Love's Labor's Lost

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Love Letters Symbol Icon
Berowne and Armado both write letters to their beloveds and, unwisely, entrust them to Costard to have them delivered. Costard delivers the letters to the wrong people, giving Berowne’s letter to Jacquenetta and Costard’s to Rosaline. Along with Ferdinand’s written oath and the love poems of some of the male characters, these letters are an important instance of writing in a play that explores the intricacies of language. As they don’t accomplish what they are intended to and don’t reach their intended audience in the way their writers wished, they can be seen as symbolizing the instability and difficulties of language itself. All words can be seen as similar to these letters: they are sent out from their speaker for a purpose but often received in the wrong way. This doesn’t mean that language and writing are completely ineffective or don’t work, but rather that they work too much: their words often work in more ways than a speaker or writer intends.

Love Letters Quotes in Love's Labor's Lost

The Love's Labor's Lost quotes below all refer to the symbol of Love Letters. 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 3, Scene 1 Quotes

Remuneration. Why, it is a fairer name than “French crown.” I will never buy and sell out of this word.

Related Characters: Costard (speaker)
Related Symbols: Love Letters
Page Number: 3.1.149-150
Explanation and Analysis:

After moments where Mote's intelligence is showcased and praised, this comedic moment hits particularly well. Costard has been imprisoned since he has been seen with Jacquenetta (Armado's beloved), violating Ferdinand's oath. Armado frees Costard on the condition that he delivers a love letter from Armado to Jacquenetta. In addition to freeing Costard, Armado gives him remuneration in the form of a coin for his troubles. Remuneration simply means payment for a service, but here Costard confuses the meaning and comically things it is a fancy word ("fairer name") for a French crown.

We can also note that despite the failures in language, both on the part of Armado and Costard, Armado places his hopes for love on a fool (Costard) and only in the written word (his love letter). These decisions will provide fuel for comedy, as Costard will later mix up love letters and deliver Armado's letter to the wrong person.


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And I forsooth in Love! I that have been love’s whip,
A very beadle to a humorous sigh,
A critic, nay, a nightwatch constable,
A domineering pedant o’er the boy,
Than whom no mortal so magnificent.
This wimpled, whining, purblind, wayward boy,
This Signior Junior, giant dwarf, Dan Cupid,
Regent of love rhymes, lord of folded arms,
Th’annointed sovereign of sighs and groans,
Liege of all loiterers and malcontents,
Dread prince of plackets, king of codpieces,
Sole imperator and great general
Of trotting paritors—O my little heart!
Am I to be a corporal of his field
And wear his colors like a tumbler’s hoop!
What? I love, I sue, I seek a wife?
. . . It is a plague
That Cupid will impose for my neglect
Of his almighty dreadful little might.
Well, I will love, write, sigh, pray, sue, groan.
Some men must love my lady, and some Joan.

Related Characters: Berowne (speaker), Rosaline
Related Symbols: Love Letters
Page Number: 3.1.184-215
Explanation and Analysis:

Berowne has just given Costard a love letter to deliver to Rosaline. Now, alone on stage, Berowne reflects on how possessed he has become by love, which he finds ironic, since he has previously been so critical of love. He cries out against Cupid with a long list of harsh adjectives suggesting at first Cupid's incompetence and then his power, until Berowne breaks off with "O my little heart!"

He then asks if he is going be "a corporal" in Cupid's army, playing with the common notion that love is like a battlefield. In this metaphor and Berowne's context, love is combative, violent, and destructive, and Berowne is just a foot soldier following the orders of a higher power. He goes on to call love a "plague," and we can remember Boyet's description above of a lover as "infected." Berowne believes he is inflicted by love because of his neglect of Cupid's "almighty dreadful little might," an incredible phrase which simultaneously shows Cupid's power and small size. Berowne ends by admitting to himself that he does love Rosaline, and must act accordingly: "I will love, write, sigh, pray, sue, groan." This list of single-syllable actions shows rhythmically the repeating, dramatic nature of the different steps in the course of falling in love. Berowne also says that some men must love women like Rosaline, and others must love less-esteemed women, and the steps and trouble he must take to woo Rosaline are more difficult because she is a member of a royal court.

Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

By heaven, that thou art fair is most infallible, true that thou art beauteous, truth itself that thou art lovely. More fairer than fair, beautiful than beauteous, truer than truth itself, have commiseration on thy heroical vassal. . . . Shall I command thy love? I may. Shall I enforce thy love? I could. Shall I entreat thy love? I will.

Related Characters: Boyet (speaker), Armado (speaker)
Related Symbols: Love Letters
Page Number: 4.1.68-89
Explanation and Analysis:

The Princess and her train are on a hunt, when Costard enters with a letter he claims is from Berowne and for Rosaline. However, Costard mistakenly delivers Armado's letter meant for Jacquenetta. Boyet receives the letter and quickly recognizes Costard's error, but he still reads the letter out loud to the bemusement of the Princess and the other women. The excerpt contains the beginning of the long letter, and another line towards the end.

Armado's letter is ridiculous, over-wrought, and verbose. In the first sentences we see the roundabout way in which he declares Jacqueneta's beauty. His lines say that she is the superlative of beauty, fairness, and loveliness, but at the same time they are so convoluted that they say nothing at all. The ladies ultimately mock him extensively for his letter, saying that it shows he is much less intelligent than he thinks he is. The final lines excerpted are from later in the speech, in which he finally makes a direct request for Jacqueneta's love. However, he still does so in an over-the-top way. The "shall I... I may/could/shall" phrasing is pure dramatic excess, and more evidence that the over-educated Armado (whom we know seems less intelligent than his page, Mote) thinks much too highly of himself.

Act 4, Scene 2 Quotes

If love make me forsworn, how shall I swear to love?
Ah, never faith could hold, if not to beauty vowed!
Though to myself forsworn, to thee I’ll faithful prove.
. . .
If knowledge be the mark, to know thee shall suffice.
Well-learned is that tongue that well can thee commend.
All ignorant that soul that sees thee without wonder;
Which is to me some praise that I thy parts admire.
. . .
Celestial as thou art, O pardon love this wrong,
That sings heaven’s praise with such an earthly tongue.

Related Characters: Berowne (speaker), Nathaniel (speaker), Rosaline
Related Symbols: Love Letters
Page Number: 4.2.126-143
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene begins with Holofernes, Nathaniel, and Dull discussing the Princess's hunt and their own intelligence, the first two making fun of Dull for not knowing latin. Then Jacquenetta and Costard enter, with the latter carrying the letter he thinks is from Armado for Jacquenetta, but is actually the letter from Berowne for Rosaline. The excerpt here contains three sections of the letter, which contains verses of love poetry. Berowne attempts to use poetry, rhyme, and skillful language to woo Rosaline, but as is becoming common in this play, the words reach the wrong audience with the wrong effect.

In the opening lines, he assures Rosaline that although he is breaking the oath he made with Ferdinand by talking to her, he will never break oaths to her and will always be faithful. Here Berowne seems aware of the irony in pledging his faithfulness while simultaneously breaking a vow. In the next section, Berowne says that knowing Rosaline will give him all the knowledge he needs, and that "well-learned is the tongue" that can properly praise her. This point foreshadows the argument he will make in the next scene, and that will justify everyone breaking the oath: true knowledge and study comes from women and love as much as from books and fasting. Finally, Berowne concludes his poem by apologizing for describing such a "celestial" woman with his meager "earthly tongue," a common poetic technique in which the author acknowledges that his or her subject matter is beyond mortal capacity for language.

Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

We have received your letters full of love;
Your favors, the ambassadors of love;
And in our maiden council rated them
As courtship, pleasant jest, and courtesy,
As bombast and as lining to the time.
But more devout than this in our respects
Have we not been, and therefore met your loves
In their own fashion, like a merriment.

Our letters, madam, showed much more than jest.

So did our looks.

We did not quote them so.

Related Characters: Longaville (speaker), Dumaine (speaker), The Princess of France (speaker), Rosaline (speaker)
Related Symbols: Love Letters
Page Number: 5.2.852-862
Explanation and Analysis:

Ferdinand begs the Princess to not let the bad news interrupt their courtship and love, and Berowne explains that the men have broken their oaths for the sake of love. But here, the Princess explains that the women never took the courtship seriously. They received the love letters and the gifts—"ambassadors of love," typical tokens that might signal affections—but the women believed in this case they merely indicated "pleasant jest, and courtesy." For this reason, the women have met the love from the men in what they believed to be the fashion of the courtship—"like a merriment." In other words, the women here claim they believed the men have only been joking the whole time, framing the entire romance as comedy instead of genuine passion. The men all quickly respond that they meant "much more than jest" and were attempting to be genuine.

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Love Letters Symbol Timeline in Love's Labor's Lost

The timeline below shows where the symbol Love Letters appears in Love's Labor's Lost. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 3, Scene 1
Love Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Intelligence Theme Icon
Work, Pleasure, and Comedy Theme Icon 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... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
Intelligence Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
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...favor is yet. He tells Costard about Rosaline and asks him to deliver her a letter. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
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Intelligence Theme Icon the tallest lady, with a head. Costard tells the princess that he has a letter from Berowne for Rosaline. Boyet takes the letter and sees that it is addressed to... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Intelligence Theme Icon
Nonetheless, Boyet reads out the letter, written by Armado. In over-wrought language, the letter describes Jacquenetta’s beauty and (in a very... (full context)
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The princess tells Costard that he has mixed up his letters. Everyone but Maria, Rosaline, Boyet, and Costard leaves. Boyet and Rosaline joke about hunting: she... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Love Theme Icon
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Jacquenetta and Costard enter. She gives Nathaniel a letter that Costard gave her, that is supposedly from Armado, and asks Nathaniel to read it.... (full context)
Language Theme Icon
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...Nathaniel read the poem’s meter wrong, and examines it. He reads the top of the letter and sees that it is addressed to Rosaline, from Berowne. He tells Jacquenetta to bring... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Love Theme Icon
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...he feels betrayed and calls the 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... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Love Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
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...and Katherine, conversation turns again to the group’s love gifts. Rosaline has received a love letter along with a drawing of her from Berowne. Katherine has been given gloves from Dumaine,... (full context)