The King of Navarre taken from UVIC, English Dept. website.

"LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST is a frothy but bitter-sweet comedy about love and romance in which four well intentioned but misguided young men discover the impossibility of denying the power of true love.

The King of Navarre and his three companions swear a very public oath to study together and to renounce women for three years. Their honour is immediately put to the test by the arrival of the Princess of France and her three lovely companions. It's love at first sight for all concerned followed by the men's highly entertaining but hopeless efforts to disguise their feelings.

Also inhabited by a gallery of comic characters, LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST is a delightful battle of the sexes enlivened by dance and songs from the great classics of cinema musical comedy. "

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Electronic Text (E-text online)

Synopsis of the play:



Another summary:

Study Questions:

Study Questions

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Why does the King plan to study and fast for three years? 1.1.12-14.

What is the penalty for a woman who comes within a mile of the court? 1.1.123.

What has Costard done that merits punishment? 1.1.273 (and earlier).


How does the King get around avoid breaking his oath when the Princess arrives? 2.1.86.

Why must the Princess wait for the answer to her request? 2.1.167.


Who is Don Armado in love with? 3.1.124.

And who is Berowne in love with? 3.1.160.


Costard mistakes the letters he delivers. The first is from Don Armado the Jaquenetta; who does Costard think it is from -- and to? 4.1.104-5.

Who does Jacquenetta take her (mistaken) letter to? 4.2.96.

When the four lords enter to read their sonnets, who is last to enter and first to be discovered? 4.3.81 and 4.3.131.

How is Berowne's sonnet discovered? 4.3.200-7.


How does Moth explain the extraordinary language of the Pedants? 5.1.36.

What does Don Armado ask the Pedants to do for the King? See 5.1.110.

How do the ladies know that the lords are coming in disguise? See 5.2.122

The ladies mask, and swap "favours" so that the lords will be confused; who does the King woo in error? 5.2.207

What is the Princess's response to the King's invitation to her to come finally inside to court? 5.2.361

What makes Berowne angry with Boyet? 5.2.480

What makes Berowne pleased with Boyet? 5.2.566

What news does Marcade bring? 5.2.730

How is the King to earn the Princess's love? See 5.2.810

How is Berowne to earn the love of Rosalind? See 5.2.857


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Look at the King's opening speech in Act 1, scene1. What is his plan, as he describes it? What are the finer details as listed by Berowne? Note the affiliation with monastic rules and with the concept of the scholar-king from Aristotle, as well as thematic ties to Measure for Measure. What do you think of this plan? What does its presence in a comic world tell you about it? How does it affect the King's reign and his political ties within this play?




Look at the response of each of the three courtiers to the plan in 1,1. What do we learn about each of them from their reactions? Note the minor deities and mythical characters associated with each courtier throughout the play. How do these associations appear in the show of the Nine Worthies at the end? Note how we are constantly being invited by the author to compare all of these characters with their female counterparts and with the play's clowns and ridiculous characters. Can anyone in this play stick to the King's plan? Why or why not? What does the oath involve that makes it so problematic?




Compare the King to Armado. What do they think of each other? What is Armado like? What is his embarrassing secret revealed at the play's end? What does this tell you about him? What does it represent symbolically in the world of this play? How does Armado compare to the King's idea of women? To the actual women of the play? To Holofernes and Nathaniel and Costard? To Moth? All of these characters can be usefully compared to each other based on their manipulations of language.




Compare the Princess' opening speech in Act 2 to that of the King in Act 1. How do the characters compare? What do we learn about the Princess from her opening speech? How does she use language? How does she regard the King? How does she relate to Boyet? How does he use language and what are his goals?




Look at how the ladies describe each of the courtiers of the King. How does each pair get along when they finally meet? How does each man fall from his oath?




This play is loaded with poetry, especially sonnets. Note the shifts back and forth between poetry and prose. When do these occur? Which form does each character prefer? Why? How do the love letters compare? Does Costard know what he is doing when he mixes them up?




Act 4, scene 2 is the ideological center of this play. What is the purpose of each scene? How does it illustrate major themes within this play? What is the symbolism of the hunt in Act 4? What is the outcome? Why is this unusual? Why does it work out this way?




What is Holofernes' reaction to the sonnet in 4,2? Who are Holofernes and Nathaniel and what are their relationships with the courtiers? What is Holofernes doing in this play? Why include a character whose speech is so unintelligible when rendered in a play's performance? NOTE: Shakespeare's audience generally would have found Holofernes' language more comprehensible than we tend to, but remember that the speeches are delivered in a fairly bombastic style and at a good speed, as this character's goal is to awe and impress, if not overwhelm the listener.




Why the Nine Worthies? Why Muscovites? What keeps going wrong with the King's plans towards the Princess and her ladies? Why? What are all those long speeches about blackness about in Act 4? What is the final solution of the courtiers with reference to their having to break their vows? How do the ladies respond to the idea that the men have broken their vows? Why is the breaking of vows such a crucial issue between the 2 groups?




What is the Princess' plan in Act 5? Why? How does it work out? What finally makes the "labours" lost? Think about the relationship of the Princess politically to her father and to the King within the play. What would be the political consequences of her father's death in a real world setting? What is she doing at the King's court anyway? How would the King's advances appear to someone on such a mission for a foreign king? What is the final condition established for the men to win the hands of the women? Why? Will they be able to win the women in the end? Why or why not?




What is that final song about? What do owls and cuckoos have to do with anything? Who is "greasy Joan" and why should she be brought into the play at this point?



Additional study questions:


Discussion of the court and love in the play:

A brief look at the courtly language in the play:

Notes about "Unmasking the Masquers":

Discussion of the play's conclusion:

Online essay :

"O base and obscure vulgar!": Popular Theatre and the Performance of the First Scene of Love's Labour's Lost:

Site with many links to the play:


Performance of Love's Labour's Lost

Review of Performance by Shakespeare Co.

Reviews of Kenneth Branaugh's film version of the play

Official Film website