Ferdinand, the King of Navarre, and his lords vow to retire from the world for three years of intense study. They also swear to forsake all communication with women, forgetting that the Princess of France is on her way to Navarre on a diplomatic mission! Matters become complicated when she arrives, and Navarre immediately becomes enchanted by her. Likewise, his three attendant lords fall in love with her three ladies-in-waiting. Meanwhile, the loquacious Don Adriano de Armado--much to his astonishment--has fallen for Jacquenetta, a lowly country wench ("I do affect the very ground [which is base] where her shoe [which is baser] guided by her foot [which is basest] doth tread" I.ii.167-69). More comic relief is provided as Holofernes (the pedant), Nathaniel (the curate), Dull (the constable), and Costard (the swain) decide to stage a pageant of the Nine Worthies for the royals. Hypocrisy is exposed as the lords break their vow of seclusion in order to woo the ladies with vows of eternal love.
Love's Labour's Lost has been criticized for its lack of plot, but actually this flaw makes the play seem quite modern when combined with its unusual ending after the stunning entrance of Marcade. Although some of the Elizabethan allusions are obscure, the play's beautiful poetry (it was written around the same time as the sonnets) and lively wit make it an excellent choice for those who have read and enjoyed other Shakespearean works.
Reviewed by mh, 11/98. Other reviews by mh.