Love's Labor's Lost

The Nine Worthies Symbol Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
The Nine Worthies Symbol Icon
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, Berowne, 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).

The Nine Worthies Quotes in Love's Labor's Lost

The Love's Labor's Lost quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Nine Worthies. 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 2 Quotes

I will hereupon confess I am in love; and as it is base for a soldier to love, so am I in love with a base wench. . . . I think scorn to sigh; methinks I should outswear Cupid. Comfort me, boy. What great men have been in love?

Related Characters: Armado (speaker), Jacquenetta
Related Symbols: The Nine Worthies
Page Number: 1.2.57-65
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

The very all of all is—but sweetheart, I do implore secrecy—that the King would have me present the Princess, sweet chuck, with some delightful ostentation, or show, or pageant, or antic, or firework.
. . .
Sir, you shall present before her the Nine Worthies.
. . .
Where will you find men worthy enough to present them?

Related Characters: Armado (speaker), Holofernes (speaker), Nathaniel (speaker), The Princess of France
Related Symbols: The Nine Worthies
Page Number: 5.1.109-125
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

Judas I am—

A Judas!

Not Iscariot, sir.
Judas I am, yclept Maccabaeus.

Judas Maccabaeus clipped is plain Judas.

A kissing traitor.—How art thou proved Judas?

Judas I am—

The more shame for you, Judas.

Related Characters: Berowne (speaker), Dumaine (speaker), Holofernes (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Nine Worthies
Page Number: 5.2.662-670
Explanation and Analysis:

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God save you, madam.

Welcome, Marcade,
But that thou interruptest our merriment.

I am sorry, madam, for the news I bring
Is heavy in my tongue. The King your father—

Dead, for my life.

Even so. My tale is told.

Worthies away! The scene begins to cloud.

Related Characters: Berowne (speaker), The Princess of France (speaker), Monsieur Marcade (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Nine Worthies
Page Number: 5.2.790-797
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Nine Worthies Symbol Timeline in Love's Labor's Lost

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Nine Worthies appears in Love's Labor's Lost. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 5, Scene 1
Men and Women Theme Icon
Work, Pleasure, and Comedy Theme Icon
Armado asks Holofernes what he should perform, and Holofernes suggests “the Nine Worthies ,” a pageant of nine famous men from ancient and biblical to medieval times. He... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Intelligence Theme Icon
Work, Pleasure, and Comedy Theme Icon
Costard arrives, asking whether it is time for the performance of the Nine Worthies . He, however, calls it the “three Worthies,” to the confusion of Berowne. Costard explains... (full context)
Work, Pleasure, and Comedy Theme Icon
...he has unfortunate news: her father has died. Berowne tells all the actors of the Nine Worthies to leave, and says that “the scene begins to cloud.” Armado and Costard leave. The... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Work, Pleasure, and Comedy Theme Icon
...there was supposed 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)