Boy, what sign is it when a man of great spirit
A great sign, sir, that he will look sad. (1.2.1-3)
Armado thinks Moth will say he's in love. Moping was the classic Elizabethan sign of loving. Armado is hoping to get Moth to admit that he is suffering from love. But Moth doesn't take the bait, so Armado has to wait to talk about it.
If drawing my sword against the
humor of affection would deliver me from the
reprobate thought of it, I would take Desire prisoner
and ransom him to any French courtier for a
new-devised curtsy. (1.2.59-63)
Armado's a soldier. As a result of his military background, he might think that he can handle love with violence.
Adieu, valor; rust, rapier; be still,
drum, for your manager is in love. Yea, he loveth. (1.2.181-182)
At the end of this scene Armado develops beyond wanting to stab or ransom his love. He'll put down the weapons and write a love letter instead.
God bless my ladies, are they all in love,
That every one her own hath garnishèd
With such bedecking ornaments of praise? (2.1.78-80)
None of the ladies admits love, but swoony and love-struck descriptions such as this one give them away.
If my observation, which very seldom lies,
By the heart's still rhetoric disclosèd wi' th' eyes,
Deceive me not now, Navarre is infected. (2.1.240-242)
Boyet sniffs out the King's love for the Princess of France. It was common in Elizabethan poetry to describe love as a sickness.
And I forsooth in love! I that have been love's whip (4.3.184)
Berowne is shocked that even he – usually so skeptical – is vulnerable to love.
I profane my lips on thy
foot, my eyes on thy picture, and my heart on thy every
Boyet is reading Armado's letter to Jaquenetta. As was the courtly custom, Armado places himself below her. Even laying his eyes on her picture dirties her. (But this doesn't keep him from imagining his heart on "every part.")
I heard your guilty rhymes, observed your fashion,
Saw sighs reek from you, noted well your passion.
'Ay, me!' says one. 'O Jove!' the other cries.
One, her hairs were gold, crystal the other's eyes. (4.3.144-147)
It's funny listening to the King give his friends a hard time, when we figure Berowne must be about to out him. Shakespeare sets up a number of satisfying expectation/fulfillment patterns in the play.
You'll ne'er be friends with him. He killed your
He made her melancholy, sad, and heavy,
And so she died.(5.2.13-16)
This quote is a little depressing. The mention of Katharine's sister's death by love foreshadows the bad news brought by Marcade.
Prepare, madam, prepare.
Arm, wenches, arm. Encounters mounted are
Against your peace. Love doth approach, disguised,
Armèd in arguments. You'll be surprised. (5.2.87-90)
Shakespeare uses war imagery to describe love again and again in this play.
Our court shall be a little academe (1.1.13)
The King is excited not only by the fame his court will gain from their studies, but also by the camaraderie the vow promises.
I am resolved. 'Tis but a three years' fast.
The mind shall banquet though the body pine. (1.1.25-26)
This is one of many moments in which Shakespeare equates knowledge with food.
What is the end of study, let me know?
Why, that to know which else we should not know.
Things hid and barred, you mean, from common
Berowne introduces the contrast between book learning and life experience. Keep in mind that this is an important theme in the play. Where else do we see this contrast?
Light seeking light, doth light of light beguile.
So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes. (1.1.79-81)
In his typically wordy way, Berowne is saying that too much study can make you go blind. This stance is certainly in keeping with his perspective on scholarly pursuits.
How well he's read, to reason against reading. (1.1.96)
Berowne may be exasperating, but the King can't deny his eloquence.
And though I have for barbarism spoke more
Than for that angel knowledge you can say... (1.1.116-117)
Berowne often seems to win an argument through the sheer volume of words he can spit out. He has the most lines in the play.
that unlettered, small-knowing soul,—
Almost everyone in the play makes jokes about Costard's ignorance and lack of education, but the erudite lords spend the play learning what the rustic has long known about love.
For where is author in the world
Teaches such beauty as a woman's eye? (4.3.312-313, Arden Edition)
This rhetorical question is at the heart of the play. Love – and by extension, living life – teaches more than book study.
Why Arden edition? A big chunk of Berowne's monologue is cut from the Folger's edition because it was not in the original draft of the play (and thus of questionable origin).
such rackers of orthography,
as to speak 'dout,' fine, when he should
say 'doubt'; 'det' when he should pronounce
'debt'—d, e, b, t, not d, e, t. (5.1.18; 20-23)
Overly pedantic teachers like Holofernes are why learning and education often get a negative rap.
Arts-man, preambulate. We will be singuled
from the barbarous. (5.1.81-82)
Much to Holofernes's chagrin, Armado includes himself in the club of the educated. Besides, its humorous that Armado calls him "Arts-man."
To weed this wormwood from your fruitful brain,
You shall this twelvemonth term from day to day
Visit the speechless sick… (5.2.920; 923-924)
Rosaline has no doubt about the sharpness of Berowne's intellect, but believes he needs a little moral education.
A man in all the world's new fashion planted,
That hath a mint of phrases in his brain;
One who the music of his own vain tongue
Doth ravish like enchanting harmony… (1.1.168-171)
For the word-loving lords, Armado's talk will have to be enough entertainment for three years. The fact that Armado will be the sole source of entertainment clues us in (again) to the fact that study and scholarly pursuits will truly be the focus of the Academe.
Thou pretty because little.
Little pretty, because little. Wherefore apt?
And therefore apt, because quick.
Speak you this in my praise, master?
In thy condign praise.
I will praise an eel with the same praise. (1.2.21-26)
Armado attempts to compliment Moth for his quick wit, but Moth, as usual, rejects his master's kind words.
His eye begets occasion for his wit,
For every object that the one doth catch
The other turns to a mirth-moving jest… (2.1.70-72)
Rosaline is intrigued by Berowne's perpetual joking. He makes fun of everything he sees, and we get the sense that she finds this continually entertaining.
Now, by the salt wave of the Mediterraneum,
a sweet touch, a quick venue of wit! Snip, snap,
quick and home. It rejoiceth my intellect. True
Like the lords and ladies, Armado loves to watch a battle of wits. In this case, Moth has gotten the better of Holofernes.
But to speak that in words which his eye hath
I only have made a mouth of his eye
By adding a tongue which I know will not lie. (2.1.264-267)
Boyet is an expert in two things: love and eloquence. In articulating the King's love for the Princess, he puts them together.
Your reasons at
dinner have been sharp and sententious, pleasant
without scurrility, witty without affection, audacious
without impudency, learned without opinion,
and strange without heresy. (5.1.2-6)
In his exaggerated praise for Holofernes, Nathaniel is a parody of a student who blindly admires his teacher's book learning.
Yes, madam, and moreover,
Some thousand verses of a faithful lover,
A huge translation of hypocrisy,
Vilely compiled, profound simplicity. (5.2.54-57)
Katharine seems to take Dumain's love letter as a trick. Remember – she's the one whose sister died of love.
Twenty adieus, my frozen Muskovits.—
Are these the breed of wits so wondered at?
Tapers they are, with your sweet breaths puffed
The Princess enjoys the women's undeniable victory over the men. Words are their weapons.
This fellow pecks up wit as pigeons peas,
And utters it again when God doth please. (5.2.347-348)
Berowne is jealous of Boyet's intimacy with Rosaline and calls him a brown-nosing, "honey-tongued" servant. This quote is yet another indication that Berowne has feelings for the lady.
Your wits makes wise things foolish.
Is of that nature that to your huge store
Wise things seem foolish and rich things but poor. (5.2.408; 410-412)
It's rare for Berowne to openly acknowledge someone else's intelligence. This compliment shows how smitten he is with Rosaline.
Assist me, some extemporal god of rhyme, for I am
sure I shall turn sonnet. Devise wit, write pen, for I
am for whole volumes in folio. (1.2.183-185)
Here's how it works in this play: if you fall in love, you become a poet. We see this happen again and again with each of the men. It is interesting, though, that the women do not seem to express their feelings in writing like the men do. Why might this be the case?
This is a gift that I have, simple, simple—
a foolish extravagant spirit, full of forms,
figures, shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, motions,
revolutions. These are begot in the ventricle
of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater,
and delivered upon the mellowing of occasion. (4.2.82-87)
For Holofernes, more is always more (and never less). We can see from this quote that he takes great pains to create lists, and this list is representative of his tendency to list in general. He never met a list he didn't like.
You find not the apostrophus, and so
miss the accent. Let me supervise the canzonet.(4.2.144-145)
Holofernes sees himself as the expert on all things literary.
I will prove those verses to be very unlearned,
neither savoring of poetry, wit, nor invention.
I beseech your society. (4.2.183-185)
Holofernes will critique Berowne's letter in depth. These two have in common that they can't stand any writing but their own.
By heaven, I do love, and it hath taught me to
rhyme, and to be melancholy. And here is part of my
rhyme, and here my melancholy. (4.3.12-14)
Just a few lines earlier, Berowne was calling to be hanged if he loves. But here he accepts his love and begins to understand emotionally his own argument in the first scene – that love can bring knowledge, too.
I fear these stubborn lines lack power to move.
[Reads.] O sweet Maria, empress of my love—
These numbers will I tear, and write in prose. (4.3.53-55)
Longaville suffers a writer's insecurity and thinks he should give up on this poetry stuff. By "numbers" he means the meter in his poem.
For when would you, my liege, or you, or you,
In leaden contemplation have found out
Such fiery numbers as the prompting eyes
Of beauty's tutors have enriched you with? (4.3.314-317)
Berowne brings home the message of the play: love teaches.
BOY, aside to Costard
They have been at a great feast
of languages and stolen the scraps.
COSTARD, aside to Boy
O, they have lived long on the
almsbasket of words. (5.1.38-41)
These two humble servants see Holofernes and Nathaniel's linguistic pomp for what it is – intellectual leftovers. Shakespeare often gave lowly characters sharp insight.
Nothing but this? Yes, as much love in rhyme
As would be crammed up in a sheet of paper
Writ o' both sides the leaf, margent and all, (5.2.6-8)
The Princess doesn't seem to recognize the literary genius in her hands, perhaps because the King has yet to learn the value of editing.
Taffeta phrases, silken terms precise,
Three-piled hyperboles, spruce affectation,
Figures pedanticall—these summer flies
Have blown me full of maggot ostentation. (5.2.442-445)
Berowne is swearing off ornate speeches for love of Rosaline, but can't help himself from "three-piling" words.
But there are other strict observances:
As not to see a woman in that term,
Which I hope well is not enrollèd there; (1.1.37-39)
Berowne would love to study for three years, but not if it means he doesn't get the pleasure of female company. He doubts any of the lords can stick to this plan, but eventually agrees anyway.
Such is the sinplicity of man to hearken after
the flesh. (1.1.222-223)
For Costard, this goes without saying. It's a truth that the lords will have to learn.
Why, all his behaviors did make their retire
To the court of his eye, peeping thorough desire. (2.1.246-247)
Boyet describes the King's eying of the Princess. Have you noticed that, in this play, attraction is all about the eyes?
My love is most immaculate white and red.
Most maculate thoughts, master, are masked
under such colors. (1.2.90-92)
Armado is describing Jaquenetta's beauty, but Moth takes the opportunity to make a bawdy joke about the colors involved in sexual arousal.
'The hobby-horse is forgot.'
Call'st thou my love 'hobby-horse'? (3.2.30-31)
Armado is right to get offended. In Elizabethan slang, a hobby-horse was a prostitute.
Ay, and by heaven, one that will do the deed
Though Argus were her eunuch and her guard. (3.1.208-209)
Berowne fantasizes about having sex with Rosaline even in the face of scary obstacles.
You still wrangle with her, Boyet, and she strikes at
But she herself is hit lower. Have I hit her now? (4.1.136-138)
Rosaline may have won this round of wit with Boyet – but she can't win against her sexual desire. This mind/body divide is a big theme in the play.
Sir, I praise the Lord for you, and so may
my parishioners, for their sons are well tutored by
you, and their daughters profit very greatly under
…if their daughters be ingenious,
they shall want no instruction; (4.2.90-93; 95-96)
Yes, Holofernes seems to also have his mind in the gutter. The love fever affects almost every character in the play, even the learnèd and scholarly teacher.
This is the liver vein, which makes flesh a deity... (4.3.74)
Berowne overhears Longaville fantasizing about paradise with Katharine. In Elizabethan science, the liver was considered the source of sexual desire.
The grosser manner of these world's delights
He throws upon the gross world's baser slaves. (1.1.30-31)
Dumain takes pleasure in the idea of his ascetic (you know, self-denying) vow separating him from peasants.
O, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep,
Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep! (1.1.48-49)
Berowne doesn't agree with pitting man's principles against his natural instincts. And doesn't think he can handle it.
Necessity will make us all forsworn
Three thousand times within this three years'
Berowne spies a loophole when the King says he'll welcome the Princess. They'll all just break their vow and call it necessity.
'If love make me forsworn, how shall I swear to love?
Ah, never faith could hold, if not to beauty vowed!
Though to myself forsworn, to thee I'll faithful prove. (4.2.126-128)
Berowne is worried that Rosaline will accuse him of being incapable of fidelity, since he broke his vow. But for him, it's about priorities – he has to break that vow to make one to her.
And Jove, for your love, would
infringe an oath.
What will Berowne say when that he shall hear
Faith infringed, which such zeal did swear? (4.3.150-153)
The King uses Berowne's razor-sharp wit as an intimidation tactic.
Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves,
Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths. (4.3.355-356)
Again, Berowne argues that they have more to gain from breaking their promise (which he thought was crazy from the beginning) than keeping it.
Now by my maiden honor, yet as pure
As the unsullied lily… (5.2.384-385)
The Princess shames the King by bringing up her own virtue.
So much I hate a breaking cause to be
Of heavenly oaths vowed with integrity. (5.2.388-389)
How much of this is the Princess messing with the King? She's a pretty serious lady – maybe on some level, she means it. She's not sure she can trust this guy.
Peace, peace, forbear!
Your oath once broke, you force not to forswear. (5.2.481-482)
The Princess has the King in a trap. She's about to reveal that he wooed Rosaline – forcing him to "forswear" or betray himself again.
Berowne, they will shame us. Let them not
We are shame-proof, my lord; and 'tis some policy
To have one show worse than the King's and his
The King is worried that the yokels' play will further show him to be a dishonorable man. Berowne assures him that, in their situation, there's nowhere to go but up.
You three, Berowne, Dumain, and Longaville,
Have sworn for three years' term to live with me,
My fellow-scholars... (1.1.15-17)
The first line of the play announces a boys' club soon to be invaded.
great men have been in love?
Most sweet Hercules! More authority, dear
boy, name more; and, sweet my child, let them be
men of good repute and carriage. (1.2.64-69)
Great men in history are an important motif in the play. Take a look at our "Allusions" section in order to get a better sense of how many references there are to famous men in Mythology and History.
Yet was Samson so tempted,
and he had an excellent strength; yet was Solomon
so seduced, and he had a very good wit. Cupid's
butt-shaft is too hard for Hercules' club, and therefore
too much odds for a Spaniard's rapier. (1.2.173-177)
Armado and the lords comfort themselves with reminders that even heroes can love.
A man of sovereign parts he is esteemed,
Well fitted in arts, glorious in arms.
Nothing becomes him ill that he would well. (2.1.45-47)
Here we see what Elizabethan women wanted in a man: a good reputation, education, and strength in battle.
O, would the King, Berowne, and Longaville
Were lovers too! (4.3.127-128)
While the women share everything – the notes, gifts and speeches from their suitors – the men try to be strong and keep their own secrets.
O me, with what strict patience have I sat,
To see a king transformèd to a gnat! (4.3.173-174)
In his hypocritical tirade, Berowne teases the King for letting love make him small.
For valor, is not Love a Hercules,
Still climbing trees in the Hesperides? (4.3.334-335)
Is this Berowne, or Armado? Noble or clown, the boys need to know that someone respectable was once in love, too.
A conqueror, and
afeard to speak? Run away for shame, Alisander. (5.2.646-647)
Running away for shame is what the nobles – dressed like Russians – did just a few minutes before.
The sweet warman is dead and rotten. Sweet
chucks, beat not the bones of the buried. When he
breathed, he was a man. (5.2.734-736)
The "war-man" part of the King and his men – the part that saw women as the enemy in Act 1 – is also on its way out.
By the North Pole, I do challenge
I will not fight with a pole, like a northern
man! I'll slash. I'll do it by the sword. (5.2.766-769)
No Elizabethan exploration of manhood is complete without a duel.
Item, That no woman shall come within
a mile of my court. Hath this been proclaimed?
Four days ago.
Let's see the penalty. [Reads] On pain of
losing her tongue. (1.1.123-127)
Longaville came up with this harsh punishment for women– probably thinking, out of sight, out of mind.
It was proclaimed a year's imprisonment to be
taken with a wench.
I was taken with none, sir. I was taken with a
Well, it was proclaimed 'damsel.'
This was no damsel neither, sir. She was a
It is so varied too, for it was proclaimed
If it were, I deny her virginity. I was taken
with a maid.
This 'maid' not serve your turn, sir.
This maid will serve my turn, sir. (1.1.287-299)
Costard thinks if he can name the right kind of lady, he might just be able to get out of his punishment. And then finishes off his argument with sexual innuendo.
Only for praise; and praise we may afford
To any lady that subdues a lord. (4.2.41-42)
Like the men, the women think of a lover as someone to be conquered.
From women's eyes this doctrine I derive.
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire.
They are the books, the arts, the academes
That show, contain, and nourish, all the world. (4.3.344-347)
It's unfortunate that Berowne busts this out when there are no ladies present. He'd have his pick of women.
We are wise girls to mock our lovers so. (5.2.63)
In a world dominated by men, women's control of sexual access gives them some measure of power.
How I would make him fawn, and beg, and seek,
And wait the season, and observe the times,
And spend his prodigal wits in bootless rhymes,
And shape his service wholly to my hests,
And make him proud to make me proud that jests! (5.2.67-71)
Rosaline looks forward to knocking Berowne off his high horse and humbling the man a bit.
No, to the death we will not move a foot,
Nor to their penned speech render we no grace,
But while 'tis spoke each turn away her face. (5.2.153-155)
The Princess has a strong understanding of the attractive power of playing coy.
Why, that contempt will kill the speaker's heart,
And quite divorce his memory from his part. (5.2.156-157)
Boyet takes the side of the men, urging the women not to be too harsh.
Once to behold with your sun-beamèd eyes—
With your sun-beamèd eyes—
They will not answer to that epithet.
You were best call it 'daughter-beamèd eyes.' (5.2.176-179)
Mindful of how pro-sister, anti-man the women are at the moment, Boyet jokes on this subject.
We have received your letters…
And in our maiden council rated them
At courtship, pleasant jest, and courtesy... (5.2.852; 854-855)
While the men hide their love from each other, the women are unified and communal in their response.
The spring is near when green geese are a-breeding. (1.1.99)
In Shakespeare, Spring is all about mating, breeding, and procreation. In terms of human beings, this translates to sexual activity.
Berowne is like an envious sneaping frost
That bites the firstborn infants of the spring. (1.1.104-105)
Longaville picks up on Berowne's seasonal imagery and uses it to insult him.
At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows,
But like of each thing that in season grows. (1.1.109-111)
Berowne will want to take back this argument for "all things in good time" when Rosaline asks him to wait year.
Thy eye Jove's lightning bears, thy voice his dreadful
Which, not to anger bent, is music and sweet fire. (4.2.139-141)
In the imagery he uses to describe Rosaline, we can see that Berowne is nature's student.
Consider what you first did swear unto,
To fast, to study, and to see no woman;
Flat treason 'gainst the kingly state of youth. (4.3.291-293, Arden edition)
The law of nature is primary, according to Berowne.
Why Arden edition? Part of Berowne's monologue was omitted from the Folger edition as it was not in the original play (and thus of questionable origin).
Allons! Allons! Sowed cockle reaped no corn…(4.3.377)
The men have decided to woo the women. With nature embraced, Berowne uses the language of farming to say "nothing ventured, nothing gained." ("Allons" at the beginning of the sentence is French for "let's go.")
My face is but a moon, and clouded too.
Blessèd are clouds, to do as such clouds do!
Vouchsafe, bright moon, and these thy stars, to
Those clouds removed, upon our watery eyne. (5.2.214-218)
Rosaline, masked as the Princess, tries to give the King a clue that she's only second in this party (i.e., not the sun). The King just hears romance.
When daisies pied and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then on every tree
Mocks married men; for thus sings he:
Cuckoo, cuckoo!' O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear! (5.2.399)
Like we said, Spring is all about sexual activity. "Cuckoo" is unwelcome to the married man's ear because it sounds like "cuckold" – someone whose wife is cheating on him. Shakespeare often ended plays with teasing, lighthearted songs like this.
When blood is nipped, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl
'Tu-whit to-who.' A merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot. (4.2.990-993)
While Spring is about sex, Winter is about endurance. The verse points out the potentially bleak side of marriage.
When, spite of cormorant devouring time,
Th' endeavor of this present breath may buy
That honor which shall bate his scythe's keen edge
And make us heirs of all eternity. (1.1.4-7)
The King's main motivation for this three-year-fast-and-study plan seems to be immortal fame, not knowledge.
time when? About the sixth hour, when beasts most
graze, birds best peck, and men sit down to that
nourishment which is called supper. (1.1.238-241)
This part of Armado's letter underscores the play's motif that there are appropriate times for all actions.
Why 'tough signior'? Why 'tough signior'?
Why 'tender juvenal'? Why 'tender juvenal'?
I spoke it 'tender juvenal' as a congruent
epitheton appertaining to thy young days, which
we may nominate 'tender.'
And I 'tough signior' as an appurtenant title to
your old time, which we may name 'tough.' (1.2.11-17)
A reliable source of humor in the play is Moth's condescension to his master.
A woman, that is like a German clock,
Still a-repairing, ever out of frame,
And never going aright, being a watch,
But being watched that it may still go right. (3.1.200-203)
A German clock was complicated and required maintenance. By comparing Rosaline to a German clock, Berowne emphasizes that he still can't believe he's fallen in love.
The extreme parts of time extremely forms
All causes to the purpose of his speed,
And often at his very loose decides
That which long process could not arbitrate. (5.2.815-818)
The King is talking about his quick decision to release Aquitaine to the Princess – but is also encouraging her to make a quick decision to love him.
We have received your letters full of love;
Your favors, the ambassadors of love;
As bombast and as lining to the time. (5.2.852-853; 856)
The Princess cautiously protects her heart, saying the women just played along to kill time.
Now, at the latest minute of the hour,
Grant us your loves.
A time, methinks, too short
To make a world-without-end bargain in. (5.2.863-866)
Displaying that caution that will probably make her a good queen, the Princess asks the King not to rush things.
...go with speed
To some forlorn and naked hermitage,
Remote from all the pleasures of the world.
There stay until the twelve celestial signs
Have brought about the annual reckoning. (5.2.871-875)
The Princess now forwards the argument proposed by Berowne in the very first scene – all things in good time. Time will prove the King's devotion.
A twelvemonth? Well, befall what will befall,
I'll jest a twelvemonth in an hospital. (5.2.943-944)
Berowne makes this vow to Rosaline easily and quickly – such a contrast to the unwilling acquiescence in Act 1.
I will kiss thy royal finger, and take leave. I
am a votary; I have vowed to Jaquenetta to hold the
plow for her sweet love three year. (5.2.956-958)
Well, the lords got off easy compared to what they would have endured according to the King's original oath. Here we see that Armado's committed to three years, as opposed to just one. And he has to become a farmer. Both conditions are minor when compared to the original pact the men made.