Love's Labor's Lost

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Ferdinand Character Analysis

The king of Navarre (a region of Spain). Ferdinand aspires to glory through intense study. He writes an oath (and gets all the men of his court to agree to it), which forbids spending any time with women, eating more food than is strictly necessary, and sleeping more than a few hours per night—all in order to devote all time and energy to studies in an all male “academe.” However, the visit of the princess of France throws a wrench in these plans. Ferdinand quickly falls in love with her and spends most of the play desperately trying to woo her. In the end, the princess tells him to wait for a year while she grieves the loss of her father. At the end of this year, he may have a chance with her.

Ferdinand Quotes in Love's Labor's Lost

The Love's Labor's Lost quotes below are all either spoken by Ferdinand or refer to Ferdinand. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Love's Labor's Lost published in 2005.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Ferdinand (speaker), Berowne, Longaville, Dumaine
Page Number: 1.1.8-14
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines come from the play's opening speech, in which Ferdinand, King of Navarre, introduces his oath and his plan to devote three years time to study only. He invokes honor and fame, which will outlive them well beyond their deaths and the passage of time. Here, he refers to Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine as "brave conquerors" in "that war against [their] own affections / And the huge army of the world's desires."

The effort to conquer their own desires and affections hints at the contents of the king's "edict" which the men will all sign and agree to. This oath will be to devote three years only to the serious study of academics, with the purpose of making Navarre "the wonder of the world," and the court like "a little academe" (academic community). Ferdinand idealizes intelligence and places it as his highest priority. He swears to pursue intelligence and academics with a serious, solemn dedication, and appears to have no time for pleasure, play, or love. This intense plan to work is made more explicit by the specific contents of his oath, below.

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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 possible devise.

Related Characters: Ferdinand (speaker), Berowne (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.132-135
Explanation and Analysis:

After a brief argument in which Berowne cleverly argues that overstudying is harmful, we finally are given a glimpse at the contents of the written document that comprises the oath, binds Ferdinand and his court to its terms, and outlines the punishments of breaking it. The first item that Berowne reads stipulates that a woman cannot come within a mile of court or else she will have her tongue cut out. We can note that women were thought to talk too much, and Ferdinand clearly views them only as distracting temptresses.

Here, Berowne reads another item, which says that if a man is seen talking to a women within the next three years, "he shall endure such public shame as the rest of the court can possible devise." First, note that even just talking to a women causes punishment. This is because women supposedly talk too much and are distractions from male study, but also because talking to a women implies romantic and sexual purposes. In Ferdinand's mind there is no other reason a man would spend time with or talk to a woman. We can also note that the punishment has not yet been devised, but will consist of public shame. Honor and fame, which were cited as the purpose of such a rigorous course of study, here resurface as what is at stake when someone violates the terms of the oath.

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;
. . .
If I break faith, this word shall speak for me:
I am forsworn on mere necessity.

Related Characters: Ferdinand (speaker), Berowne (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.150-158
Explanation and Analysis:

Berowne tells the king that he himself will have to break the oath, since the daughter of the King of France is scheduled to visit his court on official business. Ferdinand says that he had forgotten about the visit, and says (in the opening couplet of the excerpt) that they will have to make an exception to the oath out of "mere necessity."

At this, Berowne realizes how easily the oath can be broken and slipped out of, predicting it will occur countless times in the three year span. He says that if he does break the oath, the single word that will absolve him is "necessity." Ferdinand's oath is made of language, and it is with language (not even particularly clever language) that the oath can be broken or put on pause. It is only after realizing this gaping loophole that Berowne consents to sign his name to the written agreement.

Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

If my observation, which very seldom lies,
By the heart’s still rhetoric, disclosed wi’ th’ eyes,
Deceive me not now, Navarre is infected.

With what?

With that which we lovers entitle “affected.”

Related Characters: The Princess of France (speaker), Boyet (speaker), Ferdinand
Page Number: 2.1.240-244
Explanation and Analysis:

The Princess of France has arrived with her attendants, Boyet, the only man in her company, and three ladies: Katherine, Rosaline, and Maria. Boyet is initially sent to court ahead, and Ferdinand and his men eventually greet the Princess and her ladies, apologizing that the women must sleep in the fields. Within the interaction the women display their dazzling, sharp wits, and the men all flirt. As they leave, each asks Boyet for one of the women's names.

After the departure of the men, the women begin making clever jokes with each other, but the Princess says they would make better use of their intelligence and gift of language in a "civil war of wits" with Ferdinand and his men. After this assertion, Boyet makes the observation quoted here. He says that, "by the heart's still rhetoric, disclosed wi' th' eyes... Navarre [Ferdinand] is infected." Here he touches on two tropes describing love: first, it is rooted in language and rhetoric. We have already seen this develop in Armado's thinking. Second, love is communicated and seen in the eyes.

To the suggestion Navarre is infected, the Princess responds with the simple, "with what?" Boyet responds by completing his wordplay: "With that which we lovers entitle "affected," meaning love. Thus Boyet suggests that Ferdinand is in love with the Princess, and at once continues their game of wordplay, puns, and witticisms.

Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

Now step I forth to whip hypocrisy.
Ah, good my liege, I pray thee pardon me.
Good heart, what grace hast thou thus to reprove
These worms for loving, that art most in love?
. . .
O, what a scene of fool’ry have I seen,
Of sighs, of groans, of sorrow, and of teen!
O me, with what strict patience have I sat,
To see a king transformed to a gnat!
To see great Hercules whipping a gig,
And profound Solomon to tune a jig,
And Nestor play at pushpin with the boys,
And critic Timon laugh at idle toys.

Related Characters: Berowne (speaker), Ferdinand
Related Symbols: The Nine Worthies
Page Number: 4.3.158-178
Explanation and Analysis:

Ferdinand is scolding Dumaine and Longaville for violating their oaths, but Berowne, who has been hiding, knows that Ferdinand has also violated the oath. Here, he comes out of hiding to "whip hypocrisy" and criticize the King and his other friends. He asks Ferdinand how he can call out Dumaine and Longaville for loving when he himself is in love as well.

In the second part excerpted, Berowne speaks of the foolishness he sees in the other men, saying that until now he has sat patiently. But now he has seen "a king transformed to a gnat," and "great Hercules whipping a gig," as well as other historical figures acting ridiculously. By comparing them to great, heroic men in pitiful states, Berowne suggests that love has made Ferdinand, Longaville, Dumaine act like fools and hypocrites. Of course, the irony here is thick, as we know that Berowne himself is in love too! Just as he tells them he feels betrayed, Costard and Jacquenetta will enter and reveal that Berowne, too, is in love and has broken the oath.

O, we have made a vow to study, lords,
And in that vow we have forsworn our books.
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?
Other slow arts entirely keep the brain
And therefore, finding barren practicers,
Scarce show a harvest of their heavy toil.
But love, first learned in a lady’s eyes,
Lives not alone immured in the brain,
But with the motion of all elements
Courses as swift as thought in every power,
And gives to every power a double power,
Above their functions and their offices.
It adds a precious seeing to the eye.
A lover’s eyes will gaze an eagle blind.
A lover’s ear will hear the lowest sound,
When the suspicious head of theft is stopped.
Love’s feeling is more soft and sensible
Than are the tender horns of cockled snails.
. . .
Never durst poet touch a pen to write
Until his ink were tempered with love’s sighs.
. . .
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.

Related Characters: Berowne (speaker), Ferdinand, Longaville, Dumaine
Page Number: 4.3.312-347
Explanation and Analysis:

Ferdinand, Longaville, Dumaine, and Berowne have all discovered that each other man has fallen in love with a woman and is temped to break the vow; Berowne's letter for Rosaline, mis-delivered by Costard to Jacqueneta, has also been revealed. Realizing that everyone is in love and wants to break the oath, King Ferdinand asks Berowne to use his intelligence and clever language to get them out of it with their honor still intact.

Excerpted is Berowne's clever argument, which allows the men to forget about their vow to work and study for three years while keeping good conscience. He says that they "have made a vow to study" and have given up their books. But this practice is responsible and even in line with their vow, he argues, since the men could never have learned from their books what they learned from the "prompting eyes / Of beauty's tutors." Love, he says, much more than the other arts or anything else, leads to usable, important knowledge that cannot be learned anywhere else. Love, seen in a lady's eyes, teaches everything they need to know. At one point, he suggest that no poet ever wrote "until his ink were tempered with love's sighs." Women, he says, are the "books, the arts, the academes / That show, contain, and nourish all the world."

This argument presents a stark reversal from the initial vow and Ferdinand's apparent position at the start of the play, which suggested that women were only sexual distractions from true work and study. Now that they are in love, the men justify their oath-breaking by saying that women are the best tutors for true knowledge. What's more, they are the books, the arts, and the academies that sustain the world and the pursuit of knowledge. 

Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

We are wise girls to mock our lovers so.

They are worse fools to purchase mocking so.

Related Characters: The Princess of France (speaker), Rosaline (speaker), Ferdinand, Berowne
Page Number: 5.2.63-64
Explanation and Analysis:

The Princess, Katherine, Rosaline, and Maria have all received gifts from the men courting them. The ladies proceed to make fun of the gifts and the men, continuing their pattern of constantly displaying their wits, their intelligence, and their desire for humor. Here the Princess says that they are "wise girls to mock [their] lovers so," reversing the stereotypical role of women in courtship. Rosaline responds that the men are "worse fools to purchase mocking so," at once reinforcing the Princess's claim that the women are wise and adding an insult to the men. She goes on to joke how she wishes she had an opportunity to make Berowne fawn after her and do ridiculous tasks, reveling in the possibility of more mockery. Below, the women will devise a scheme to further make fun of and embarrass their gentleman suitors, continuing to one-up the men in terms of wit and levity.

The gallants shall be tasked,
For, ladies, we will every one be masked,
And not a man of them shall have the grace,
Despite of suit, to see a lady’s face.
Hold, Rosaline, this favor thou shalt wear,
And then the King will court thee for his dear.
Hold, take thou this, my sweet, and give me thine
So shall Berowne take me for Rosaline.

Related Characters: The Princess of France (speaker), Ferdinand, Berowne, Rosaline
Page Number: 5.2.133-140
Explanation and Analysis:

As the women talk about how foolish their lovers are, Boyet enters and informs them that the men plan to come in disguised as Russian ambassadors. With this knowledge, the Princess concocts a plan to "task" (make fun of) the "gallants." The ladies will all wear masks, and will refuse to show the men their faces. They will also switch gifts, so that when the men enter, they will mistake the women for each other and court the wrong people. This plan will result in embarrassment for the men, who will whisper private words of love to women they aren't in love with. The effect of her plan, says the Princess a few lines later, is to mess up the plan of the men, and to mock them (in merriment) for the trick that they planned to play on the women.

Write “Lord have mercy on us” on those three.
They are infected; in their hearts it lies.
They have the plague, and caught it of your eyes.

Related Characters: Berowne (speaker), Ferdinand, Longaville, Dumaine
Page Number: 5.2.457-459
Explanation and Analysis:

The confused men have left in their Russian disguises and returned as themselves; the women have continued to laugh at their expense, and slowly hinted that they knew it was the men in the Russian disguises all along. The women then reveal the trick they themselves have played by switching gifts. Embarrassed, here Berowne admits to the Russian trick and professes his true love for Rosaline. He says that he is sick, playing on the classic trope of being love-sick. He says that his friends, too, are in love, and that the three (Ferdinand, Longaville, and Dumaine) are "infected." They are afflicted with the "plague" (remember, Berowne has characterized love as a plague earlier in the play), and caught it from the eyes of their beloved, the classical method that love is transferred (think love at first sight). It is the eyes of the ladies that infected the men with love, and the eyes that Berowne has previously cited as being the great tutors of knowledge that enable them to justify breaking the oath.

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Ferdinand Character Timeline in Love's Labor's Lost

The timeline below shows where the character Ferdinand appears in Love's Labor's Lost. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Work, Pleasure, and Comedy Theme Icon
Ferdinand, the king of Navarre, speaks to his three lords Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine, about his... (full context)
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Ferdinand says that Berowne has already sworn an oath to this effect. Berowne says that he... (full context)
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...daughter of the king of France is set to visit his court on official business. Ferdinand admits he had forgotten about this, and says that the princess’ visit will be allowed... (full context)
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...if there will be any entertainment for them, confined to the court for three years. Ferdinand says that he has a Spaniard named Armado who sings and plays music well. Longaville... (full context)
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...Costard says the letter has to do with him and a woman named Jaquenetta. As Ferdinand reads the letter aloud, Costard interjects his own comments, attempting to defend himself. The letter... (full context)
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Ferdinand reminds Costard that it is illegal to spend time with a wench, and Costard replies... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
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...digression of wordplay. Armado says that he has promised to study for three years with Ferdinand, and Mote says that this will be easy. He asks Armado some simple math questions... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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...Katherine, Rosaline, and Maria. Complimenting her beauty, Boyet reminds the princess to be charming toward Ferdinand, as she has been sent to negotiate an exchange of land on behalf of her... (full context)
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The princess asks her attendants about the lords that have agreed to Ferdinand’s vow to study for three years without women. Maria describes Longaville as wise, virtuous, and... (full context)
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Boyet returns and tells the princess that Ferdinand plans to have her and her attendants camp out in the field outside of his... (full context)
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Ferdinand apologizes and explains that he has “sworn an oath,” about which the princess teases him,... (full context)
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Ferdinand reads a letter from the princess’ father offering a sum of money for the territory... (full context)
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Ferdinand says he will be reasonable when he sees these papers. He promises to make the... (full context)
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...princess tells them to stop “this civil war of wits” and save their cleverness for Ferdinand and his men. Boyet tells the princess that Ferdinand seemed to be in love with... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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In the poem, Berowne says that though he will break his oath to Ferdinand, he will be faithful to Rosaline. He says that if the point of the oath... (full context)
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...it is addressed to Rosaline, from Berowne. He tells Jacquenetta to bring the letter to Ferdinand, and she and Costard exit to do this. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
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...love, and that love “hath taught me to rhyme and to be melancholy.” He sees Ferdinand approaching and hides. (full context)
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Ferdinand enters and reads a poem he has written, praising the princess’ beauty and expressing his... (full context)
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...woman, but that Maria is a goddess. Then, Longaville sees someone coming and hides. Berowne, Ferdinand, and Longaville each all overhear as Dumaine enters, bemoaning his love for Katherine. He describes... (full context)
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...written for her. Dumaine is upset that he is breaking his oath, and wishes that Ferdinand, Berowne, and Longaville were in love, too. Just then, Longaville comes out of hiding and... (full context)
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Ferdinand scolds both Dumaine and Longaville for violating their oaths, but then Berowne comes forth “to... (full context)
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...others inconstant. Then, Jacquenetta and Costard enter, carrying Berowne’s letter. Berowne tries to leave, but Ferdinand stops him. Costard says that he and Jacquenetta have proof of treason. Ferdinand asks Berowne... (full context)
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Berowne says that it is hopeless to try to uphold the oath, and asks Ferdinand and the others to break it with him. He describes his love for Rosaline and... (full context)
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Ferdinand criticizes Rosaline’s dark complexion, saying “black is the badge of hell.” Berowne maintains his opinion... (full context)
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...oath to abstain from women. He encourages everyone to “lose our oaths to find ourselves.” Ferdinand is persuaded, and offers a mock battle cry. Berowne says, “advance your standards, and upon... (full context)
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Ferdinand suggests they plan “some entertainment” to woo the French women. Berowne agrees and says that... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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...or, as he calls it, “the posteriors of this day.” Armado says that he and Ferdinand are very close friends and that he has the honor of presenting some kind of... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Love Theme Icon
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...Rosaline, and Maria all examine the gifts they have received from their respective admirers. From Ferdinand, the princess has received a jewel along with “as much love in rhyme / as... (full context)
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...are, and Boyet enters, “stabb’d with laughter.” He tells the princess and her ladies that Ferdinand and his men are planning to visit them disguised as Russian ambassadors. The princess decides... (full context)
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Mote, Ferdinand, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine arrive in Russian dress. The princess and her ladies put on... (full context)
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Berowne evades the question and trades some witty quips back and forth with Rosaline. Ferdinand and his men play some music and ask the ladies to dance, but they decline.... (full context)
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The princess wonders what they should do if Ferdinand and his men return undisguised. Rosaline suggests that they tease them by talking about a... (full context)
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Ferdinand greets the princess and tells her that she is welcome now in his court. The... (full context)
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...to be a fool to her. Rosaline hints that they know the Russians were actually Ferdinand and his lords in disguise. The king grows pale and Rosaline jokes that he must... (full context)
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...Russian disguise and promises to use no more deception, avowing his sincere love for Rosaline. Ferdinand asks the princess how he can make up for his “rude transgression,” and she tells... (full context)
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Ferdinand worries that the performance will be so bad it will embarrass him, but the princess... (full context)
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...Costard leave. The princess announces that she will leave to return to France immediately, though Ferdinand begs her to stay. She apologizes if her teasing behavior has been a bit too... (full context)
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Ferdinand begs the princess not to let “the cloud of sorrow” disrupt “love’s argument.” Berowne tells... (full context)
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...all “pleasant jest and courtesy.” Dumaine insists that their affections “show’d much more than jest.” Ferdinand again asks the princess, “grant us your loves.” The princess, though, thinks that it is... (full context)
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...to be a song at the end of the performance of the Nine Worthies, and Ferdinand tells him to perform the song now. (full context)