Love's Labour's Lost

William Shakespeare

Preview: Issue 1 of 11

SCENE: Navarre


SCENE I. The King of Navarre's park

[Enter the King, BEROWNE, LONGAVILLE, and DUMAIN.]

KING Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives, Live regist'red upon our brazen tombs, And then grace us in the disgrace of death; When, spite of cormorant devouring Time, The endeavour 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, Berowne, 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 resolv'd; '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.

DUMAINE 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.

BEROWNE 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.

KING Your oath is pass'd to pass away from these.

BEROWNE 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, Berowne, and to the rest.

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

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

BEROWNE Things hid and barr'd, you mean, from common sense?

KING Ay, that is study's god-like recompense.

BEROWNE 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.

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

BEROWNE Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain Which, with pain purchas'd, 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.

KING How well he's read, to reason against reading!

DUMAINE Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!

LONGAVILLE He weeds the corn, and still lets grow the weeding.

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

DUMAINE How follows that?

BEROWNE Fit in his place and time.

DUMAINE In reason nothing.

BEROWNE Something then in rime.

LONGAVILLE Berowne is like an envious sneaping frost That bites the first-born infants of the spring.

BEROWNE 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 shows; 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.

KING Well, sit out; go home, Berowne; adieu.

BEROWNE 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.

KING How well this yielding rescues thee from shame!

BEROWNE 'Item. That no woman shall come within a mile of my court.' Hath this been proclaimed?

LONGAVILLE Four days ago.

BEROWNE Let's see the penalty. 'On pain of losing her tongue.' Who devised this penalty?

LONGAVILLE Marry, that did I.

BEROWNE Sweet lord, and why?

LONGAVILLE To fright them hence with that dread penalty.

BEROWNE 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 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 mild 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 th' admired princess hither.

KING What say you, lords? why, this was quite forgot.

BEROWNE So study evermore is over-shot: 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.

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

BEROWNE 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; [Subscribes] 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?

KING 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 who 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.

BEROWNE 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?

BEROWNE 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.

BEROWNE This is he.

DULL Signior Arm—Arm—commends you. There's villainy abroad: this letter will tell you more.

COSTARD Sir, the contempts thereof are as touching me.

KING A letter from the magnificent Armado.

BEROWNE How long soever the matter, I hope in God for high words.

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

BEROWNE To hear, or forbear laughing?

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

BEROWNE 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.

BEROWNE 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.

BEROWNE For the following, sir?

COSTARD As it shall follow in my correction; and God defend the right!

KING Will you hear this letter with attention?

BEROWNE As we would hear an oracle.

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

KING '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.

KING 'So it is,'—

COSTARD It may be so; but if he say it is so, he is, in telling true, but so.—

KING Peace!

COSTARD Be to me, and every man that dares not fight!

KING No words!

COSTARD Of other men's secrets, I beseech you.

KING '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 upon; it is ycleped thy park. Then for the place where; where, I mean, I did encounter that obscene and most 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,'—


KING 'that unlettered small-knowing soul,'—


KING 'that shallow vassal,'—

COSTARD Still me.—

KING 'which, as I remember, hight Costard,'—


KING 'sorted and consorted, contrary to thy established proclaimed edict and continent canon, with—with,—O! with but with this I passion to say wherewith,'—

COSTARD With a wench.

KING' 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, Antony Dull, a man of good repute, carriage, bearing, and estimation.'

DULL Me, an't please you; I am Antony Dull.

KING 'For Jaquenetta,—so is the weaker vessel called, which I apprehended with the aforesaid swain,—I keep her as a vessel of thy 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.'

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

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

COSTARD Sir, I confess the wench.

KING Did you hear the proclamation?

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

KING 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 damosel.

KING Well, it was proclaimed 'damosel'.

COSTARD This was no damosel neither, sir; she was a 'virgin'.

KING It is so varied too; for it was proclaimed 'virgin'.

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

KING This maid not serve your turn, sir.

COSTARD This maid will serve my turn, sir.

KING 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.

KING And Don Armado shall be your keeper. My Lord Berowne, see him delivered o'er: And go we, lords, to put in practice that Which each to other hath so strongly sworn.


BEROWNE 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!


Read Love's Labour's Lost today
in Serial Reader

Mastodon Mastodon