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Love's Labour's Lost | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Love's Labour's Lost | Act 3, Scene 1 | Summary



Armado gives a key to Mote and tells him to let Costard out and return with him because he wants Costard to deliver a love letter to Jaquenetta. Mote leaves and returns with Costard, as instructed. Armado grants Costard his liberty in return for the delivery of the love letter. Armado even gives Costard a coin as "remuneration." Armado and Mote exit as Costard admires the remuneration, but soon Berowne enters. Berowne gives Costard a letter to deliver to Rosaline, along with a "gardon"—a reward (more money). Costard is excited about both the remuneration and the gardon, which he thinks are fancy names for the coins.

Once Costard leaves, Berowne rants about the fact that he is in love, which he sees as retribution for his oath not to see women: "a plague/That Cupid will impose for my neglect/Of his almighty dreadful little might." He is also upset that he is going to have to break his vow.


This scene introduces an element of comic suspense due to dramatic irony—one of Shakespeare's most commonly used literary elements. Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows more than the characters, and it is used to build suspense in both comedies and tragedies. In this scene the audience sees both Armado and Berowne give Costard a letter, and given Costard's tendency to confusion (as shown, for example, in his misunderstanding of the words remuneration and gardon), the end result of such a situation can only be an embarrassing mix-up.

The theme of the conventions of love is developed by Berowne's speech at the end of the scene. He vents his frustration by insulting first Cupid. Berowne also references some of the conventions associated with romantic love at the time. Those who were in love were expected to sigh, groan, fold their arms in a sad manner, write love poems (rhymes), loiter, and generally be malcontented. They were also expected to compliment their lover's beauty. Berowne doesn't want to do any of these things, although even his sardonic description highlights Rosalind's beauty. But in the end he gives in and accepts the fact he must "love, write, sigh, pray, sue, groan" if he is to be in love. Whether he is correct in thinking these conventions are part of true love is another concern, and one Berowne will get to eventually.

The theme of reputation is also developed by Berowne's lament that the worst part of being in love is that he will be "perjured"; that is, shown to be a liar when he breaks his oath. He seems mainly concerned about how being in love (and forsworn) will make him look to others, especially since, in the past, he has been critical of love. It is hard not to draw a parallel with Benedick of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, and many critics believe that there is more than a little Berowne in Benedick, a character created several years later. Like Berowne, Benedick is a known critic of love, and when he himself falls in love he worries about how that will look to others.

Shakespeare's love of language, especially poetry in all its forms, comes through loud and clear in both the lords-and-ladies plotline and in the subplot. Berowne has written a love letter to Rosaline, which will later be revealed to be a poem. And the interaction between Costard, Mote, and Armado also concerns poetry. When Costard enters with Mote, Armado wants to know what happened to Costard's shin, which is injured. He says "l'envoi begin," meaning for Costard to explain what happened to his shin. L'envoi refers to the last lines of a poem that explain or shed light on what it means. Costard, not knowing the word l'envoi, thinks Armado is asking him if he has put a salve on the injury. Then Armado tells Costard that l'envoi is "an epilogue or discourse to make plain/Some obscure precedence that hath tofore been sain"—something like the answer to a riddle. To illustrate, Costard uses a funny little riddling poem: "The fox, the ape, and the humble-bee/Were still at odds, being but three." These lines of his poem include a play on the words odds and three since three is an odd number and also, three animals might be divided unevenly when there are an odd number, causing strife. The conclusion of the poem, "Until the goose came out of door,/Staying the odds by adding four," resolves the problem of the first lines by suggesting that four is an even number and that four animals might be more evenly divided and so more peaceful. Costard then answers the original question about his shin injury in a similar poem: "I, Costard, running out, that was safely within,/Fell over the threshold and broke my shin." This rather sweet exchange between the three characters reveals Shakespeare's affection for silly rhymes, goofy math jokes, and poems of all sorts.

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