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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The Kingdom of Navarre, which is the setting of the play, was a real historical place. In the fifteenth century, Navarre was a Kingdom located along the Pyrenees mountain range in Northeast Spain and Southwest France. The setting is an appropriate one for romantic and/or political meetings between members of opposing kingdoms. While the general setting is the Kingdom of Navarre, the main action develops in two locations: the court of Navarre and the park outside palace grounds, where the Princess and her entourage are made to camp.
Ferdinand, King of Navarre - Ferdinand is an ambitious, youthful king, driven toward converting his court into 'a little Academe'. He swears an oath that he will remain a celibate scholar for three years and that he and his men will cloister themselves within the court. He institutes stringent rules against the admission of women to the court or any discourse at all with the opposite sex. Throughout the play, he must face the folly of his own actions and the vow that precipitated them
Biron - Described by the ladies as being prone to "jest", Biron, one of the attendants to the king, comes across as realistic in his reservations about the proposed plan; he states that "these are barren tasks, too hard to keep". It is this initial reluctance that renders him less of a hypocrite than his friends. Biron is a skilled speaker and writer, generally presenting himself as a wise man with greater perception than his companions.
Longaville and Dumain - Two other attendants to the King of Navarre, who pledge their allegiance to the plan without any hesitation, for "tis but a three years' fast". They, however, predictably break their vows much sooner than three years, revealing their own foolish hypocrisy.
Princess of France - The princess arrives in Navarre on a diplomatic mission, as her father's envoy, to have the King of Navarre "surrender-up" Aquitaine land that belongs to her father. Along with her three friends, she also serves the purpose of exposing 'the little Academe' as absurd in its rejection of natural human emotions. She is also quick to point out the lack of gentility among the members of the academe.
Rosaline, Maria and Katherine - These three attendant ladies to the Princess of France join her in falling in love with the foolish and extreme men. The four women, as a group, come across as wiser than the King of Navarre and his lords, for they have a much more realistic viewpoint. They are the forces that will expose the folly of the men's decision. In the end, they are also strong enough in their own wills to impose a waiting period accompanied with various tasks to their wooers, to teach them a lesson for their impertinence against human nature.