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The Princess and her ladies enter the grounds and compare gifts and letters from the men in their lives. They make ruthless fun of the long letters full of exaggerated flattery. In an otherwise light exchange, there's one shadow: Katharine's sister died of love. At the moment, the women protect themselves with their wit.
Boyet enters laughing. He overheard the King and his men planning to dress up like Russians and visit the women.
Boyet also shares the important detail that each man will know his woman by the favor (gift) she wears—the Princess's diamond, Rosaline's pearl, Katharine's glove and Maria's necklace.
Oh, will they now? The Princess has the ingenious plan to mask their faces and exchange favors, so the men will woo the wrong lady. On top of that, the women will refuse to dance or even listen to their love speeches.
The men, costumed as Russians, enter with Moth and other attendants dressed up to look like Africans.
Moth addresses the women in a speech of praise evidently written by Berowne. The ladies turn their backs.
Enjoying the turn of events, mischievous Moth extemporizes. Berowne gets a little miffed, corrects and then dismisses him.
With Boyet as intermediary, the men address the Princess—who is actually Rosaline. She messes with them. She asks for music, then refuses to dance.
Each man approaches the woman he thinks is his love. Berowne talks to the Princess, Dumain to Maria, Longaville to Katharine. They all seem pretty insulted.
Fed up, the men leave. The ladies unmask and have a good laugh at the foolishness of the men, and Boyet tells them they'll be back. Rosaline proposes to tease them further with complaints about the Russian imbeciles who just made a visit.
And here they come, dressed as themselves. Boyet receives them politely (the girls have run back to their tents) and Berowne gives a speech about Boyet's clever and insincere hospitality.
The Princess and her ladies emerge, full of power, and the King invites them to enter the court. The Princess refuses the invitation, saying that the women wouldn't want to make the men break their vows.
The King begs her to reconsider, saying that the lords feel bad that the women have been so lonely and abandoned.
Not at all, says the Princess. She informs the King that they were just visited by some very nice Russians.
They were not very nice, chimes in Rosaline. In fact, she adds that the women were not exactly impressed by the "Russians" who visited them.
Berowne is actually humble for once. He flatters Rosaline that she's so smart, she makes any man seem unworthy of her attention.
The men are a little demoralized by the women's nonstop teasing. Rosaline reveals that the women know the men were the Russians.
In a long, highfaluting speech, Berowne promises to give up long, highfaluting speeches in favor of plain talk.
Rosaline has her doubts.
The King confesses and apologizes for masking as the Russians. When the Princess forces him to say aloud what he told her in her mask, Rosaline reveals that such a thing was told to her. The men realize they were duped, and Berowne chides Boyet for taking part in the men's ruin.
Costard enters, asking whether the nine worthies may come in. Berowne teases him a little and says yes.
The King is worried that the play will be another embarrassing failure. In this situation, says Berowne, there's nowhere to go but up.
The Princess wants to see the play. Armado comes in with the program identifying the cast. Berowne is excited to see these eccentric townspeople play the heroes of history.
Costard comes in as Pompey. Berowne and Boyet both mock him, but Costard bravely gives his speech and receives the Princess's applause.
Enter Nathaniel as Alexander. He's immediately heckled by Boyet and Berowne, who asks Costard to run Nathaniel off.
Next comes Holofernes as Judas Maccabeus, with Moth as Hercules. A sustained round of heckling from Boyet, Berowne, and Dumain runs Holofernes off. The play is turning into a kind of death-match American Idol.
Armado enters as Hector—now Longaville is joining the fun. Armado valiantly pushes through and attempts to win the audience over.
Armado might wish he had run away, though, because Costard deviates from the play to inform him that Jaquenetta is pregnant—with Armado's child.
The King and his lords are loving it.
Armado challenges Costard and they get ready to fight.
A messenger, Marcade, enters with news from France. The King is dead.
The Princess wants to leave immediately, but the King of Navarre hopes she won't.
Apologizing for harassing the men so much, the Princess thanks the King for settling the business of Aquitaine (this part of the plot doesn't matter much now, and isn't explained).
The King begs her not to abruptly abandon their new love. Berowne asks the women not to judge the men by the one oath they broke.
The Princess protests that they took all the wooing as play. But the men are serious.
It's too early to make a lifelong commitment, replies the sensible Princess. She poses this challenge to the King: go to a monastery and spend a year there. Only then can the King come back and woo her.
Whoa, he says he'll do it! Now that's love.
Katharine doesn't make Dumain become a monk, but taking the cue from her lady, she asks him to come back in a year. Maria and Longaville follow suit and ask their lords to wait one year before wooing them properly.
What about Berowne? Community service. Rosaline charges him to use his wit to make the sick smile. He doesn't think it's possible, but agrees. If she'll love him for it, sign him up.
Berowne observes that their fun won't end like a comedy—there are no marriages.
Armado enters with a last distraction. There was to have been a song at the end of their failed play. Can they sing it now?
Go for it, says the King.
Two (unnamed) characters—probably Nathaniel and Holofernes—sing songs of Spring and Winter.