The Princess and her party go into the woods on a hunt. Costard finds them and gives the Princess a letter, telling her it is for Rosaline from Berowne. The letter he gives her, however, is actually for Jaquenetta. Boyet reads the letter, which is signed "Don Armado," and the Princess tells Costard that he has delivered the letter mistakenly.
Holofernes, Sir Nathaniel, and Dull discuss the hunt they have just witnessed. They argue about whether the deer the Princess has killed was a pricket (a two-year-old deer), and Holofernes presents "an extemporal epitaph on the death of the deer" (IV.ii.50-1).
Jaquenetta and Costard arrive, and Jaquenetta asks Holofernes and Nathaniel to read the letter that Costard has delivered to her. She believes this to be the letter written to her by Don Armado, but as Holofernes reads, it turns out to be the letter from Berowne to Rosaline. Nathaniel reads the letter aloud, and he and Holofernes critique the poetry. They then inform Jaquenetta and Costard that the letter was actually written by Berowne--one of the King's lords--and ask them to bring the letter to the King.
When the Princess discusses her hunt, she reveals that she is seeking praise: "As I for praise alone now seek to spill/ The poor deer's blood, that my heart means no ill" (IV.i.34-5). Here she reveals her similarity to the King, who also desired praise and fame for his academe. The Princess also believes, "praise we may afford/ To any lady that subdues a lord" (IV.i.39-40). Since we have just learned that the Princess is seeking praise, we can infer that she also seeks to subdue a lord, thus foreshadowing the power she will exercise over the King later in the play.
Shakespeare presents the learned men as a farcical critique of scholarship and intellectuals. Dull is presented as a simple contrast to their learned ways; Holofernes and Nathaniel emphasize his lower level of intellect. After Dull makes a comment about the deer, Holofernes cries, "Twice-sod simplicity, bis coctus!/ O thou monster Ignorance, how deformed dost thou look!" (IV.ii.22- 3). Nathaniel tells Holofernes to remember that Dull "hath never fed of the dainties that are bred in a book;/ he hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink:/ his intellect is not replenisht; he is only an animal,/ only sensible in the duller parts" (IV.ii.24-7). Their emphasis on Dull's simplicity and ignorance and the pun on his name in the last line reinforce the contrast between Dull's inferior intellect and Holofernes and Nathaniel's affected scholarship.
Dull also demonstrates his lack of book-learning when he tries to repeat Holofernes' statement that "th'allusion holds in the exchange" (IV.ii.43), saying first "collusion" and then "pollusion" in his attempt to echo Holofernes' learned speech.
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