Act I - Act I, Scene 1


SCENE I. The King of Navarre's park

[Enter the King, BEROWNE, LONGAVILLE, and DUMAIN.]

Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live regist'red upon our brazen tombs,
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
The endeavour of this present breath may buy
That honour which shall bate his scythe's keen edge,
And make us heirs of all eternity.
Therefore, brave conquerors--for so you are
That war against your own affections
And the huge army of the world's desires--
Our late edict shall strongly stand in force:
Navarre shall be the wonder of the world;
Our court shall be a little academe,
Still and contemplative in living art.
You three, Berowne, Dumain, and Longaville,
Have sworn for three years' term to live with me,
My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes
That are recorded in this schedule here:
Your oaths are pass'd; and now subscribe your names,
That his own hand may strike his honour down
That violates the smallest branch herein.
If you are arm'd to do as sworn to do,
Subscribe to your deep oaths, and keep it too.

I am resolv'd; 'tis but a three years' fast:
The mind shall banquet, though the body pine:
Fat paunches have lean pates; and dainty bits
Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits.

My loving lord, Dumain is mortified:
The grosser manner of these world's delights
He throws upon the gross world's baser slaves;
To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die,
With all these living in philosophy.

I can but say their protestation over;
So much, dear liege, I have already sworn,
That is, to live and study here three years.
But there are other strict observances:
As, not to see a woman in that term,
Which I hope well is not enrolled there:
And one day in a week to touch no food,
And but one meal on every day beside;
The which I hope is not enrolled there:
And then to sleep but three hours in the night
And not be seen to wink of all the day,--
When I was wont to think no harm all night,
And make a dark night too of half the day,--
Which I hope well is not enrolled there.
O! these are barren tasks, too hard to keep,
Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep.

Your oath is pass'd to pass away from these.

Let me say no, my liege, an if you please:
I only swore to study with your Grace,
And stay here in your court for three years' space.

You swore to that, Berowne, and to the rest.

By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest.
What is the end of study? let me know.

Why, that to know which else we should not know.

Things hid and barr'd, you mean, from common sense?

KING. Ay, that is study's god-like recompense.

Come on, then; I will swear to study so,
To know the thing I am forbid to know,
As thus: to study where I well may dine,
When I to feast expressly am forbid;
Or study where to meet some mistress fine,
When mistresses from common sense are hid;
Or, having sworn too hard-a-keeping oath,
Study to break it, and not break my troth.
If study's gain be thus, and this be so,
Study knows that which yet it doth not know.
Swear me to this, and I will ne'er say no.

These be the stops that hinder study quite,
And train our intellects to vain delight.

Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain
Which, with pain purchas'd, doth inherit pain:
As painfully to pore upon a book,
To seek the light of truth; while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look.
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.
Study me how to please the eye indeed,
By fixing it upon a fairer eye;
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed,
And give him light that it was blinded by.
Study is like the heaven's glorious sun,
That will not be deep-search'd with saucy looks;
Small have continual plodders ever won,
Save base authority from others' books.
These earthly godfathers of heaven's lights
That give a name to every fixed star
Have no more profit of their shining nights
Than those that walk and wot not what they are.
Too much to know is to know nought but fame;
And every godfather can give a name.

How well he's read, to reason against reading!

Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!

He weeds the corn, and still lets grow the weeding.

The spring is near, when green geese are a-breeding.

How follows that?

Fit in his place and time.

In reason nothing.

Something then in rime.

Berowne is like an envious sneaping frost
That bites the first-born infants of the spring.

Well, say I am: why should proud summer boast
Before the birds have any cause to sing?
Why should I joy in any abortive birth?
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;
So you, to study now it is too late,
Climb o'er the house to unlock the little gate.

Well, sit out; go home, Berowne; adieu.

No, my good lord; I have sworn to stay with you;
And though I have for barbarism spoke more
Than for that angel knowledge you can say,
Yet confident I'll keep what I have swore,
And bide the penance of each three years' day.
Give me the paper; let me read the same;
And to the strict'st decrees I'll write my name.

How well this yielding rescues thee from shame!

'Item. That no woman shall come within a mile of
my court.'Hath this been proclaimed?

Four days ago.

Let's see the penalty. 'On pain of losing her
tongue.' Who devised this penalty?

Marry, that did I.

Sweet lord, and why?

To fright them hence with that dread penalty.

A dangerous law against gentility!
'Item. If any man be seen to talk with a woman within
the term of three years, he shall endure such public shame as the
rest of the court can possibly devise.'
This article, my liege, yourself must break;
For well you know here comes in embassy
The French king's daughter, with yourself to speak--
A mild of grace and complete majesty--
About surrender up of Aquitaine
To her decrepit, sick, and bedrid father:
Therefore this article is made in vain,
Or vainly comes th' admired princess hither.

What say you, lords? why, this was quite forgot.

So study evermore is over-shot:
While it doth study to have what it would,
It doth forget to do the thing it should;
And when it hath the thing it hunteth most,
'Tis won as towns with fire; so won, so lost.

We must of force dispense with this decree;
She must lie here on mere necessity.

Necessity will make us all forsworn
Three thousand times within this three years' space;
For every man with his affects is born,
Not by might master'd, but by special grace.
If I break faith, this word shall speak for me:
I am forsworn 'on mere necessity.'
So to the laws at large I write my name; [Subscribes]
And he that breaks them in the least degree
Stands in attainder of eternal shame.
Suggestions are to other as to me;
But I believe, although I seem so loath,
I am the last that will last keep his oath.
But is there no quick recreation granted?

Ay, that there is. Our court, you know, is haunted
With a refined traveller of Spain;
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;
A man of complements, whom right and wrong
Have chose as umpire of their mutiny:
This child of fancy, that Armado hight,
For interim to our studies shall relate,
In high-born words, the worth of many a knight
From tawny Spain lost in the world's debate.
How you delight, my lords, I know not, I;
But, I protest, I love to hear him lie,
And I will use him for my minstrelsy.

Armado is a most illustrious wight,
A man of fire-new words, fashion's own knight.

Costard the swain and he shall be our sport;
And so to study three years is but short.

[Enter DULL, with a letter, and COSTARD.]

Which is the duke's own person?

This, fellow. What wouldst?

I myself reprehend his own person, for I am his Grace's
tharborough: but I would see his own person in flesh and blood.

This is he.

Signior Arm--Arm--commends you. There's villainy abroad:
this letter will tell you more.

Sir, the contempts thereof are as touching me.

A letter from the magnificent Armado.

How long soever the matter, I hope in God for high words.

A high hope for a low heaven: God grant us patience!

To hear, or forbear laughing?

To hear meekly, sir, and to laugh moderately; or, to
forbear both.

Well, sir, be it as the style shall give us cause to climb
in the merriness.

The matter is to me, sir, as concerning Jaquenetta.
The manner of it is, I was taken with the manner.

In what manner?

In manner and form following, sir; all those three: I was
seen with her in the manor-house, sitting with her upon the form,
and taken following her into the park; which, put together, is in
manner and form following. Now, sir, for the manner,--it is the
manner of a man to speak to a woman, for the form,--in some form.

For the following, sir?

As it shall follow in my correction; and God defend the right!

Will you hear this letter with attention?

As we would hear an oracle.

Such is the simplicity of man to hearken after the flesh.

'Great deputy, the welkin's vicegerent and sole dominator of
Navarre, my soul's earth's god and body's fostering patron,'

Not a word of Costard yet.

'So it is,'--

It may be so; but if he say it is so, he is, in telling
true, but so.--


Be to me, and every man that dares not fight!

No words!

Of other men's secrets, I beseech you.

'So it is, besieged with sable-coloured melancholy, I
did commend the black-oppressing humour to the most wholesome
physic of thy health-giving air; and, as I am a gentleman, betook
myself to walk. The time when? About the sixth hour; when beasts
most graze, birds best peck, and men sit down to that nourishment
which is called supper: so much for the time when. Now for the
ground which; which, I mean, I upon; it is ycleped thy park. Then
for the place where; where, I mean, I did encounter that obscene
and most preposterous event, that draweth from my snow-white pen
the ebon-coloured ink which here thou viewest, beholdest,
surveyest, or seest. But to the place where, it standeth
north-north-east and by east from the west corner of thy
curious-knotted garden: there did I see that low-spirited swain,
that base minnow of thy mirth,'--


'that unlettered small-knowing soul,'--


'that shallow vassal,'--

Still me.--

'which, as I remember, hight Costard,'--

O me.

'sorted and consorted, contrary to thy established proclaimed
edict and continent canon, with--with,--O! with but with this I
passion to say wherewith,'--

With a wench.

'with a child of our grandmother Eve, a female; or, for thy
more sweet understanding, a woman. Him, I,--as my ever-esteemed
duty pricks me on,--have sent to thee, to receive the meed of
punishment, by thy sweet Grace's officer, Antony Dull, a man of
good repute, carriage, bearing, and estimation.'

Me, an't please you; I am Antony Dull.

'For Jaquenetta,--so is the weaker vessel called, which I
apprehended with the aforesaid swain,--I keep her as a vessel of
thy law's fury; and shall, at the least of thy sweet notice,
bring her to trial. Thine, in all compliments of devoted and
heart-burning heat of duty,

This is not so well as I looked for, but the best that ever I

Ay, the best for the worst. But, sirrah, what say you to this?

Sir, I confess the wench.

Did you hear the proclamation?

I do confess much of the hearing it, but little of the
marking of it.

It was proclaimed a year's imprisonment to be taken with a

I was taken with none, sir: I was taken with a damosel.

Well, it was proclaimed 'damosel'.

This was no damosel neither, sir; she was a 'virgin'.

It is so varied too; for it was proclaimed 'virgin'.

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.

Sir, I will pronounce your sentence: you shall fast a week
with bran and water.

I had rather pray a month with mutton and porridge.

And Don Armado shall be your keeper.
My Lord Berowne, see him delivered o'er:
And go we, lords, to put in practice that
Which each to other hath so strongly sworn.


I'll lay my head to any good man's hat
These oaths and laws will prove an idle scorn.
Sirrah, come on.

I suffer for the truth, sir: for true it is I was taken
with Jaquenetta, and Jaquenetta is a true girl; and therefore
welcome the sour cup of prosperity! Affliction may one day smile
again; and till then, sit thee down, sorrow!



  1. The King of Navarre wants to create a "little academe" so that his fellows can pursue wisdom without any other distractions and with such dedication that their fame will spread. Berowne objects to this idea in this passage, arguing that looking in books for wisdom for endless hours on end is painful; he asks why it should be necessary to give up pleasure to pursue pain.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor