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Love's Labour's Lost

William Shakespeare

Act II, Scene i

Act I, Scenes i and ii

Act III, Scene i

Summary

The Princess of France arrives with her entourage. She sends Boyet, one of her attendants, to the King to announce their arrival, since she has heard the King's vow that "no woman may approach his silent court" (II.i.24). With Boyet gone, she asks her attendants about the other men with whom the King shares his oath. Maria describes Lord Longaville, Katherine mentions Dumaine, and Rosaline identifies Berowne.

Boyet returns and informs the Princess that the King intends to "lodge you in the field" (II.i.85) rather than break his oath and allow women in his house. The King enters with his lords and tells the Princess that he cannot bring her to the court because of his oath. She hands him a paper, and they discuss the payment of a hundred thousand crowns and the control of Aquitaine. (This particular matter seems confusing, but is completely insignificant to the plot.) The King says that he will return to visit the ladies again the next day, and he departs. Before they leave, Dumaine, Longaville, and Berowne each ask Boyet for the name of the woman they fancy.

When they have gone, Boyet tells the Princess that he believes the King is "infected" (II.i.230) with love for her and describes the behaviors he believes to be indicative of this condition.

Commentary

The Princess's reaction to her ladies' description of the three lords--"God bless my ladies! are they all in love,/ That every one her own hath garnished/ With such bedecking ornaments of praise?" (II.i.77-9)--foreshadows the love that will eventually develop between the ladies and lords. The Princess also foreshadows the King's love for her when she says, "[Y]ou'll prove perjured, if you make me stay" (II.i.113), suggesting that her continued presence will lead the King to break his oath.

With her response to the King's greeting, the Princess shows how she and her ladies will take the words of their soon-to-be suitors literally. When he welcomes her to the court of Navarre, she responds, "'Welcome' I have not yet: the roof of this court is too high to be yours. . ." (II.i.91-3). This line sets up the obstinate, combative position these women will take on the King's men and their words.

Boyet acts like a true member of the Princess's party, as illustrated through his response to the three lords' inquiries about the names of the ladies. He gives Longaville precise, literal answers to each of his questions, much to the lord's chagrin:


                

LONGAVILLE: I beseech you, a word: what is she in the white?

BOYET: A woman sometimes, an' you saw her in the light.

LONGAVILLE: Perchance light in the light. I desire her name.

BOYET: She hath but one for herself; to desire that were a shame.

LONGAVILLE: Pray you, sir, whose daughter?

BOYET: Her mother's, I have heard.

LONGAVILLE: God's blessing on your beard!

(II.i.197-203)

After the King's party leaves, the Princess tells Boyet that "it was well done of you to take him at his word" (II.i.217), suggesting her approval of this method of taking statements literally.

When Boyet and Maria jest with each other, the Princess tells them to save their wits for doing battle with the King's party: "Good wits will be jangling; but, gentles, agree:/ This civil war of wits were much better used/ On Navarre and his book-men; for here 'tis abused" (II.i.225- 7). Clearly the Princess plans to engage in a battle of wits with the King.

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