The Rest of Act One, and Act Two (all one scene of it): Putting More Dominoes in Place…

When we left off after the first scene in Love’s Labor’s Lost, the King and his three attendants (Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville) had agreed to study and forgo the company of women for three years, and we had learned of Don Armado, the Spanish mangler of English, and had met Costard the clown (shepherd, really, but who’s kidding who?).  Armado had seen Costard “consort(ing)” with Jaquenetta, and had made a citizen’s arrest of both; the Spaniard had sent Costard to the King and had kept Jaquenetta in his custody, just in case.

As Act One, Scene Two begins, we meet Armado and his little page, Moth.  We immediately see why the King thinks that Armado will keep the women-less men entertained for the next three years:  his use/misuse/abuse of language is awesome:

I spoke it, tender juvenal, as a congruent epitheton appertaining to thy young days, which we may nominate "tender."

— I.ii.13-15

Every phrase uttered is a conflagration borne of the purply-prosaic but so very poetical ardor rampaging in his ever pining breast.

not bad, eh?
couple this with an actor’s “wild accent” and Much Wackiness Ensues

If Armado’s language is funny, then what we learn from his convoluted speech is even funnier:

I will hereupon confess I am in love; and as it is base for a soldier to love, so am I in love with a base wench. 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 courtesy. I think scorn to sigh: methinks I should outswear Cupid.

— I.ii.56-62

He is a Latin Lover who doesn’t want to be one (after all, he’s a soldier [at least, by his own description]), but is trapped by the emotion.  Since he considers love to be low (“base”), he has fallen in love with a low woman (“base wench”).  He wants to fight the feeling, but can’t (cue the REO Speedwagon).  It might be sad, if it weren’t so funny.  Even funnier is the object of his desire: “that country girl” (I.ii.113) Jaquenetta.  And who should arrive on the scene?  Constable Dull, with Costard and Jaquenetta as his charges.

yeah, I know… Jaquenetta was supposed to be in Armado’s possession… guess not, after all

Dull tells the Spaniard the situation: Armado is to keep Costard and fast him for three days; Jaquenetta is to go with Dull and work off her sentence as a dairymaid.  Dull leaves with Jaquenetta, Moth with Costard, allowing Armado to deliver a mini-soliloquy in prose about his love.  Since he cannot fight love, he will prove a poet: “I shall turn sonnet. Devise, wit! Write, pen! For I am for whole volumes in folio” (I.ii.176-177).  What his wit can devise, we’ll have to wait and see, since he exits at that moment.

for those thinking that first act was pretty short, and this second one looks to be, too, as it’s just one scene long… well, you’re right: the first FOUR ACTS are all shorter than average — with Acts Two and Three less than HALF than average… and yet the total lines isn’t that much shorter than average… so it gets made up in the longest Act Five in the Canon: at 1059 lines, that last act (in which there are only two scenes) is nearly FORTY PERCENT of the length of the play… but I’m getting ahead of myself… back to Act Two…

Beginning the only scene of Act Two, we have the arrival of the French Princess (she, like the King, is nameless), and her attending ladies, Rosaline, Maria, and Katherine, as well as some lords, including Boyet.

and, btw, hmmm, let me get this straight: three male attendants for the King, and three female attendants for the Princess. . . what are the chances?

We learn why the Princess’ party has come to Navarre: it’s a diplomatic mission, with the province of Aquitaine hanging in the balance.  She had heard rumors of the “vow (of) painful study (that) shall outwear three years” (II.i.22-23).  She still has hopes the King will see her, and she sends Boyet off to confirm.  In the meantime, she questions her ladies as to whether or not they know of any of the “vow fellows to this virtuous duke” (II.i.38).  As luck would have it, each of the three ladies knows of one of the three men:  Maria has seen Longaville before, and she has found him “well fitted in arts, glorious in arms,” but with “a sharp wit matched with too blunt a will” (II.i.45,49).

there’s that tricky “will” again… you remember, don’t you? … one of the meanings being: “Carnal desire or appetite” (Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM [v. 4.0])

Katherine has seen “young Dumaine, a well-accomplished youth” (II.i.56) before, as well.  Now these first two instances are only of sight (each lady uses the verb “saw”… implying no meeting, but leaving interpretation open for the possibility), but the third is more concrete:

Berowne they call him, but a merrier man,
Within the limit of becoming mirth,
I never spent an hour's talk withal:
His eye begets occasion for his wit;
For every object that the one doth catch
The other turns to a mirth-moving jest,
Which his fair tongue, conceit's expositor,
Delivers in such apt and gracious words
That aged ears play truant at his tales
And younger hearings are quite ravished,
So sweet and voluble is his discourse.

— II.i.66-76

you gotta wonder what effect Berowne’s “fair tongue… apt and gracious words… (and) sweet and voluble…discourse” had on Rosaline?

No wonder Berowne wanted no part of the no-women article of the contract: the man is a straight-up PLAYA.  Something catches his eye, and he can talk about it so that old people stop to listen and are late to their appointments, and the young folks’ ears are made love to.  And how does she know this?  She’s met him, she’s experienced this herself, since “a merrier man… (she) never spent an hour’s talk withal.”

The Princess is astounded: “God bless my ladies! Are they all in love?” (II.i.77). But before her ladies can deny the jesting remark (or is it just a joke?), Boyet returns with news that while the King will meet the party here, outside the palace gate, they will not be allowed inside and they will have to “lodge (themselves) in the field” (II.i.85).  And before the Princess can respond to THAT, the King and his attendants arrive.

did Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville, REALLY need to come?  or are they taking any opportunity possible to check out some females?

There is some pretty biting banter between the royals over the King’s treatment of French diplomatic party, with the Princess coming off as sarcastic (“Our Lady helm my lord! he’ll be forsworn” [II.i.98]) and the King haughty (“Your ladyship is ignorant what it is” [II.i.101]).  The Princess gives the King the letter from her father, and in the time for the King to read it, we get to watch Berowne and Rosaline get reacquainted.  And it begins with a pick-up line that I knew was old, but I didn’t know Shakespeare knew it, a variation on “Haven’t we met somewhere before?”  Berowne asks, “Did not I dance with you in Brabant once?” and Rosaline parrots the same exact line back (II.i.114-115).

And we are off and running.  It’s a short dialogue–just over two dozen lines, split equally on either side of the King’s response to the French letter–but there’s quite a bit going on there (both in the poetical AND bawdy realms… the sacred and the profane, as it were… so you know, we’ll be hittin’ that before the end of the month!).

It’s sniping, more hate than love, with very little flirtatiousness (at least on the surface).

In the midst of their sparring session, the King returns after reading the letter from the French king; and there seems to be an issue over moneys owed.  Now, IF I have this right–and I may very well not–it goes something like this:

now if this was Hamlet, and we were hearing about Fortinbras here, I might be listening more closely… now I could be wrong, but I’m thinking that in this comedy, this might all be a MacGuffin, something to kick start the plot, but nothing to worry our little heads over…

In the past, the old King of Navarre lent the King of France 200,000 crowns to assist France in a war it was fighting.  In collateral, France gave over the province of Aquitaine (the region of France adjacent to Navarre’s location in Spain).  The French claim in the letter that they had already paid back 100,000 crowns of the debt.  Only Navarre hasn’t received that money.  Regardless, even if what the letter says was true, France would still owe Navarre the other half, the other 100,000 crowns.  But the letter goes on to say that not only is France NOT going to pay the other 100,000 but that the original 100,000 should have been enough, and so it wants Aquitaine back now (without extra payment).

oh, and another thing… this old King of Navarre who lent the money but was never repaid, where is he?  Why isn’t he still king?  Is he dead?  Is this three-year hermitage really just an excuse for the new King’s mourning of the late King?  Is that why the first sentence of the play has references to “lives,” “tombs,” “death,” and “devouring Time” (I.i.1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively)?  something to ponder, I think…

The King concludes his review of the letter, saying that if the request wasn’t so ridiculously out of line, the Princess’ beauty would make him agree to the request and send her back to France “well satisfied” (II.i.152).  The Princess responds defensively, and the King says, “If you prove it, I’ll repay it back // Or yield up Aquitaine” (II.i.158-159).  Of course, the French don’t have the paperwork, but they should be able to prove it “tomorrow” (II.i.165), extending the French party’s stay in Navarre.  And the King leaves them in the field (“in [his] heart, // Though… denied… in [his] house” [II.i.173-174]); the goodbye between the royals is icily civil (or rather randy… but we’ll look at that later in the month).

Each of the attendants takes his leave of the French party, each asking Boyet on their way out the name of the lady attendant which has struck his fancy (even Berowne).  With the men gone, there is some playful banter between the ladies and Boyet, who tells them that he thinks the men are in love with them.  The ladies scoff at the idea and of the “old lovemonger… Cupid’s grandfather” (II.i.253, 254), even though he is certain:
I'll give you Aquitaine and all that is his,
An you give him for my sake but one loving kiss.

–II.i.247-248

Comment?