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Course Hero, "Love's Labour's Lost Study Guide," August 3, 2017, accessed December 15, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Loves-Labours-Lost/.

Love's Labour's Lost | Plot Summary

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Summary

Act 1

The setting of the play is the Spanish kingdom of Navarre. The play opens in a park inside the King of Navarre's court, and most of the play's action takes place here or in a field just outside the boundaries of the king's estate. The King of Navarre reminds three of his lords, Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville, that they have sworn to live as scholars with the king, and he wants them to sign a document to seal their oath. However, there are other stipulations—to live an austere life for three years, abstaining from excessive food and, more importantly, women. Dumaine and Longaville sign willingly, but Berowne hesitates, noting that the Princess of France is scheduled to be the king's guest very soon. Finally, Berowne too signs his name. Just then Constable Dull arrives with a letter for the king from the Spaniard Don Armado, accusing a country youth named Costard of fraternizing with a young woman named Jaquenetta.

Armado tells his page, Mote, that he is in love with Jaquenetta. When Jaquenetta arrives with Costard and Dull, Armado expresses his love to her directly. Armado instructs Mote to take Costard away to prison.

Act 2

The Princess of France arrives in Navarre, as scheduled. She is accompanied by three of her ladies—Rosaline, Maria, and Katherine. However, since the king and his lords have sworn not to admit women to court, the four women must stay in tents in a nearby field. While these negotiations go on, the king falls in love with the princess, and each of his three lords fall in love with one of the princess's three ladies: Berowne with Rosaline, Dumaine with Katherine, and Longaville with Maria.

Act 3

Armado gives Costard his freedom and provides him a love letter to deliver to Jaquenetta. Costard shortly runs into Berowne, who has Costard deliver a love letter he has written to Rosaline. After Costard leaves to deliver the two letters, Berowne speaks of his love for Rosaline.

Act 4

The princess and her ladies go out hunting, accompanied by a forester, an attendant lord named Boyet, and others of her entourage. Costard arrives to deliver his letter but mistakenly hands over Armado's letter instead of the one from Berowne intended for Rosaline. Boyet reads the letter and identifies it as being to Jaquenetta from Armado.

Later the schoolmaster Holofernes, the clergyman Nathaniel, and Dull discuss the princess's hunt, in which she shot a deer. As they discuss this at length, Costard and Jaquenetta enter. They bring the letter that Berowne has sent to Rosaline, though they are under the impression it is a letter sent to Jaquenetta. She asks them to read it to her, and they do. After discussing its poetic merits (it is a love poem), they say that it should be taken to the king. Costard and Jaquenetta set off to deliver it.

The king and his three lords each, alone, admit they are in love, and speak of the love poems they have written their ladies. As each confesses this secretly, another approaches, and the previous one hides to eavesdrop, so that in the end they are all found out. Berowne is the last because his letter arrives with Jaquenetta and Costard and is read without his permission. Having been found out, however, Berowne constructs an elaborate rationale of why it is acceptable for them to break their oaths for love. They all come around to this way of thinking and set off to court the ladies.

Act 5

Armado, Holofernes, Dull, and Costard plan a masque, or kind of play, called The Nine Worthies for the entertainment of the nobles. Meanwhile the king and his lords disguise themselves as Russians and visit the princess and her ladies, thinking this is an amusing way to court them. The princess, having word of this, decides that all the ladies will be masked when the men arrive. Furthermore, tokens of love that the men have sent them along with their love poems are exchanged so that the men, seeing the tokens, will go to the wrong ladies. The men arrive, and each man meets who he thinks is his own lady and vows his true love. Later the ladies make fun of the men, who did not know their own true loves and were so easily tricked.

The nobles watch the performance of The Nine Worthies, but soon a messenger arrives to tell the princess her father is dead. The delegation from France prepares to leave. The princess and her ladies tell the King of Navarre and his lords that they must wait a year before they can woo them again. The men agree.

Love's Labour's Lost Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action

Introduction

1 The king and lords vow to abstain from worldly pleasures.

Rising Action

2 The Princess of France arrives with her ladies.

3 The king and his lords fall in love with the women.

4 Don Armado falls in love with the dairy maid Jaquenetta.

5 Don Armado and Berowne give Costard love letters to deliver.

6 Costard delivers Don Armado's letter to Rosaline.

7 Costard delivers Berowne's letter to Jaquenetta.

8 Jaquenetta asks the schoolmaster to read the letter.

9 All four of the men are revealed to have broken their oaths.

10 The men woo the French ladies in ridiculous fashion.

Climax

11 News arrives that the princess's father has died.

Falling Action

12 The princess plans to return to France.

13 The men must wait to woo.

14 The men promise to wait a year for their ladies.

Resolution

15 A song is sung.

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