Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost Synopsis

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King Ferdinand of Navarre and his three friends, Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine, all swear to three years of diligent study. They further swear to abstain from all ordinary distractions like excess food and sleep during that time. In particular they pledge to avoid the company of females, keeping only a fantastical Spaniard named Don Armado and a country clown named Costard to entertain them.

Almost as soon as the four men sign the vow, Berowne remembers that the Princess of France and her three ladies, Rosaline, Maria, and Katharine are headed to Navarre’s court to collect a loan.

Meanwhile, Don Armado has fallen in love with the country maid Jaquenetta, who has an affection for Costard. When Costard is arrested for breaking the king’s edict about no female socializing, jealous Armado has Costard arrested by Dull the constable.

The ladies arrive, but the King will not allow them inside his house for fear of being forsworn, or breaking his vow. Disgruntled, the Princess and her entourage must camp in the field while they await missing papers regarding the loan. The delay gives the King and his friends time to fall in love with the ladies.

Elsewhere on the King’s estate, Don Armado frees Costard on condition he deliver a love letter to Jaquenetta. Soon after Berowne gives Costard a letter to Rosaline. In classic comedic style, the two secret letters get mixed up.

One by one the men are overheard declaring their love each for his lady. The men decide to disregard their sworn oath and woo the ladies with dancing, pageantry, and disguise. They costume themselves as Russians, but the ladies’ servant Boyet has warned the Princess of the trick. The ladies disguise themselves to foil the men’s silly plan. When the shifty-looking Muscovites enter, each woos the wrong woman. The confused Russians leave, and when the men return, the ladies mock them but soon succumb to their charms.

Don Armado recruits the schoolmaster Holofernes, Costard, and the page Moth to present the Nine Worthies—historical and legendary persons who personified chivalric ideals—as entertainment to the couples. The hilarious mood changes suddenly when Marcade brings news of a death in France.

As the ladies prepare to leave, the men insist that their love is genuine. The ladies challenge the lords to perform certain tasks for a year and a day before marriage can be considered. The lords agree with oaths to abide by the ladies’ wishes.


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