Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Ferdinand, the king of Navarre, has taken a solemn vow and has forced three of his attending lords to take it also. They have sworn that for three years they will fast and study, enjoy no pleasures, and see no ladies. None of the three noblemen wanted to take the vow; Berowne, in particular, feels that it will be impossible to keep his promise. He points out this fact to the king by reminding him that the princess of France is approaching the court of Navarre to present a petition from her father, who is ill. The king agrees that he will be compelled to see her, but he adds that in such cases the vow must be broken by necessity. Berowne foresees that “necessity” will often cause the breaking of their vows.
The only amusement the king and his lords are to have is provided by Costard, a clown, and by Don Adriano de Armado, a foolish Spaniard attached to the court. Armado writes to the king to inform him that Costard has been caught in the company of Jaquenetta, a country wench of dull mind. Since all attached to the court have been under the same laws of abstinence from earthly pleasures, Costard is remanded to Armado’s custody and ordered to fast on bran and water for one week. The truth is that Armado also loves Jaquenetta. He fears the king will learn of his love and punish him in the same manner.
The princess of France arrives with her three attendants. All are fair, and they expect to be received at the palace in the manner due their...
(The entire section is 1098 words.)
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When the play opens, the king of Navarre and his lords, Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville, have just sworn an oath together: they will all live at the court of Navarre, forming a "little academe" together, committed to learning and contemplation. They swear to fast, to sleep minimally, and most important, to avoid the company of women for the next three years. The king has issued a proclamation stating that no woman shall come within a mile of his court. But the princess of France is due to pay a visit to the court; the king resolves to speak with her, going back on his oath for her sake. But the first member of the court to disobey the new rules is Costard the clown, whom the Spanish courtier Armado catches with a country woman, Jaquenetta. Dull, the constable, brings Costard before the king, who sentences Costard to a week's confinement with only bread and water, with Armado as his jailkeeper. In the next scene, it is revealed that Armado himself is in love with Jaquenetta.
The princess arrives with her three ladies in waiting—Rosaline, Maria, and Katherine—and her lord Boyet. The king arrives and tells the princess she must be lodged in a field, rather than at court, in order to fulfill his prohibition against women at court. The princess and the king negotiate for the return of Aquitaine, a province in France, which her father the king of France had lost to Navarre's father. Navarre believes the king of...
(The entire section is 844 words.)