Love's Labor's Lost condensed

Ferdinand is the young king of Navarre, a former kingdom in the northeast portion of present day Spain. The king’s noble plan is to establish an academy where its students would be “still and contemplative in living arts.”  The academy is to be run in a Spartan fashion, on his terms, where his students will focus on their books, enduring a strict regimen; a regimen  that is to include three hours of sleep a night and one meal a day.  The requirement that gets our attention, however, is that students are not to see nor talk to women for the school’s three year term. The king’s naive plan for his student-friends is to “let grand fame grace them, making them heirs of all eternity.” Ferdinand’s plan breaks down quickly, the theme of this silly, innocent, romantic-comedy, where the women win at every turn.

Act 1. Ferdinand has convinced three of his buddies, Longaville, Dumaine and Berowne, to attend his academy, all three signing up.  After realizing his commitment, Berowne has second thoughts, telling the king that “I swore in jest.”  But he stays the course.  We soon learn that a friend of the king’s, Armado, is upset with a man named Costard, claiming he should be punished for paying attention to a young woman, Jaquenetta.  We learn Armando and Costard both have a romantic interest in Jaquenetta, Armado saying “I do love the very ground her shoe doth tread.”

Act 2. The Princess of France and three of her ladies arrive at the academy on “serious business craving quick dispatch.”  Navarre’s king requires that the young ladies set up their camp outside his academy.  The ladies are there representing the princess’ father, the king of France; there to secure the return of Aquitaine to France, France’s king willing to pay “a hundred thousand crowns” to get it back. The men like what they see in the women; the women see the men and they too like what they see.  The princess hands over a paper from her father to Ferdinand.  Ferdinand reads it aloud to all, stumblingly.  Boyet, the princess’ wise protector and adviser, lets the princess know that king can’t take his eyes off her; that he is smitten. 

Act 3. Armado has Costard released from custody.  He asks him to deliver a letter from him to Jaquenetta.  Berowne asks Costard to deliver his letter to Rosaline, one of the princess’ ladies.  The letters are miss-delivered. 

Act 4. The princess suggests Rosaline hold on to the letter (Armado’s letter intended for Jaquenetta), perhaps being able to use it later to their advantage.  Holofernes, a schoolmaster, suggests Jaquenetta deliver her misdirected letter to Navarre’s king.  The king and his students have each written a love poem to one of the four ladies. All four walk independently through the forest, each independently caught up in a dreamy, romantic moment.  Berowne, the first to hide from the others, comes forward, chewing the others out for breaking their pledges.  But he too is soon caught up, but recovers beautifully, cleverly saying “let us fail these troths or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths.”  They all agree. They plan to win the women. 

Act 5.  The king asks Armado to put a play together as an entertainment program for the ladies.  The skit becomes “The Three Worthies,” originally set to be “The Nine Worthies.”  He couldn’t find nine “Worthies.” The men have given the ladies gifts and poems; the women share their gifts and stories with each other.  Boyet advises the women that the men are about to arrive disguised as Muscovites.  The women plan to reciprocate the ruse.  They disguise themselves, put on masks, and switch among themselves the gifts they received from the men.  The men woo the women, whispering sweet nothings, each to the wrong woman.  The ladies treat the men with disdain, particularly Rosaline to Berowne, doubling the pain inflicted on each man.  The men leave, embarrassed, but determined to regroup and try again.  Boyet provides the ladies with some insight on what he thinks will happen next.  The men return; the women welcome them; the men soon becoming well aware that the women played the better trick.  They confess their foolishness and seek forgiveness.  The Three Worthies is presented. The princess learns that her father has died.  She says the women will mourn her father’s death for one year.  The men beg the women to become their wives.  The queen suggests the men serve a form of humbling probation for a year.  Depending on their conduct, the woman say, they may next year accept the young men’s marriage offers.