In Act Five, Scene Two, Armado
puts on a performance of the Nine Worthies, a pageant showing nine famous men from mythology, history, and the Bible. These men—such as Pompey and Alexander the Great—are exemplary ideals of masculinity in their strength, bravery, and military prowess. The actual performance of the Nine Worthies is somewhat farcical, though, as those playing the nine heroes fall pathetically short of their roles. The Nine Worthies can thus be seen as symbolizing the ideal masculine gender roles that the actual men of the play aspire to but comically fail to live up to. Additionally, the performance provides a valuable way to test the intelligence of various characters of the play. For example, Boyet
, and Dumaine
mix up Holofernes’
character Judas Maccabaeus (of the Old Testament) with Judas Iscariot, who betrays Jesus in the New Testament. Finally, as a play within the play, the pageant can be seen as a microcosm of the performance of Love’s Labor’s Lost
itself (and its heckling audience could even be Shakespeare’s nod toward the rowdy theater audiences of his day).