Those thoughts to me were oaks, to thee like 1255
    osiers bow'd.
    Study his bias leaves and makes his book thine eyes,
    Where all those pleasures live that art would
    If knowledge be the mark, to know thee shall suffice; 1260
    Well learned is that tongue that well can thee commend,
    All ignorant that soul that sees thee without wonder;
    Which is to me some praise that I thy parts admire:
    Thy eye Jove's lightning bears, thy voice his dreadful thunder,
    Which not to anger bent, is music and sweet fire. 1265
    Celestial as thou art, O, pardon, love, this wrong,
    That sings heaven's praise with such an earthly tongue.
  • Holofernes. You find not the apostraphas, and so miss the
    accent: let me supervise the canzonet. Here are
    only numbers ratified; but, for the elegancy, 1270
    facility, and golden cadence of poesy, caret.
    Ovidius Naso was the man: and why, indeed, Naso,
    but for smelling out the odouriferous flowers of
    fancy, the jerks of invention? Imitari is nothing:
    so doth the hound his master, the ape his keeper, 1275
    the tired horse his rider. But, damosella virgin,
    was this directed to you?
  • Jaquenetta. Ay, sir, from one Monsieur Biron, one of the strange
    queen's lords.
  • Holofernes. I will overglance the superscript: 'To the 1280
    snow-white hand of the most beauteous Lady
    Rosaline.' I will look again on the intellect of
    the letter, for the nomination of the party writing
    to the person written unto: 'Your ladyship's in all
    desired employment, BIRON.' Sir Nathaniel, this 1285
    Biron is one of the votaries with the king; and here
    he hath framed a letter to a sequent of the stranger
    queen's, which accidentally, or by the way of
    progression, hath miscarried. Trip and go, my
    sweet; deliver this paper into the royal hand of the 1290
    king: it may concern much. Stay not thy
    compliment; I forgive thy duty; adieu.
  • Jaquenetta. Good Costard, go with me. Sir, God save your life!


  • Sir Nathaniel. Sir, you have done this in the fear of God, very
    religiously; and, as a certain father saith,—
  • Holofernes. Sir tell me not of the father; I do fear colourable
    colours. But to return to the verses: did they
    please you, Sir Nathaniel? 1300
  • Holofernes. I do dine to-day at the father's of a certain pupil
    of mine; where, if, before repast, it shall please
    you to gratify the table with a grace, I will, on my
    privilege I have with the parents of the foresaid 1305
    child or pupil, undertake your ben venuto; where I
    will prove those verses to be very unlearned,
    neither savouring of poetry, wit, nor invention: I
    beseech your society.
  • Sir Nathaniel. And thank you too; for society, saith the text, is 1310
    the happiness of life.
  • Holofernes. And, certes, the text most infallibly concludes it.
    [To DULL]
    Sir, I do invite you too; you shall not
    say me nay: pauca verba. Away! the gentles are at 1315
    their game, and we will to our recreation.


. previous scene      

Act IV, Scene 3

The same.


[Enter BIRON, with a paper]

  • Biron. The king he is hunting the deer; I am coursing
    myself: they have pitched a toil; I am toiling in 1320
    a pitch,—pitch that defiles: defile! a foul
    word. Well, set thee down, sorrow! for so they say
    the fool said, and so say I, and I the fool: well
    proved, wit! By the Lord, this love is as mad as
    Ajax: it kills sheep; it kills me, I a sheep: 1325
    well proved again o' my side! I will not love: if
    I do, hang me; i' faith, I will not. O, but her
    eye,—by this light, but for her eye, I would not
    love her; yes, for her two eyes. Well, I do nothing
    in the world but lie, and lie in my throat. By 1330
    heaven, I do love: and it hath taught me to rhyme
    and to be melancholy; and here is part of my rhyme,
    and here my melancholy. Well, she hath one o' my
    sonnets already: the clown bore it, the fool sent
    it, and the lady hath it: sweet clown, sweeter 1335
    fool, sweetest lady! By the world, I would not care
    a pin, if the other three were in. Here comes one
    with a paper: God give him grace to groan!

[Stands aside]

[Enter FERDINAND, with a paper]

  • Biron. [Aside] Shot, by heaven! Proceed, sweet Cupid:
    thou hast thumped him with thy bird-bolt under the
    left pap. In faith, secrets!
  • Ferdinand. [Reads] 1345
    So sweet a kiss the golden sun gives not
    To those fresh morning drops upon the rose,
    As thy eye-beams, when their fresh rays have smote
    The night of dew that on my cheeks down flows:
    Nor shines the silver moon one half so bright 1350
    Through the transparent bosom of the deep,
    As doth thy face through tears of mine give light;
    Thou shinest in every tear that I do weep:
    No drop but as a coach doth carry thee;
    So ridest thou triumphing in my woe. 1355
    Do but behold the tears that swell in me,
    And they thy glory through my grief will show:
    But do not love thyself; then thou wilt keep
    My tears for glasses, and still make me weep.
    O queen of queens! how far dost thou excel, 1360
    No thought can think, nor tongue of mortal tell.
    How shall she know my griefs? I'll drop the paper:
    Sweet leaves, shade folly. Who is he comes here?
    [Steps aside]
    What, Longaville! and reading! listen, ear. 1365
  • Biron. Now, in thy likeness, one more fool appear!

[Enter LONGAVILLE, with a paper]

  • Biron. Why, he comes in like a perjure, wearing papers.
  • Ferdinand. In love, I hope: sweet fellowship in shame! 1370
  • Biron. One drunkard loves another of the name.
  • Longaville. Am I the first that have been perjured so?
  • Biron. I could put thee in comfort. Not by two that I know:
    Thou makest the triumviry, the corner-cap of society,
    The shape of Love's Tyburn that hangs up simplicity. 1375
  • Longaville. I fear these stubborn lines lack power to move:
    O sweet Maria, empress of my love!
    These numbers will I tear, and write in prose.
  • Biron. O, rhymes are guards on wanton Cupid's hose:
    Disfigure not his slop. 1380
  • Longaville. This same shall go.
    Did not the heavenly rhetoric of thine eye,
    'Gainst whom the world cannot hold argument,
    Persuade my heart to this false perjury? 1385
    Vows for thee broke deserve not punishment.
    A woman I forswore; but I will prove,
    Thou being a goddess, I forswore not thee:
    My vow was earthly, thou a heavenly love;
    Thy grace being gain'd cures all disgrace in me. 1390
    Vows are but breath, and breath a vapour is:
    Then thou, fair sun, which on my earth dost shine,
    Exhalest this vapour-vow; in thee it is:
    If broken then, it is no fault of mine:
    If by me broke, what fool is not so wise 1395
    To lose an oath to win a paradise?
  • Biron. This is the liver-vein, which makes flesh a deity,
    A green goose a goddess: pure, pure idolatry.
    God amend us, God amend! we are much out o' the way.
  • Longaville. By whom shall I send this?—Company! stay. 1400

[Steps aside]

  • Biron. All hid, all hid; an old infant play.
    Like a demigod here sit I in the sky.
    And wretched fools' secrets heedfully o'ereye.
    More sacks to the mill! O heavens, I have my wish! 1405
    [Enter DUMAIN, with a paper]
    Dumain transform'd! four woodcocks in a dish!
  • Biron. O most profane coxcomb!
  • Dumain. By heaven, the wonder in a mortal eye! 1410
  • Biron. By earth, she is not, corporal, there you lie.
  • Dumain. Her amber hair for foul hath amber quoted.
  • Biron. An amber-colour'd raven was well noted.
  • Dumain. As upright as the cedar.
  • Biron. Stoop, I say; 1415
    Her shoulder is with child.
  • Biron. Ay, as some days; but then no sun must shine.
  • Dumain. O that I had my wish!
  • Biron. Amen, so I had mine: is not that a good word?
  • Dumain. I would forget her; but a fever she
    Reigns in my blood and will remember'd be.
  • Biron. A fever in your blood! why, then incision 1425
    Would let her out in saucers: sweet misprision!
  • Dumain. Once more I'll read the ode that I have writ.
  • Biron. Once more I'll mark how love can vary wit.
  • Dumain. [Reads]
    On a day—alack the day!— 1430
    Love, whose month is ever May,
    Spied a blossom passing fair
    Playing in the wanton air:
    Through the velvet leaves the wind,
    All unseen, can passage find; 1435
    That the lover, sick to death,
    Wish himself the heaven's breath.
    Air, quoth he, thy cheeks may blow;
    Air, would I might triumph so!
    But, alack, my hand is sworn 1440
    Ne'er to pluck thee from thy thorn;
    Vow, alack, for youth unmeet,
    Youth so apt to pluck a sweet!
    Do not call it sin in me,
    That I am forsworn for thee; 1445
    Thou for whom Jove would swear
    Juno but an Ethiope were;
    And deny himself for Jove,
    Turning mortal for thy love.
    This will I send, and something else more plain, 1450
    That shall express my true love's fasting pain.
    O, would the king, Biron, and Longaville,
    Were lovers too! Ill, to example ill,
    Would from my forehead wipe a perjured note;
    For none offend where all alike do dote. 1455
  • Longaville. [Advancing] Dumain, thy love is far from charity.
    You may look pale, but I should blush, I know,
    To be o'erheard and taken napping so.
  • Ferdinand. [Advancing] Come, sir, you blush; as his your case is such;
    You chide at him, offending twice as much; 1460
    You do not love Maria; Longaville
    Did never sonnet for her sake compile,
    Nor never lay his wreathed arms athwart
    His loving bosom to keep down his heart.
    I have been closely shrouded in this bush 1465
    And mark'd you both and for you both did blush:
    I heard your guilty rhymes, observed your fashion,
    Saw sighs reek from you, noted well your passion:
    Ay me! says one; O Jove! the other cries;
    One, her hairs were gold, crystal the other's eyes: 1470
    You would for paradise break faith, and troth;
    [To DUMAIN]
    And Jove, for your love, would infringe an oath.
    What will Biron say when that he shall hear 1475
    Faith so infringed, which such zeal did swear?
    How will he scorn! how will he spend his wit!
    How will he triumph, leap and laugh at it!
    For all the wealth that ever I did see,
    I would not have him know so much by me. 1480
  • Biron. Now step I forth to whip hypocrisy.
    Ah, good my liege, I pray thee, pardon me!
    Good heart, what grace hast thou, thus to reprove
    These worms for loving, that art most in love? 1485
    Your eyes do make no coaches; in your tears
    There is no certain princess that appears;
    You'll not be perjured, 'tis a hateful thing;
    Tush, none but minstrels like of sonneting!
    But are you not ashamed? nay, are you not, 1490
    All three of you, to be thus much o'ershot?
    You found his mote; the king your mote did see;
    But I a beam do find in each of three.
    O, what a scene of foolery have I seen,
    Of sighs, of groans, of sorrow and of teen! 1495
    O me, with what strict patience have I sat,
    To see a king transformed to a gnat!
    To see great Hercules whipping a gig,
    And profound Solomon to tune a jig,
    And Nestor play at push-pin with the boys, 1500
    And critic Timon laugh at idle toys!
    Where lies thy grief, O, tell me, good Dumain?
    And gentle Longaville, where lies thy pain?
    And where my liege's? all about the breast:
    A caudle, ho! 1505
  • Ferdinand. Too bitter is thy jest.
    Are we betray'd thus to thy over-view?
  • Biron. Not you to me, but I betray'd by you:
    I, that am honest; I, that hold it sin
    To break the vow I am engaged in; 1510
    I am betray'd, by keeping company
    With men like men of inconstancy.
    When shall you see me write a thing in rhyme?
    Or groan for love? or spend a minute's time
    In pruning me? When shall you hear that I 1515
    Will praise a hand, a foot, a face, an eye,
    A gait, a state, a brow, a breast, a waist,
    A leg, a limb?
  • Ferdinand. Soft! whither away so fast?
    A true man or a thief that gallops so? 1520
  • Biron. I post from love: good lover, let me go.


  • Costard. Some certain treason. 1525
  • Costard. Nay, it makes nothing, sir.
  • Ferdinand. If it mar nothing neither,
    The treason and you go in peace away together.
  • Jaquenetta. I beseech your grace, let this letter be read: 1530
    Our parson misdoubts it; 'twas treason, he said.
  • Ferdinand. Biron, read it over.
    [Giving him the paper]
    Where hadst thou it?
  • Costard. Of Dun Adramadio, Dun Adramadio.

[BIRON tears the letter]

  • Ferdinand. How now! what is in you? why dost thou tear it?
  • Biron. A toy, my liege, a toy: your grace needs not fear it. 1540
  • Longaville. It did move him to passion, and therefore let's hear it.
  • Dumain. It is Biron's writing, and here is his name.

[Gathering up the pieces]

  • Biron. [To COSTARD] Ah, you whoreson loggerhead! you were
    born to do me shame. 1545
    Guilty, my lord, guilty! I confess, I confess.
  • Biron. That you three fools lack'd me fool to make up the mess:
    He, he, and you, and you, my liege, and I,
    Are pick-purses in love, and we deserve to die. 1550
    O, dismiss this audience, and I shall tell you more.
  • Dumain. Now the number is even.
  • Biron. True, true; we are four.
    Will these turtles be gone?
  • Costard. Walk aside the true folk, and let the traitors stay.


  • Biron. Sweet lords, sweet lovers, O, let us embrace!
    As true we are as flesh and blood can be:
    The sea will ebb and flow, heaven show his face; 1560
    Young blood doth not obey an old decree:
    We cannot cross the cause why we were born;
    Therefore of all hands must we be forsworn.
  • Ferdinand. What, did these rent lines show some love of thine?
  • Biron. Did they, quoth you? Who sees the heavenly Rosaline, 1565
    That, like a rude and savage man of Inde,
    At the first opening of the gorgeous east,
    Bows not his vassal head and strucken blind
    Kisses the base ground with obedient breast?
    What peremptory eagle-sighted eye 1570
    Dares look upon the heaven of her brow,
    That is not blinded by her majesty?
  • Ferdinand. What zeal, what fury hath inspired thee now?
    My love, her mistress, is a gracious moon;
    She an attending star, scarce seen a light. 1575
  • Biron. My eyes are then no eyes, nor I Biron:
    O, but for my love, day would turn to night!
    Of all complexions the cull'd sovereignty
    Do meet, as at a fair, in her fair cheek,
    Where several worthies make one dignity, 1580
    Where nothing wants that want itself doth seek.
    Lend me the flourish of all gentle tongues,—
    Fie, painted rhetoric! O, she needs it not:
    To things of sale a seller's praise belongs,
    She passes praise; then praise too short doth blot. 1585
    A wither'd hermit, five-score winters worn,
    Might shake off fifty, looking in her eye:
    Beauty doth varnish age, as if new-born,
    And gives the crutch the cradle's infancy:
    O, 'tis the sun that maketh all things shine. 1590
  • Ferdinand. By heaven, thy love is black as ebony.
  • Biron. Is ebony like her? O wood divine!
    A wife of such wood were felicity.
    O, who can give an oath? where is a book?
    That I may swear beauty doth beauty lack, 1595
    If that she learn not of her eye to look:
    No face is fair that is not full so black.
  • Ferdinand. O paradox! Black is the badge of hell,
    The hue of dungeons and the suit of night;
    And beauty's crest becomes the heavens well. 1600
  • Biron. Devils soonest tempt, resembling spirits of light.
    O, if in black my lady's brows be deck'd,
    It mourns that painting and usurping hair
    Should ravish doters with a false aspect;
    And therefore is she born to make black fair. 1605
    Her favour turns the fashion of the days,
    For native blood is counted painting now;
    And therefore red, that would avoid dispraise,
    Paints itself black, to imitate her brow.
  • Dumain. To look like her are chimney-sweepers black. 1610
  • Longaville. And since her time are colliers counted bright.
  • Ferdinand. And Ethiopes of their sweet complexion crack.
  • Dumain. Dark needs no candles now, for dark is light.
  • Biron. Your mistresses dare never come in rain,
    For fear their colours should be wash'd away. 1615
  • Ferdinand. 'Twere good, yours did; for, sir, to tell you plain,
    I'll find a fairer face not wash'd to-day.
  • Biron. I'll prove her fair, or talk till doomsday here.
  • Ferdinand. No devil will fright thee then so much as she.
  • Dumain. I never knew man hold vile stuff so dear. 1620
  • Longaville. Look, here's thy love: my foot and her face see.
  • Biron. O, if the streets were paved with thine eyes,
    Her feet were much too dainty for such tread!
  • Dumain. O, vile! then, as she goes, what upward lies
    The street should see as she walk'd overhead. 1625
  • Ferdinand. But what of this? are we not all in love?
  • Biron. Nothing so sure; and thereby all forsworn.
  • Ferdinand. Then leave this chat; and, good Biron, now prove
    Our loving lawful, and our faith not torn.
  • Dumain. Ay, marry, there; some flattery for this evil. 1630
  • Longaville. O, some authority how to proceed;
    Some tricks, some quillets, how to cheat the devil.
  • Dumain. Some salve for perjury.
  • Biron. 'Tis more than need.
    Have at you, then, affection's men at arms. 1635
    Consider what you first did swear unto,
    To fast, to study, and to see no woman;
    Flat treason 'gainst the kingly state of youth.
    Say, can you fast? your stomachs are too young;
    And abstinence engenders maladies. 1640
    And where that you have vow'd to study, lords,
    In that each of you have forsworn his book,
    Can you still dream and pore and thereon look?
    For when would you, my lord, or you, or you,
    Have found the ground of study's excellence 1645
    Without the beauty of a woman's face?
    [From women's eyes this doctrine I derive;]
    They are the ground, the books, the academes
    From whence doth spring the true Promethean fire]
    Why, universal plodding poisons up 1650
    The nimble spirits in the arteries,
    As motion and long-during action tires
    The sinewy vigour of the traveller.
    Now, for not looking on a woman's face,
    You have in that forsworn the use of eyes 1655
    And study too, the causer of your vow;
    For where is any author in the world
    Teaches such beauty as a woman's eye?
    Learning is but an adjunct to ourself
    And where we are our learning likewise is: 1660
    Then when ourselves we see in ladies' eyes,
    Do we not likewise see our learning there?
    O, we have made a vow to study, lords,
    And in that vow we have forsworn our books.
    For when would you, my liege, or you, or you, 1665
    In leaden contemplation have found out
    Such fiery numbers as the prompting eyes
    Of beauty's tutors have enrich'd you with?
    Other slow arts entirely keep the brain;
    And therefore, finding barren practisers, 1670
    Scarce show a harvest of their heavy toil:
    But love, first learned in a lady's eyes,
    Lives not alone immured in the brain;
    But, with the motion of all elements,
    Courses as swift as thought in every power, 1675
    And gives to every power a double power,
    Above their functions and their offices.
    It adds a precious seeing to the eye;
    A lover's eyes will gaze an eagle blind;
    A lover's ear will hear the lowest sound, 1680
    When the suspicious head of theft is stopp'd:
    Love's feeling is more soft and sensible
    Than are the tender horns of cockl'd snails;
    Love's tongue proves dainty Bacchus gross in taste:
    For valour, is not Love a Hercules, 1685
    Still climbing trees in the Hesperides?
    Subtle as Sphinx; as sweet and musical
    As bright Apollo's lute, strung with his hair:
    And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
    Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony. 1690
    Never durst poet touch a pen to write
    Until his ink were temper'd with Love's sighs;
    O, then his lines would ravish savage ears
    And plant in tyrants mild humility.
    From women's eyes this doctrine I derive: 1695
    They sparkle still the right Promethean fire;
    They are the books, the arts, the academes,
    That show, contain and nourish all the world:
    Else none at all in ought proves excellent.
    Then fools you were these women to forswear, 1700
    Or keeping what is sworn, you will prove fools.
    For wisdom's sake, a word that all men love,
    Or for love's sake, a word that loves all men,
    Or for men's sake, the authors of these women,
    Or women's sake, by whom we men are men, 1705
    Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves,
    Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths.
    It is religion to be thus forsworn,
    For charity itself fulfills the law,
    And who can sever love from charity? 1710
  • Ferdinand. Saint Cupid, then! and, soldiers, to the field!
  • Biron. Advance your standards, and upon them, lords;
    Pell-mell, down with them! but be first advised,
    In conflict that you get the sun of them.
  • Longaville. Now to plain-dealing; lay these glozes by: 1715
    Shall we resolve to woo these girls of France?
  • Ferdinand. And win them too: therefore let us devise
    Some entertainment for them in their tents.
  • Biron. First, from the park let us conduct them thither;
    Then homeward every man attach the hand 1720
    Of his fair mistress: in the afternoon
    We will with some strange pastime solace them,
    Such as the shortness of the time can shape;
    For revels, dances, masks and merry hours
    Forerun fair Love, strewing her way with flowers. 1725
  • Ferdinand. Away, away! no time shall be omitted
    That will betime, and may by us be fitted.
  • Biron. Allons! allons! Sow'd cockle reap'd no corn;
    And justice always whirls in equal measure:
    Light wenches may prove plagues to men forsworn; 1730
    If so, our copper buys no better treasure.