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Love's Labour's Lost

Please see the bottom of the page for explanatory notes.

 Enter the PRINCESS, and her train,
PRINCESS Was that the king, that spurred his horse so hard 
 Against the steep uprising of the hill? 
BOYET I know not; but I think it was not he. 
PRINCESS Whoe'er a' was, a' show'd a mounting mind.
 Well, lords, to-day we shall have our dispatch: 
 On Saturday we will return to France. 
 Then, forester, my friend, where is the bush 
 That we must stand and play the murtherer in? 
Forester Hereby, upon the edge of yonder coppice;
 A stand where you may make the fairest shoot. 10
PRINCESS I thank my beauty, I am fair that shoot, 
 And thereupon thou speak'st the fairest shoot. 
Forester Pardon me, madam, for I meant not so. 
PRINCESS What, what? first praise me and again say no?
 O short-lived pride! Not fair? alack for woe! 
Forester Yes, madam, fair. 
PRINCESS Nay, never paint me now:

 Where fair is not, praise cannot mend the brow. 
 Here, good my glass, take this for telling true:
 Fair payment for foul words is more than due. 
Forester Nothing but fair is that which you inherit. 20
PRINCESS See see, my beauty will be saved by merit! 
 O heresy in fair, fit for these days! 
 A giving hand, though foul, shall have fair praise.
 But come, the bow: now mercy goes to kill, 
 And shooting well is then accounted ill. 
 Thus will I save my credit in the shoot: 
 Not wounding, pity would not let me do't; 
 If wounding, then it was to show my skill,
 That more for praise than purpose meant to kill. 
 And out of question so it is sometimes, 30
 Glory grows guilty of detested crimes, 
 When, for fame's sake, for praise, an outward part, 
 We bend to that the working of the heart;
 As I for praise alone now seek to spill 
 The poor deer's blood, that my heart means no ill. 
BOYET Do not curst wives hold that self-sovereignty 
 Only for praise sake, when they strive to be 
 Lords o'er their lords?
PRINCESS Only for praise: and praise we may afford 
 To any lady that subdues a lord. 
BOYET Here comes a member of the commonwealth. 
 Enter COSTARD. 
COSTARD God dig-you-den all! Pray you, which is the head lady? 
PRINCESS Thou shalt know her, fellow, by the rest that have no heads.
COSTARD Which is the greatest lady, the highest? 
PRINCESS The thickest and the tallest. 
COSTARD The thickest and the tallest! it is so; truth is truth. 
 An your waist, mistress, were as slender as my wit, 
 One o' these maids' girdles for your waist should be fit. 50
 Are not you the chief woman? you are the thickest here. 
PRINCESS What's your will, sir? what's your will? 
COSTARD I have a letter from Monsieur Biron to one Lady Rosaline. 
PRINCESS O, thy letter, thy letter! he's a good friend of mine: 
 Stand aside, good bearer. Boyet, you can carve;
 Break up this capon. 
BOYET I am bound to serve. 
 This letter is mistook, it importeth none here; 
 It is writ to Jaquenetta. 
PRINCESS We will read it, I swear.
 Break the neck of the wax, and every one give ear. 59
 [ Reads. ] 
BOYET 'By heaven, that thou art fair, is most infallible; 
 true, that thou art beauteous; truth itself, that 
 thou art lovely. More fairer than fair, beautiful 
 than beauteous, truer than truth itself, have
 commiseration on thy heroical vassal! The 
 magnanimous and most illustrate king Cophetua set 
 eye upon the pernicious and indubitate beggar 
 Zenelophon; and he it was that might rightly say, 
 Veni, vidi, vici; which to annothanize in the 70
 vulgar,--O base and obscure vulgar!--videlicet, He 
 came, saw, and overcame: he came, one; saw two; 
 overcame, three. Who came? the king: why did he 
 come? to see: why did he see? to overcome: to 
 whom came he? to the beggar: what saw he? the
 beggar: who overcame he? the beggar. The 
 conclusion is victory: on whose side? the king's. 
 The captive is enriched: on whose side? the 
 beggar's. The catastrophe is a nuptial: on whose 
 side? the king's: no, on both in one, or one in
 both. I am the king; for so stands the comparison: 
 thou the beggar; for so witnesseth thy lowliness. 
 Shall I command thy love? I may: shall I enforce 
 thy love? I could: shall I entreat thy love? I 
 will. What shalt thou exchange for rags? robes;
 for tittles? titles; for thyself? me. Thus, 
 expecting thy reply, I profane my lips on thy foot, 
 my eyes on thy picture. and my heart on thy every 
 part. Thine, in the dearest design of industry, 
 Thus dost thou hear the Nemean lion roar 
 'Gainst thee, thou lamb, that standest as his prey. 
 Submissive fall his princely feet before, 
 And he from forage will incline to play: 
 But if thou strive, poor soul, what art thou then?
 Food for his rage, repasture for his den. 
PRINCESS What plume of feathers is he that indited this letter? 
 What vane? what weathercock? did you ever hear better? 
BOYET I am much deceived but I remember the style. 91
PRINCESS Else your memory is bad, going o'er it erewhile.
BOYET This Armado is a Spaniard, that keeps here in court; 
 A phantasime, a Monarcho, and one that makes sport 
 To the prince and his bookmates. 
PRINCESS Thou fellow, a word: 
 Who gave thee this letter? 105
COSTARD I told you; my lord. 
PRINCESS To whom shouldst thou give it? 
COSTARD From my lord to my lady. 
PRINCESS From which lord to which lady? 
COSTARD From my lord Biron, a good master of mine, 109
 To a lady of France that he call'd Rosaline. 
PRINCESS Thou hast mistaken his letter. Come, lords, away. 
 Here, sweet, put up this: 'twill be thine another day. 
 Exeunt PRINCESS and train. 
BOYET Who is the suitor? who is the suitor? 
ROSALINE Shall I teach you to know?
BOYET Ay, my continent of beauty. 
ROSALINE Why, she that bears the bow. 
 Finely put off! 
BOYET My lady goes to kill horns; but, if thou marry, 
 Hang me by the neck, if horns that year miscarry.
 Finely put on! 
ROSALINE Well, then, I am the shooter. 
BOYET And who is your deer? 
ROSALINE If we choose by the horns, yourself come not near. 120
 Finely put on, indeed!
MARIA You still wrangle with her, Boyet, and she strikes 
 at the brow. 
BOYET But she herself is hit lower: have I hit her now? 
ROSALINE Shall I come upon thee with an old saying, that was 
 a man when King Pepin of France was a little boy, as
 touching the hit it? 
BOYET So I may answer thee with one as old, that was a 
 woman when Queen Guinover of Britain was a little 
 wench, as touching the hit it. 
ROSALINE Thou canst not hit it, hit it, hit it,
 Thou canst not hit it, my good man. 
BOYET An I cannot, cannot, cannot, 
 An I cannot, another can. 
COSTARD By my troth, most pleasant: how both did fit it! 
MARIA A mark marvellous well shot, for they both did hit it.
BOYET A mark! O, mark but that mark! A mark, says my lady! 
 Let the mark have a prick in't, to mete at, if it may be. 
MARIA Wide o' the bow hand! i' faith, your hand is out. 
COSTARD Indeed, a' must shoot nearer, or he'll ne'er hit the clout. 
BOYET An if my hand be out, then belike your hand is in. 130
COSTARD Then will she get the upshoot by cleaving the pin. 
MARIA Come, come, you talk greasily; your lips grow foul. 
COSTARD She's too hard for you at pricks, sir: challenge her to bowl. 
BOYET I fear too much rubbing. Good night, my good owl. 
 Exeunt BOYET and MARIA. 
COSTARD By my soul, a swain! a most simple clown!
 Lord, Lord, how the ladies and I have put him down! 
 Sola, sola! 
 Shout within. 
 Exit COSTARD, running. 

Love's Labour's Lost, Act 4, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 1
From Love's Labour's Lost. Ed. William Rolfe. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Abbreviations Used in the Notes

Act IV.

Scene I.

1. Was that the king, etc. "This is just one of those touches that S. throws in, to mark the way in which a woman unconsciously betrays her growing preference for a man who loves her. The princess recognizes the horseman, though he is at such a distance that her attendant lord is unable to distinguish whether it be the king or not; and then she immediately covers her self-betrayal by the pretendedly indifferent words, Whoever he was, etc. S. in no one of his wondrous and numerous instances of insight into the human heart more marvellously manifests his magic power of perception than in his discernment of the workings of female nature; its delicacies, its subtleties, its reticences, its revelations, its innocent reserves, and its artless confessions. He, of all masculine writers, was most truly feminine in his knowledge of what passes within a woman's heart, and the multiform ways in which it expresses itself through a woman's acts, words, manner nay even her very silence. He knew the eloquence of a look, the significance of a gesture, the interpretation of a tacit admission; and, moreover, he knew how to convey them in his might of expression by ingenious inference" (Clarke).

10. Stand. Used in the technical sense of the hunter's station or hiding-place when waiting for game. See Cymb. p. 182. K. remarks: "Royal and noble ladies, in the days of Elizabeth, delighted in the somewhat unrefined sport of shooting deer with a cross-bow. In the 'alleys green' of Windsor or of Greenwich parks, the queen would take her stand, on an elevated platform, and, as the pricket or the buck was driven past her, would aim the death-shaft, amid the acclamations of her admiring courtiers. The ladies, it appears, were skilful enough at this sylvan butchering. Sir Francis Leake writes to the Earl of Shrewsbury 'Your lordship has sent me a very great and fat stag, the welcomer being stricken by your right honourable lady's hand.' The practice was as old as the romances of the Middle Ages. But, in those days, the ladies were sometimes not so expert as the Countess of Shrewsbury; for, in the history of Prince Arthur, a fair huntress wounds Sir Launcelot of the Lake, instead of the stag at which she aims."

17. Fair. For its use as a noun, cf. M. N. D. p. 130, note on Your fair.

18. Good my glass. My good glass; referring sportively to the forester. Johnson supposed the glass to be "a small mirror set in gold hanging at her girdle," according to the fashion of French ladies at that time and of English ladies also, as Stubbes tells us in his Anatomie of Abuses: "they must haue their looking glasses caryed with them whersoeuer they go. And good reason, for els how cold they see the deuil in them?"

35. That my heart means no ill. That is, means no ill to. That is treated like the dative him in "never meant him any ill" (2 Hen. VI. ii. 391), etc.

36. Curst. Shrewish. See M. N. D. p. 167. Self-sovereignty. "Not a sovereignty over, but in themselves. So self-sufficiency, self-consequence, etc." (Mason). Schmidt takes it to be = "that self sovereignty," or that same sovereignty. Cf. Gr. 20.

37. Praise sake. See Cor. p. 231 (on Conscience sake), or Gr. 217, 471.

41. The commonwealth. That is, of the "new-modelled society" of the king and his associates (Mason). Johnson makes it "the common people." The Var. of 1821 gives this line to the princess; not noted in the Camb. ed.

42. God dig-you-den. God give you good even. See R. and J. p. 148 (note on Good-den), or Hen. V. p. 164 (note on God-den).

56. Break up this capon. That is, open this letter. Here break up is = the preceding carve. It is applied to opening a despatch (the "sealed-up oracle") in W. T. iii. 2. 132: "Break up the seals and read." See also M. of V. ii. 4. 10: "to break up this" (a letter), and the note in our ed. p. 141. Capon is used like poulet in French for a love-letter. Farmer quotes Henry IV. as saying: "My niece of Guise would please me best, notwithstanding the malicious reports that she loves poulets in paper better than in a fricasee."

57. Importeth. Concerneth.

64. Illustrate. Illustrious; used again by Holofernes in v. I. 109 below. It is often used by Chapman; as in Iliad, xi.: "Illustrate Hector." For King Cophetua, see on i. 2. 103 above.

65. Zenelophon. Coll. reads "Penelophon," which is the name in the ballad.

66. Annothanize. The quartos and ist folio have "annothanize," the later folios "anatomize," which many eds. follow. Either word would suit Armado well enough.

83-88. Thus dost than hear, etc. These lines are appended to the letter as a quotation, and Warb. thought that they were really from some ridiculous poem of the time. The Nemean lion is mentioned again in Ham. i. 4. 83, where Nemean is accented as here.

88. Repasture. Repast, food.

92. Going o'er it. For the play upon style, see on i. i. 196 above. Erewhile = just now.

94. Phantasime. Fantastic; as in v. i. 18 below. The later folios have "phantasme," and most of the modern eds. "phantasm." Monarcho the name of an Italian, a fantastic character of the time, referred to by Meres, Nash, Churchyard, and other writers.

103. Suitor. This seems to have been pronounced shooter, and that is the spelling of the early eds. here. Steevens and Malone quote sundry passages from contemporary writers illustrating the old pronunciation. In A. and C. v. 2. 105, Pope and Malone took the "suites" or "suits" of the folio to be an error for "shoots."

104. My continent of beauty. Cf. Haml. v. 2. 115: "you shall find in him the continent of what part a gentleman would see."

109. Your deer. The play on deer and dear was a favourite one. Cf. V. and A. 231, P. P. 300, M. W. v. 5. 18, 123, T. S. v. 2. 56, I Hen. IV. v. 4. 107, Macb. iv. 3. 206, etc.

110. By the horns. The much-worn joke on the horns of the cuckold.

118. Queen Guinever. The unfaithful queen of Arthur.

127. Prick. The point in the centre of the mark, or target. Mete at. To measure with the eye in aiming, hence to aim at.

128. Wide o' the bow-hand. "A good deal to the left of the mark; a term still retained in modern archery" (Douce). The bow-hand was the hand holding the bow, or the left hand.

129. Clout. "The white mark at which archers took their aim. The pin was the wooden pin that upheld it" (Steevens). See 2 Hen. IV. p. 176 (note on Clapped i' the clout) and R. and J. p. 170 ( The very pin, etc.)

132. Greasily. Grossly.

134. Rubbing. A term in bowling. Cf Rich. II. p. 197, note on Rubs.

136. Lord, Lord, etc. Here the early eds. (and the modern ones except H[udson].) insert the seven lines, iii. i. 129-135.

137. Sola, sola! Costard hears the noise of the hunters, and runs to join them, with a shout to attract their attention. Cf. M. of V. v. 1.39, where Launcelot enters with the same cry.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Love's Labour's Lost. Ed. William Rolfe. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1899. Shakespeare Online. 10 Aug. 2013. < >.

How to cite the sidebars:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 10 Aug. 2013. < >.


Notes on Shakespeare's Life

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