Love's Labour's Lost | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Love's Labour's Lost | Act 2, Scene 1 | Summary



The Princess of France arrives in Navarre with her three attending ladies, Rosaline, Maria, and Katherine. Boyet, an older lord, also accompanies the princess as an advisor. The princess, having heard of the King of Navarre's rule that no women may come to his court, sends Boyet to the king to announce their arrival. Once he leaves to do this task, the princess and her ladies discuss what they know of the king and his "vow-fellows." Maria says that Longaville is educated and has won glory in battle. Katherine says that Dumaine is known to be young and virtuous. Rosaline adds that Berowne is known as a merry, mirthful man with a "fair tongue" and "apt and gracious words." The ladies praise the men so greatly the princess wonders aloud, "God bless my ladies, are they all in love?"

Boyet returns and tells the princess that the King of Navarre will lodge her and her group in the field. When the king and his three lords arrive, the princess complains of the poor welcome but finally gives the king a paper that explains the reason for her visit (her father wants the rights to Aquitaine). As the king reads the paper, Berowne tries to make conversation with Rosaline, but she responds with insulting wit to his remarks. After the meeting is over and the four men have left, each of the lords returns alone, approaches Boyet separately, and asks him for information about one of the ladies. Dumaine asks about Katherine, Longaville asks about Maria, and Berowne asks about Rosaline. After the three lords leave for good, the ladies say they will have a "civil war of wits" with the King of Navarre and "his bookmen." Boyet tells the princess that he believes the king has fallen in love with her.


This scene introduces the ladies, who banter with each other in much the same way the men did in the first scene of the play. The arrival of a princess and her three ladies just a short time after the king and his three lords have sworn not to talk to women for three years emphasizes the ridiculousness of Shakespeare's plot. There is no realism here. And the situation becomes more ridiculous by the moment. The ladies must stay in tents in a field outside the king's court. The princess and the king argue over a political situation that has no effect on the plot except as the reason the ladies are in Navarre in the first place and as a pretext for their banter. Hints of the romantic entanglements that are soon to come are both obvious and subtle. Obvious, of course, are the three ladies' remarks about the lords they know, or know of. But clues that the princess will also find a match are found in the exchange between the princess and Boyet. Boyet calls the king "matchless Navarre," which carries a double meaning—the king is unique but also unmatched romantically. Boyet also compliments the princess and reminds her she, who is "held precious in the world's esteem," was chosen to "parley with the sole inheritor/Of all perfections that a man may owe"; that is, the King of Navarre. This exchange suggests that the king of France is hoping more will come of the diplomatic visit than simply Aquitaine.

The silliness of the plot adds to the general hilarity of the play as it builds layer upon layer of things that will most certainly go wrong. In beginning with four men who have sworn off women, then introducing four women, Shakespeare sets up expectations in the audience. The result of this setup seems inevitable. Shakespeare escalates the situation by having each lady already have prior experience meeting or hearing about one of the lords. Then those same men coincidently ask Boyet about those same women!

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