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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act IV. Scene III.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

The Same.

Enter BEROWNE, with a paper.

Ber.The king he is hunting the deer; I am coursing myself: they have pitched a toil; I am toiling in a pitch,—pitch that defiles: defile! a foul word! Well, sit thee down, sorrow! for so they say the fool said, and so say I, and I the fool: well proved, wit! By the Lord, this love is as mad as Ajax: it kills sheep: it kills me, I a sheep: well proved again o’ my side! I will not love: if I do, hang me; i’ faith, I will not. O! but her eye,—by this light, but for her eye, I would not love her; yes, for her two eyes. Well, I do nothing in the world but lie, and lie in my throat. By heaven, I do love, and it hath taught me to rime, and to be melancholy; and here is part of my rime, and here my melancholy. Well, she hath one o’ my sonnets already: the clown bore it, the fool sent it, and the lady hath it: sweet clown, sweeter fool, sweetest lady! By the world, I would not care a pin if the other three were in. Here comes one with a paper: God give him grace to groan![Gets up into a tree.

Enter the KING, with a paper.

King.Ah me!

Ber.[Aside.]Shot, by heaven! Proceed, sweet Cupid: thou hast thumped him with thy bird-bolt under the left pap. In faith, secrets!


  • So sweet a kiss the golden sun gives not
  • To those fresh morning drops upon the rose,
  • As thy eye-beams, when their fresh rays have smote
  • The night of dew that on my cheeks down flows:
  • Nor shines the silver moon one half so bright.
  • Through the transparent bosom of the deep,
  • As doth thy face through tears of mine give light;
  • Thou shin’st in every tear that I do weep:
  • No drop but as a coach doth carry thee;
  • So ridest thou triumphing in my woe.
  • Do but behold the tears that swell in me,
  • And they thy glory through my grief will show:
  • But do not love thyself; then thou wilt keep
  • My tears for glasses, and still make me weep.
  • O queen of queens! how far thou dost excel,
  • No thought can think, nor tongue of mortal tell.
  • How shall she know my griefs? I’ll drop the paper:

    Sweet leaves, shade folly. Who is he comes here?[Steps aside.

    What, Longaville! and reading! listen, ear.

    Enter LONGAVILLE, with a paper.

    Ber.Now, in thy likeness, one more fool appear!

    Long.Ay me! I am forsworn.

    Ber.Why, he comes in like a perjure, wearing papers.

    King.In love, I hope: sweet fellowship in shame!

    Ber.One drunkard loves another of the name.

    Long.Am I the first that have been perjur’d so?

    Ber.I could put thee in comfort: not by two that I know:

    Thou mak’st the triumviry, the corner-cap of society,

    The shape of love’s Tyburn, that hangs up simplicity.

    Long.I fear these stubborn lines lack power to move.

    O sweet Maria, empress of my love!

    These numbers will I tear, and write in prose.

    Ber.O! rimes are guards on wanton Cupid’s hose:

    Disfigure not his slop.

    Long.This same shall go.

  • Did not the heavenly rhetoric of thine eye,
  • ’Gainst whom the world cannot hold argument,
  • Persuade my heart to this false perjury?
  • Vows for thee broke deserve not punishment.
  • A woman I forswore; but I will prove,
  • Thou being a goddess, I forswore not thee:
  • My vow was earthly, thou a heavenly love;
  • Thy grace, being gain’d, cures all disgrace in me.
  • Vows are but breath, and breath a vapour is:
  • Then thou, fair sun, which on my earth dost shine,
  • Exhal’st this vapour-vow; in thee it is:
  • If broken, then, it is no fault of mine:
  • If by me broke, what fool is not so wise
  • To lose an oath to win a paradise!
  • Ber.This is the liver-vein, which makes flesh a deity;

    A green goose a goddess; pure, pure idolatry.

    God amend us, God amend! we are much out o’ the way.

    Long.By whom shall I send this?—Company! stay.[Steps aside.

    Ber.All hid, all hid; an old infant play.

    Like a demi-god here sit I in the sky,

    And wretched fools’ secrets heedfully o’er-eye.

    More sacks to the mill! O heavens! I have my wish.

    Enter DUMAINE, with a paper.

    Dumaine transform’d: four woodcocks in a dish!

    Dum.O most divine Kate!

    Ber.O most profane coxcomb!

    Dum.By heaven, the wonder of a mortal eye!

    Ber.By earth, she is but corporal; there you lie.

    Dum.Her amber hairs for foul have amber quoted.

    Ber.An amber-colour’d raven was well noted.

    Dum.As upright as the cedar.

    Ber.Stoop, I say;

    Her shoulder is with child.

    Dum.As fair as day.

    Ber.Ay, as some days; but then no sun must shine.

    Dum.O! that I had my wish.

    Long.And I had mine!

    King.And I mine too, good Lord!

    Ber.Amen, so I had mine. Is not that a good word?

    Dum.I would forget her; but a fever she

    Reigns in my blood, and will remember’d be.

    Ber.A fever in your blood! why, then incision

    Would let her out in saucers: sweet misprision!

    Dum.Once more I’ll read the ode that I have writ.

    Ber.Once more I’ll mark how love can vary wit.


  • On a day, alack the day!
  • Love, whose month is ever May,
  • Spied a blossom passing fair
  • Playing in the wanton air:
  • Through the velvet leaves the wind,
  • All unseen, ’gan passage find;
  • That the lover, sick to death,
  • Wish’d himself the heaven’s breath.
  • Air, quoth he, thy cheeks may blow;
  • Air, would I might triumph so!
  • But alack! my hand is sworn
  • Ne’er to pluck thee from thy thorn:
  • Vow, alack! for youth unmeet,
  • Youth so apt to pluck a sweet.
  • Do not call it sin in me,
  • That I am forsworn for thee;
  • Thou for whom e’en Jove would swear
  • Juno but an Ethiop were;
  • And deny himself for Jove,
  • Turning mortal for thy love.
  • This will I send, and something else more plain,

    That shall express my true love’s fasting pain,

    O! would the King, Berowne, and Longaville

    Were lovers too. Ill, to example ill,

    Would from my forehead wipe a perjur’d note;

    For none offend where all alike do dote.

    Long.[Advancing.]Dumaine, thy love is far from charity,

    That in love’s grief desir’st society:

    You may look pale, but I should blush, I know,

    To be o’erheard and taken napping so.

    King.[Advancing.]Come, sir, you blush: as his your case is such;

    You chide at him, offending twice as much:

    You do not love Maria; Longaville

    Did never sonnet for her sake compile,

    Nor never lay his wreathed arms athwart

    His loving bosom to keep down his heart.

    I have been closely shrouded in this bush,

    And mark’d you both, and for you both did blush.

    I heard your guilty rimes, observ’d your fashion,

    Saw sighs reek from you, noted well your passion:

    Ay me! says one; O Jove! the other cries;

    One, her hairs were gold, crystal the other’s eyes:

    [To LONGAVILLE.]You would for paradise break faith and troth;

    [To DUMAINE.]And Jove, for your love, would infringe an oath.

    What will Berowne say, when that he shall hear

    A faith infringed, which such zeal did swear?

    How will he scorn! how will he spend his wit!

    How will he triumph, leap and laugh at it!

    For all the wealth that ever I did see,

    I would not have him know so much by me.

    Ber.Now step I forth to whip hypocrisy.[Descends from the tree.

    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?

    Your eyes do make no coaches; in your tears

    There is no certain princess that appears:

    You’ll not be perjur’d, ’tis a hateful thing:

    Tush! none but minstrels like of sonneting.

    But are you not asham’d? nay, are you not,

    All three of you, to be thus much o’ershot?

    You found his mote; the king your mote did see;

    But I a beam do find in each of three.

    O! what a scene of foolery 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 push-pin with the boys,

    And critic Timon laugh at idle toys!

    Where lies thy grief? O! tell me, good Dumaine,

    And, gentle Longaville, where lies thy pain?

    And where my liege’s? all about the breast:

    A caudle, ho!

    King.Too bitter is thy jest.

    Are we betray’d thus to thy over-view?

    Ber.Not you to me, but I betray’d by you:

    I, that am honest; I, that hold it sin

    To break the vow I am engaged in;

    I am betray’d, by keeping company

    With men like men, men of inconstancy.

    When shall you see me write a thing in rime?

    Or groan for Joan? or spend a minute’s time

    In pruning me? When shall you hear that I

    Will praise a hand, a foot, a face, an eye,

    A gait, a state, a brow, a breast, a waist,

    A leg, a limb?—

    King.Soft! Whither away so fast?

    A true man or a thief that gallops so?

    Ber.I post from love; good lover, let me go.


    Jaq.God bless the king!

    King.What present hast thou there?

    Cost.Some certain treason.

    King.What makes treason here?

    Cost.Nay, it makes nothing, sir.

    King.If it mar nothing neither,

    The treason and you go in peace away together.

    Jaq.I beseech your Grace, let this letter be read:

    Our parson misdoubts it; ’twas treason, he said.

    King.Berowne, read it over—[Giving the letter to him.

    Where hadst thou it?

    Jaq.Of Costard.

    King.Where hadst thou it?

    Cost.Of Dun Adramadio, Dun Adramadio.[BEROWNE tears the letter.

    King.How now! what is in you? why dost thou tear it?

    Ber.A toy, my liege, a toy: your Grace needs not fear it.

    Long.It did move him to passion, and therefore let’s hear it.

    Dum.[Picking up the pieces.]It is Berowne’s writing, and here is his name.

    Ber.[To COSTARD.]Ah, you whoreson logger-head, you were born to do me shame.

    Guilty, my lord, guilty; I confess, I confess.


    Ber.That you three fools lack’d me fool to make up the mess;

    He, he, and you, and you my liege, and I,

    Are pick-purses in love, and we deserve to die.

    O! dismiss this audience, and I shall tell you more.

    Dum.Now the number is even.

    Ber.True, true; we are four.

    Will these turtles be gone?

    King.Hence, sirs; away!

    Cost.Walk aside the true folk, and let the traitors stay.[Exeunt COSTARD and JAQUENETTA.

    Ber.Sweet lords, sweet lovers, O! let us embrace.

    As true we are as flesh and blood can be:

    The sea will ebb and flow, heaven show his face;

    Young blood doth not obey an old decree:

    We cannot cross the cause why we were born;

    Therefore, of all hands must we be forsworn.

    King.What! did these rent lines show some love of thine?

    Ber.‘Did they,’ quoth you? Who sees the heavenly Rosaline,

    That, like a rude and savage man of Inde,

    At the first opening of the gorgeous east,

    Bows not his vassal head, and, strucken blind,

    Kisses the base ground with obedient breast?

    What peremptory eagle-sighted eye

    Dares look upon the heaven of her brow,

    That is not blinded by her majesty?

    King.What zeal, what fury hath inspir’d thee now?

    My love, her mistress, is a gracious moon;

    She, an attending star, scarce seen a light.

    Ber.My eyes are then no eyes, nor I Berowne:

    O! but for my love, day would turn to night.

    Of all complexions the cull’d sovereignty

    Do meet, as at a fair, in her fair cheek;

    Where several worthies make one dignity,

    Where nothing wants that want itself doth seek.

    Lend me the flourish of all gentle tongues,—

    Fie, painted rhetoric! O! she needs it not:

    To things of sale a seller’s praise belongs;

    She passes praise; then praise too short doth blot.

    A wither’d hermit, five-score winters worn,

    Might shake off fifty, looking in her eye:

    Beauty doth varnish age, as if new-born,

    And gives the crutch the cradle’s infancy.

    O! ’tis the sun that maketh all things shine.

    King.By heaven, thy love is black as ebony.

    Ber.Is ebony like her? O wood divine!

    A wife of such wood were felicity.

    O! who can give an oath? where is a book?

    That I may swear beauty doth beauty lack,

    If that she learn not of her eye to look:

    No face is fair that is not full so black.

    King.O paradox! Black is the badge of hell,

    The hue of dungeons and the scowl of night;

    And beauty’s crest becomes the heavens well.

    Ber.Devils soonest tempt, resembling spirits of light.

    O! if in black my lady’s brows be deck’d,

    It mourns that painting and usurping hair

    Should ravish doters with a false aspect;

    And therefore is she born to make black fair.

    Her favour turns the fashion of the days,

    For native blood is counted painting now:

    And therefore red, that would avoid dispraise,

    Paints itself black, to imitate her brow.

    Dum.To look like her are chimney-sweepers black.

    Long.And since her time are colliers counted bright.

    King.And Ethiops of their sweet complexion crack.

    Dum.Dark needs no candles now, for dark is light.

    Ber.Your mistresses dare never come in rain,

    For fear their colours should be wash’d away.

    King.’Twere good yours did; for, sir, to tell you plain,

    I’ll find a fairer face not wash’d to-day.

    Ber.I’ll prove her fair, or talk till doomsday here.

    King.No devil will fright thee then so much as she.

    Dum.I never knew man hold vile stuff so dear.

    Long.Look, here’s thy love:[Showing his shoe.]my foot and her face see.

    Ber.O! if the streets were paved with thine eyes,

    Her feet were much too dainty for such tread.

    Dum.O vile! then, as she goes, what upward lies

    The street should see as she walk’d over head.

    King.But what of this? Are we not all in love?

    Ber.Nothing so sure; and thereby all forsworn.

    King.Then leave this chat; and good Berowne, now prove

    Our loving lawful, and our faith not torn.

    Dum.Ay, marry, there; some flattery for this evil.

    Long.O! some authority how to proceed;

    Some tricks, some quillets, how to cheat the devil.

    Dum.Some salve for perjury.

    Ber.O, ’tis more than need.

    Have at you, then, affection’s men-at-arms:

    Consider what you first did swear unto,

    To fast, to study, and to see no woman;

    Flat treason ’gainst the kingly state of youth.

    Say, can you fast? your stomachs are too young,

    And abstinence engenders maladies.

    And where that you have vow’d to study, lords,

    In that each of you hath forsworn his book,

    Can you still dream and pore and thereon look?

    For when would you, my lord, or you, or you,

    Have found the ground of study’s excellence

    Without the beauty of a woman’s face?

    From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive:

    They are the ground, the books, the academes,

    From whence doth spring the true Promethean fire.

    Why, universal plodding poisons up

    The nimble spirits in the arteries,

    As motion and long-during action tires

    The sinewy vigour of the traveller.

    Now, for not looking on a woman’s face,

    You have in that forsworn the use of eyes,

    And study too, the causer of your vow;

    For where is any author in the world

    Teaches such beauty as a woman’s eye?

    Learning is but an adjunct to ourself,

    And where we are our learning likewise is:

    Then when ourselves we see in ladies’ eyes,

    Do we not likewise see our learning there?

    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 enrich’d you with?

    Other slow arts entirely keep the brain,

    And therefore, finding barren practisers,

    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 stopp’d:

    Love’s feeling is more soft and sensible

    Than are the tender horns of cockled snails:

    Love’s tongue proves dainty Bacchus gross in taste.

    For valour, is not Love a Hercules,

    Still climbing trees in the Hesperides?

    Subtle as Sphinx; as sweet and musical

    As bright Apollo’s lute, strung with his hair;

    And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods

    Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.

    Never durst poet touch a pen to write

    Until his ink were temper’d with Love’s sighs;

    O! then his lines would ravish savage ears,

    And plant in tyrants mild humility.

    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;

    Else none at all in aught proves excellent.

    Then fools you were these women to forswear,

    Or, keeping what is sworn, you will prove fools.

    For wisdom’s sake, a word that all men love,

    Or for love’s sake, a word that loves all men,

    Or for men’s sake, the authors of these women;

    Or women’s sake, by whom we men are men,

    Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves,

    Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths.

    It is religion to be thus forsworn;

    For charity itself fulfils the law;

    And who can sever love from charity?

    King.Saint Cupid, then! and, soldiers, to the field!

    Ber.Advance your standards, and upon them, lords!

    Pell-mell, down with them! but be first advis’d,

    In conflict that you get the sun of them.

    Long.Now to plain-dealing; lay these glozes by;

    Shall we resolve to woo these girls of France?

    King.And win them too: therefore let us devise

    Some entertainment for them in their tents.

    Ber.First, from the park let us conduct them thither;

    Then homeward every man attach the hand

    Of his fair mistress: in the afternoon

    We will with some strange pastime solace them,

    Such as the shortness of the time can shape;

    For revels, dances, masks, and merry hours,

    Forerun fair Love, strewing her way with flowers.

    King.Away, away! no time shall be omitted,

    That will betime, and may by us be fitted.

    Ber.Allons! allons! Sow’d cockle reap’d no corn;

    And justice always whirls in equal measure:

    Light wenches may prove plagues to men forsworn;

    If so, our copper buys no better treasure.[Exeunt.