Armado asks his page Mote what it means when a man is melancholy. The boy answers that it means the man is sad. Armado tells him sadness and melancholy are the same thing, and calls Mote “tender juvenal.” The page calls Armado “tough signior,” and the two argue over the appropriateness of their nicknames for each other.
Armado and Mote argue comically over the particularities of the words they use, from the difference between sadness and melancholy to their nicknames for each other. Mote is easily able to keep pace with the wit of his social superior Armado.
Armado and Mote go off on a 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 (including what one plus two is), which Armado cannot solve.
Mote shows his intelligence by matching wits with Armado and toying with him with some simple arithmetic. His intelligence seems to be a natural cleverness, in contrast to the learning Armado and the other nobles seek through scholarship and books.
Armado confesses that he is in love with a “base wench.” He asks Mote to name some “great men” who have also been in love. The page names Hercules and Samson. Armado asks who Samson was in love with, and Mote says that he loved a woman with a “sea-water green” complexion. Armado says that his beloved has a white and red complexion. Mote tells him to be careful, because with such a woman one cannot know when she is frightened or embarrassed, because blushing or turning pale does not alter her normal appearance.
Because the unrestrained passion of love robs one of self-control, Armado fears that love makes him weak or less of a man. So, he begs Mote to remind him of some strong men who have also been in love. Mote continues to cleverly tease his master in their conversation about Jacquenetta’s complexion.
Armado asks Mote about a ballad concerning a king’s love for a beggar, because he wishes to justify his love with some kind of a precedent. He finally identifies the object of his love as Jaquenetta, whom he saw with Costard. Armado tells Mote to sing to cheer him up, but they are interrupted when Costard, Dull, and Jaquenetta enter.
Armado again wishes for some encouragement that his love does not take away from his status as a noble, strong man.
Dull informs Armado that he is to oversee the punishment of Costard, and that he is escorting Jaquenetta back to the park, where she is allowed to be a “deymaid” (dairy maid). Armado blushes when he sees Jaquenetta and tells her that he loves her and will pay her a visit. She seems very uninterested in him.
Armado’s thoughts about his love have been rather self-centered; he hasn’t stopped to think whether the object of his affections has any feelings for him (which she currently doesn’t appear to).
Dull leaves with Jaquenetta. Costard says he hopes he can begin fasting on a full stomach, and asks Armado not to imprison him. Mote takes Costard away, leaving Armado by himself. Armado says he loves the very ground Jaquenetta steps upon and calls love “a devil.” He takes some comfort in the fact that even Hercules and Samson were in love, and says that he will “turn sonnet” and pour all of his affections into writing.
Costard continues with his clever joking, asking if he can eat a big meal before having to fast. Armado is powerfully affected by love and denigrates it as a negative experience. Nonetheless, he takes comfort in the examples of strong men who have also loved. Love inspires Armado to write poetry.