Love’s Labour’s Lost follows the attempts of four noblemen to keep their minds on scholarship and away from women, but who are quickly deterred by four beautiful women who take great delight in mocking their inability to keep their oaths.
King Ferdinand of Navarre and his three best noblemen: Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine, have all taken a vow of celibacy and scholarship for three years. Ferdinand wants to make Navarre a place of learning and power, and he believes that this will be the best example to set to get the realm to that point. As such, he orders that all women must stay a mile away from his Navarre. At the same time, a sub-plot involving Don Adriano de Armado arrives in the form of a letter, in which Armado details catching Costard and Jaquenetta, two people of a lower class, consorting together outside of marriage or betrothal. It is later revealed that Don Armado falls in love with Jaquenetta, and he writes her a letter for Costard to deliver to her.
The Princess of France arrives to speak to King Ferdinand about state issues regarding Aquitaine. However, the king and his men must ride out to meet her at her camp, since women are not permitted in the city. The men instantly fall in love with the princess and her ladies in waiting: Berowne falls for Rosaline; Longaville falls for Maria; and Dumaine falls for Katherine. The king himself falls for the princess. Berowne decides to send a letter of declaration of his love to Rosaline through Costard, since he has signed the oath of celibacy with the king. Costard accidentally delivers Berowne’s letter to Jaquenetta, who brings it to a schoolmaster named Holofernes to translate it for her. He suggests that she needs to show it to the king, because it was not meant for her.
One by one, each of the king’s men reveal their love for the French princess’ ladies. While Ferdinand initially tries to stand by his vow, he realizes that they know he is in love with the princess. When he sees Berowne’s letter, even though it is treason, he forgives him and the men decide to send the ladies ornate gifts. The women are a bit scornful of the men because they are so quick to break their oaths. They then learn that the men are coming to them disguised as “Muscovites”, or Russians, in an attempt to woo the ladies. The ladies decide to have their own fun and wear masks to confuse the men. When the men return undisguised, the ladies use Boyet to mock the Russian men who were just there. The men are perturbed, because they do not realize that the women know their scheme. Finally, all is revealed, and everyone sits down to watch a play called the Nine Worthies, which details the accomplishments of nine historical men who embody chivalric virtues. In the middle of the play, the princess receives word that her father has died. She and her ladies depart, vowing that they will each take a year to mourn and that the men should each complete a year’s task in order to prove their love to the ladies, if their love is true. Each man falls all over himself in promising to wait for the women.
Date Published: 1598
Major Themes: Scholarship and Honor; Love and Lust; Men vs. Women
Famous Quote: “This field shall hold me, and so hold your vow. Nor God nor I delights in perjured men.”