The King of Navarre’s park.
(King of Navarre; Berowne; Longaville; Dumaine; Constable Dull; Costard)
The King of Navarre has resolved to live an ascetic life of study for three years, away from the court and in the company of his three closest friends, Longaville, Dumaine and Berowne, though the latter is rather skeptical about the vows they must take, particularly that of seeing no woman — not least because the Princess of France is coming on an embassy, and the King (who had quite forgotten about her visit) will have to see her. Still, he signs the pledge. The lords intend to amuse themselves by keeping around an affected Spaniard, Don Armado, as well as the uneducated peasant Costard. At this point a letter is brought in from Armado, accusing Costard of having infringed the rules about women, which apply to everyone within a mile of the court. Costard does not deny having been caught in flagrante with Jaquenetta, and he is condemned to a week of fasting while being guarded by Armado. (242 lines)
Enter Ferdinand, King of Navarre, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine.
Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live regist’red upon our brazen tombs,
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When spite of cormorant devouring Time,
Th’ endeavor of this present breath may buy
That honor which shall bate his scythe’s keen edge,
And make us heirs of all eternity.
Therefore, brave conquerors—for so you are,
That war against your own affections
And the huge army of the world’s desires—
Our late edict shall strongly stand in force:
Navarre shall be the wonder of the world;
Our court shall be a little academe,
Still and contemplative in living art.
You three, Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville,
Have sworn for three years’ term to live with me,
My fellow scholars, and to keep those statutes
That are recorded in this schedule here.
Your oaths are pass’d, and now subscribe your names,
That his own hand may strike his honor down
That violates the smallest branch herein.
If you are arm’d to do, as sworn to do,
Subscribe to your deep oaths, and keep it too.
I am resolved, ’tis but a three years’ fast:
The mind shall banquet, though the body pine;
Fat paunches have lean pates; and dainty bits
Make rich the ribs, but bankrout quite the wits.
My loving lord, Dumaine is mortified:
The grosser manner of these world’s delights
He throws upon the gross world’s baser slaves;
To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die,
With all these living in philosophy.
I can but say their protestation over:
So much, dear liege, I have already sworn,
That is, to live and study here three years.
But there are other strict observances:
As not to see a woman in that term,
Which I hope well is not enrolled there;
And one day in a week to touch no food,
And but one meal on every day beside,
The which I hope is not enrolled there;
And then to sleep but three hours in the night,
And not be seen to wink of all the day—
When I was wont to think no harm all night,
And make a dark night too of half the day—
Which I hope well is not enrolled there.
O, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep,
Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep.
Your oath is pass’d to pass away from these.
Let me say no, my liege, and if you please:
I only swore to study with your Grace,
And stay here in your court for three years’ space.
You swore to that, Berowne, and to the rest.
By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest.
What is the end of study, let me know.
Why, that to know which else we should not know.
Things hid and barr’d (you mean) from common sense.
Ay, that is study’s godlike recompense.
Com’ on then, I will swear to study so,
To know the thing I am forbid to know:
As thus—to study where I well may dine,
When I to feast expressly am forbid;
Or study where to meet some mistress fine,
When mistresses from common sense are hid;
Or having sworn too hard-a-keeping oath,
Study to break it and not break my troth.
If study’s gain be thus, and this be so,
Study knows that which yet it doth not know.
Swear me to this, and I will ne’er say no.
These be the stops that hinder study quite,
And train our intellects to vain delight.
Why? All delights are vain, but that most vain
Which, with pain purchas’d, doth inherit pain:
As, painfully to pore upon a book
To seek the light of truth, while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look.
Light, seeking light, doth light of light beguile;
So ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
Study me how to please the eye indeed
By fixing it upon a fairer eye,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed,
And give him light that it was blinded by.
Study is like the heaven’s glorious sun,
That will not be deep search’d with saucy looks;
Small have continual plodders ever won,
Save base authority from others’ books.
These earthly godfathers of heaven’s lights,
That give a name to every fixed star,
Have no more profit of their shining nights
Than those that walk and wot not what they are.
Too much to know is to know nought but fame;
And every godfather can give a name.
How well he’s read, to reason against reading!
Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!
He weeds the corn and still lets grow the weeding.
The spring is near when green geese are a-breeding.
How follows that?
Fit in his place and time.
In reason nothing.
Something then in rhyme.
Berowne is like an envious sneaping frost
That bites the first-born infants of the spring.
Well, say I am, why should proud summer boast
Before the birds have any cause to sing?
Why should I joy in any abortive birth?
At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled shows;
But like of each thing that in season grows.
So you, to study now it is too late,
Climb o’er the house to unlock the little gate.
Well, sit you out; go home, Berowne; adieu.
No, my good lord, I have sworn to stay with you;
And though I have for barbarism spoke more
Than for that angel knowledge you can say,
Yet, confident, I’ll keep what I have sworn,
And bide the penance of each three years’ day.
Give me the paper, let me read the same,
And to the strictest decrees I’ll write my name.
How well this yielding rescues thee from shame!
“Item, That no woman shall come within a mile of my court”—Hath this been proclaim’d?
Four days ago.
Let’s see the penalty.
“—on pain of losing her tongue.” Who devis’d this penalty?
Marry, that did I.
Sweet lord, and why?
To fright them hence with that dread penalty.
A dangerous law against gentility.
“Item, If any man be seen to talk with a woman within the term of three years, he shall endure such public shame as the rest of the court can possible devise.”
This article, my liege, yourself must break,
For well you know here comes in embassy
The French king’s daughter with yourself to speak—
A maid of grace and complete majesty—
About surrender up of Aquitaine
To her decrepit, sick, and bedred father;
Therefore this article is made in vain,
Or vainly comes th’ admired Princess hither.
What say you, lords? Why, this was quite forgot.
So study evermore is overshot:
While it doth study to have what it would,
It doth forget to do the thing it should;
And when it hath the thing it hunteth most,
’Tis won as towns with fire—so won, so lost.
We must of force dispense with this decree,
She must lie here on mere necessity.
Necessity will make us all forsworn
Three thousand times within this three years’ space;
For every man with his affects is born,
Not by might mast’red, but by special grace.
If I break faith, this word shall speak for me:
I am forsworn “on mere necessity.”
So to the laws at large I write my name,
And he that breaks them in the least degree
Stands in attainder of eternal shame.
Suggestions are to other as to me;
But I believe, although I seem so loath,
I am the last that will last keep his oath.
But is there no quick recreation granted?
Ay, that there is. Our court you know is haunted
With a refined traveller of Spain,
A man in all the world’s new fashion planted,
That hath a mint of phrases in his brain;
One who the music of his own vain tongue
Doth ravish like enchanting harmony;
A man of complements, whom right and wrong
Have chose as umpeer of their mutiny.
This child of fancy, that Armado hight,
For interim to our studies shall relate,
In high-borne words, the worth of many a knight
From tawny Spain, lost in the world’s debate.
How you delight, my lords, I know not, I,
But I protest I love to hear him lie,
And I will use him for my minstrelsy.
Armado is a most illustrious wight,
A man of fire-new words, fashion’s own knight.
Costard the swain and he shall be our sport,
And so to study three years is but short.
Enter a Constable Dull with a letter, with Costard.
Which is the Duke’s own person?
This, fellow. What wouldst?
I myself reprehend his own person, for I am his Grace’s farborough; but I would see his own person in flesh and blood.
This is he.
Signior Arme—Arme—commends you. There’s villainy abroad; this letter will tell you more.
Sir, the contempts thereof are as touching me.
A letter from the magnificent Armado.
How low soever the matter, I hope in God for high words.
A high hope for a low heaven. God grant us patience!
To hear, or forbear hearing?
To hear meekly, sir, and to laugh moderately; or to forbear both.
Well, sir, be it as the style shall give us cause to climb in the merriness.
The matter is to me, sir, as concerning Jaquenetta: the manner of it is, I was taken with the manner.
In what manner?
In manner and form following, sir, all those three: I was seen with her in the manor-house, sitting with her upon the form, and taken following her into the park, which, put together, is in manner and form following. Now, sir, for the manner—it is the manner of a man to speak to a woman; for the form—in some form.
For the following, sir?
As it shall follow in my correction, and God defend the right!
Will you hear this letter with attention?
As we would hear an oracle.
Such is the simplicity of man to hearken after the flesh.
“Great deputy, the welkin’s viceregent, and sole dominator of Navarre, my soul’s earth’s god, and body’s fost’ring patron”—
Not a word of Costard yet.
“So it is”—
It may be so; but if he say it is so, he is, in telling true—but so.
—be to me, and every man that dares not fight!
—of other men’s secrets, I beseech you.
“So it is, besieged with sable-colored melancholy, I did commend the black oppressing humor to the most wholesome physic of thy health-giving air; and as I am a gentleman, betook myself to walk: the time When? About the sixt hour, when beasts most graze, birds best peck, and men sit down to that nourishment which is called supper: so much for the time When. Now for the ground Which? Which, I mean, I walk’d upon: it is ycliped thy park. Then for the place Where? Where, I mean, I did encounter that obscene and most prepost’rous event that draweth from my snow-white pen the ebon-colored ink which here thou viewest, beholdest, surveyest, or seest. But to the place Where? It standeth north-north-east and by east from the west corner of thy curious-knotted garden. There did I see that low-spirited swain, that base minnow of thy mirth”—
“that unlettered small-knowing soul”—
“that shallow vassal”—
“which, as I remember, hight Costard”—
“sorted and consorted, contrary to thy established proclaimed edict and continent canon; which with—O, with—but with this I passion to say wherewith”—
With a wench.
“with a child of our grandmother Eve, a female; or for thy more sweet understanding, a woman. Him I (as my ever-esteemed duty pricks me on) have sent to thee, to receive the meed of punishment, by thy sweet Grace’s officer, Anthony Dull, a man of good repute, carriage, bearing, and estimation.”
Me, an’t shall please you: I am Anthony Dull.
“For Jaquenetta (so is the weaker vessel called), which I apprehended with the aforesaid swain, I keep her as a vessel of thy law’s fury, and shall, at the least of thy sweet notice, bring her to trial. Thine, in all complements of devoted and heart-burning heat of duty,
Don Adriano de Armado.”
This is not so well as I look’d for, but the best that ever I heard.
Ay, the best for the worst. But, sirrah, what say you to this?
Sir, I confess the wench.
Did you hear the proclamation?
I do confess much of the hearing it, but little of the marking of it.
It was proclaim’d a year’s imprisonment to be taken with a wench.
I was taken with none, sir, I was taken with a damsel.
Well, it was proclaim’d damsel.
This was no damsel neither, sir, she was a virgin.
It is so varied too, for it was proclaim’d virgin.
If it were, I deny her virginity; I was taken with a maid.
This maid will not serve your turn, sir.
This maid will serve my turn, sir.
Sir, I will pronounce your sentence: you shall fast a week with bran and water.
I had rather pray a month with mutton and porridge.
And Don Armado shall be your keeper.
My Lord Berowne, see him delivered o’er,
And go we, lords, to put in practice that
Which each to other hath so strongly sworn.
Exeunt King, Longaville, and Dumaine.
I’ll lay my head to any good man’s hat,
These oaths and laws will prove an idle scorn.
Sirrah, come on.
I suffer for the truth, sir; for true it is, I was taken with Jaquenetta, and Jaquenetta is a true girl, and therefore welcome the sour cup of prosperity! Affliction may one day smile again, and till then, sit thee down, sorrow!