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Love's Labour's Lost | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Love's Labour's Lost | Quotes


Our court shall be a little academe,/Still and contemplative in living art.

King of Navarre, Act 1, Scene 1

The King of Navarre's ambition—and the purpose of the oath he asks Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine to take with him—is to make Navarre a "wonder of the world" known for its devotion to scholarship. His idealistic and impractical view of the world is tested as the men who swear not to see women shortly fall in love with ladies from France. It also clashes with the realities of political diplomacy since the king banishes women from the court just as the princess and her ladies arrive.


And how can that be true love which is falsely attempted?

Don Armado, Act 1, Scene 2

Don Armado, a visiting Spaniard who agrees to the king's oath, immediately falls in love with the wench Jaquenetta. The dilemma causes him to question the nature of love. This question—whether true love is possible when, in order to have it, one must break one's oath—is a fundamental question of the play. Although the king and his lords embark on their three-year abstinence somewhat lightheartedly, there's no doubt that breaking an oath reflects poorly on one's honor and trustworthiness.


Assist me, some extemporal god of rhyme, for I am sure I shall turn sonnet ... I am for whole volumes in folio.

Don Armado, Act 1, Scene 2

Don Armado is the first man in the play to fall in love, and so he is the first to write a love poem. The use of poems to communicate each man's love for a woman suggests they may prefer the process of courting more than the reality of the women they woo.


If my observation ... Deceive me not now, Navarre is infected.

Boyet, Act 2, Scene 1

After the King of Navarre comes to see the Princess of France outside his court's gates, Boyet observes that the king is "infected"; that is, in love with the princess. His characterization of love as an infection or illness aligns with similar attitudes during Elizabethan times, and suggests, as Berowne does elsewhere, that love is an involuntary disease with inevitable symptoms.


And I forsooth in love! I that have been love's whip,/A very beadle to a humorous sigh,/A critic, nay, a nightwatch constable.

Berowne, Act 3, Scene 1

Berowne, who thinks highly of himself, admits here that he has been quite a detractor of love in the past, comparing himself to a constable (beadle), a whip, a critic, and a nightwatch constable, yet is now in love. He seems surprised that he has fallen in love, even though he's the one who predicted oaths would soon be broken. Evidently he didn't think he'd be the first to fall.


Only for praise; and praise we may afford/To any lady that subdues a lord.

Princess of France, Act 4, Scene 1

The Princess of France, hunting a deer, says that her goal is to kill a deer—not for any malice but for the praise it will bring her. Then she goes on to say that any lady who can subdue a lord will also win praise. Of course the ladies do "subdue" the lords by thoroughly humiliating them when the men come disguised as Russians.


Do not call it sin in me/That I am forsworn for thee.

Dumaine, Act 4, Scene 3

These lines are part of a poem Dumaine writes to Katherine. Its simple meter and rhyme scheme reflects Dumain's rather simple intellect compared to his friends. Yet he, like the others, tries to frame his oath breaking as something more noble, or at least inevitable.


Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves,/Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths.

Berowne, Act 4, Scene 3

This quote shows the verbal gymnastics Berowne goes through to justify his oath breaking. Berowne's use of language to give a rationale for breaking his word is distinctly his own style, full of rhetorical gimmicks that sound good but don't mean much, such as "lose our oaths to find ourselves" rather than "lose ourselves to keep our oaths." Will deciding not to immediately pursue Rosaline really make Berowne "lose" himself? It sounds dramatic, and therefore compelling, but the logic is questionable.


Sir, it is the King's most sweet pleasure and affection to congratulate the Princess at her pavilion in the posteriors of this day, which the rude multitude call the afternoon.

Don Armado, Act 5, Scene 1

Wordiness, redundancy, silliness, and pretentiousness characterize Armado's language.


O, they have lived long on the almsbasket of words.

Costard, Act 5, Scene 1

Costard remarks that Holofernes and Nathaniel seem to rely on words more than they do on money. Since these two characters spend most of their time crafting intricate verbal creations and critiquing the language of others, Costard's analysis might seem like a statement of the obvious, but it is an apt, clever metaphor, and it shows that his simple ways are an asset when it comes to seeing things as they truly are. He is uneducated but not stupid.


Bear with me, I am sick;/I'll leave it by degrees.

Berowne, Act 5, Scene 2

Rosaline, unimpressed by Berowne's verbal excess, wants him to express his love for her in clearer terms. He says he will, but even in saying so he resorts to his complicated, roundabout way of speaking. When she calls him on this, he says he will try to be better "by degrees."


If this austere insociable life/Change not your offer made in heat of blood ... Then, at the expiration of the year ... I will be thine.

Princess of France, Act 5, Scene 2

When the Princess of France learns that her father has died, she makes plans to leave at once. The flirty shenanigans that have been leading up to an ending in which each couple lives happily ever after are cut short, and the plot redirects. The princess tells the King of Navarre that if he wants her, he will spend a year in a monastery while she mourns her father, and then she will be his if the ascetic lifestyle doesn't cool his passion. The task she demands is not that much different from the oath sworn by the men at the beginning of the play, but the motivations are more serious and show real concerns about the depth of the king's love.


Our wooing doth not end like an old play./Jack hath not Jill.

Berowne, Act 5, Scene 2

Berowne acknowledges that the conclusion of this story shatters all the expectations the audience has for its ending. As a comedy it should end with all of the couples getting married, or at least promising to be married. Consider these lines, in contrast, that Puck speaks in Act 3, Scene 2 of A Midsummer Night's Dream: "Jack shall have Jill;/Nought shall go ill;/The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well."


I am sorry, madam, for the news I bring/Is heavy in my tongue.

Marcade, Act 5, Scene 2

A messenger from France, Marcade, arrives at the height of the festivities and entertainment at court to announce the death of the princess's father. This changes the play's ending from the expected weddings to a more somber parting of the four couples.


You that way; we this way.

Don Armado, Act 5, Scene 2

The enigmatic final line of the play can be interpreted as describing a division between the players and audience, between the masques and the nobles watching the masque, between the men and the women, or between those of France and those of Navarre. In any case it is an abrupt ending to cap off an odd and thought-provoking play.

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