Shakespeare at Winedale

Love’s Labour’s Lost Synopsis

Love's Labour's Lost Graphic

Love’s Labour’s Lost opens with Ferdinand, the King of Navarre, founding an academy along with his three lords, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine, with fame as the final goal of their scholarship.  The King asks his lords to swear their commitment to scholarship for three years.  While Longaville and Dumaine agree, Berowne voices concerns about the strictness of the King’s oath, finding it hard “Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep.”  However, he finally agrees to take the oath with the other lords.  The constable, Dull, then enters with Costard, a clown, and a letter from Don Armado, the play’s fantastical Spaniard, explaining that he has caught Costard with Jaquenetta, a country wench. Don Armado subsequently confesses to his page, Moth, that he himself loves Jaquenetta, and laments that he will be forsworn because of his love.  

The Princess of France then arrives with her ladies, Rosaline, Maria, and Katherine.  She sends her attendant Boyet to announce their arrival to the King.  Boyet, upon returning, informs the Princess that the King intends to “lodge you in the field” in order to uphold his oath, which forbids women in his house.  Entering with his lords, the King tells the Princess of his oath and negotiates the control of Aquitaine.  Before leaving, each of the King’s lords asks the name of the lady he fancies.  Dumaine asks for Katherine’s name, Longaville asks for Maria’s, and Berowne for Rosaline’s.  After the King and company leave, Boyet tells the Princess that he believes the King to be “infected” with love for her.

Meanwhile, Armado has told Costard that he will be set free from his punishment if he delivers a letter to Jaquenetta.  He agrees, and Armado exits as Berowne enters with his own letter.  He asks Costard to deliver his letter to Rosaline; Costard agrees.  When Costard goes to deliver Berowne’s letter, however, he accidently switches it with Armado’s letter.  Jaquenetta, upon receiving the wrong letter from Costard, brings it to Holofernes and Sir Nathaniel, to read for her.  They tell her that the letter was meant for someone else and decide to bring it to the King. 

From a hiding spot, Berowne watches the King read about his love for the Princess.  The King then hides as Longaville enters, reading about his own love for Maria; but Longaville soon hides himself when Dumaine enters, reading an ode he has written for Katherine.  The King reveals himself to Dumaine and Longaville, scolding them for breaking the oath taken in the first scene.  Berowne then comes out of hiding to expose the King’s love for the Princess.  The four men then decide to court the woman they have each fallen in love with.

In disguise as Muscovites, the King and the lord arrive at the Princess’s camp to woo them.  However, the Princess and ladies, expecting the men to be in disguise, switch their own favors to confuse their suitors.  When the pranks are uncovered, the eight lovers watch a show of the Nine Worthies, performed by Armado, Sir Nathaniel, and Holofernes.  A messenger interrupts the performance to announce the death of the Princess’s father.  As she and the ladies prepare to return to France, they ask the King and his lords to wait twelve months to seek their hands again.