Armado tells his page Mote to free Costard and bring him so that Armado can have him take a love letter to Jacquenetta for him. Mote asks if Armado is going to try to woo Jacquenetta with song and dance, saying that such a strategy has seduced many women. Mote sings a line from a song about a “hobby horse,” and Armado angrily asks if Mote called Jacquenetta a hobby horse. Mote jokes that perhaps she is a “hackney” (a horse for hire, but also a term for a prostitute).
Armado’s personal affections for Jacquenetta trump his official duty of carrying out Costard’s punishment. Armado and Mote attempt to come up with a strategy to seduce Jacquenetta, showing how much work goes into the business of love. Mote continues to display his astute skill with words.
Mote says that Armado loves Jacquenetta “by, in, and without” his heart: his heart cannot come by her, his heart is in love with her, and he is out of heart that he doesn’t have her. Armado sends Mote to get Costard, and Mote says he will go “as swift as lead.” Armado is confused and says that lead is a slow, heavy metal, but Mote reasons that lead shot from cannons and guns is fast, and Armado is delighted with his cleverness.
Mote uses Armado’s love as another opportunity to display his quick wit and skill with wordplay. Armado is impressed by Mote’s intelligence, which seems to surpass that of his master, suggesting again that book learning may not be superior to native cleverness and intelligence.
Mote leaves, and Armado compliments his “acute” wit. Mote returns with Costard and Armado greets him with the Latin greeting “salve,” which Costard confuses with “l’envoi,” a French term for parting words or an ending to a speech. The two disagree over these terms and try to remember a fable as an example of the usage of the terms.
The language Armado uses to try to convey his wishes to Costard backfires on him, as Costard is confused by his (overly) learned terms, leading to a comical digression about “salve” and “l’envoi.”
Costard tells Armado that he fell over a threshold and broke his shin. Armado tells him to stop talking about his shin and informs him that he has been freed only on the condition that he delivers a letter from Armado to Jacquenetta. He gives Costard “remuneration” in the form of a coin for the favor, and then leaves with Mote. Costard examines the coin and thinks that “remuneration” is “a fairer name than ‘French crown.’”
Costard comically misunderstands the term “remuneration” as referring to a particular kind of coin rather than payment in general. Despite the slight failures of his language to adequately communicate his thoughts, Armado entrusts the important task of communicating his love to Jacquenetta to his words alone, in a written letter.
Berowne enters and Costard asks him how much a “remuneration” is worth (as if remuneration were the name of a kind of coin). Berowne asks Costard to do him a favor, and Costard agrees. Berowne says he hasn’t even told him what the favor is yet. He tells Costard about Rosaline and asks him to deliver her a letter.
Costard—with his error about “remuneration” and his agreeing to Berowne’s favor before even hearing what it is—fills the role of a clown to compliment the intelligence and wit of Berowne’s character.
Berowne gives Costard some money, calling it a “guerdon” (reward). Costard mishears this as “gardon,” and exclaims that a “gardon” is worth even more than a “remuneration.” He leaves excitedly. Alone on stage, Berowne remarks on how he, who used to be entirely against love, is now in love and under the control of Cupid.
As with the term “remuneration,” Costard thinks that “guerdon” is the name of a coin. Berowne feels that he has no control over love, which completely controls him against his will.
Berowne asks if he is now to be “a corporal” in Cupid’s army. He refers to his love as a plague that Cupid is punishing him with, and then resigns himself to his feelings, saying, “I will love, write, sigh, pray, sue, groan.”
The image of Cupid’s army implies that love is a powerful, destructive force. The comparison of love to a plague emphasizes the harm it does. Nonetheless, Berowne resigns himself to love.