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Love's Labour's Lost opens on a grandiose note, as Ferdinand, King of Navarre, informs the audience that he and his companion lords, Biron, Longaville and Dumain, have sworn to abstinence and the pursuit of knowledge. They are to lock themselves away in court to study for three years, and visits by females will be very limited. When the King instructs his lords to sign an oath to the plan, both Longaville and Dumain quickly comply, claiming that a three-year period of fasting and celibacy can easily be endured for the sake of knowledge. Biron, however, initially finds the plan unreasonable and is hesitant to sign the oath. His initial skepticism is soon overcome, and he makes his pledge along with the others. As Biron signs, however, he reminds the King of the impending visit from the Princess of France, which threatens the proclamations of the agreement, since she will have to be entertained for the sake of "gentility".
The conversation is interrupted by Constable Dull, who brings with him a letter concerning the crime committed by Costard, who is in tow. The letter is from Don Armado, the Spanish "child of fancy", who accuses Costard of having broken the law by flirting with a country girl. Costard is given a punishment, and Don Armado is put in charge of enforcing it. He is happy to do this since the country girl is someone to whom he is attracted.
While this matter is sorted out, the Princess of France arrives at the gates of Navarre and is shocked by the lack of hospitality shown towards herself and her ladies, due to the King's oath. The King and his men finally enter, and a debate over the land the Princess has come to claim follows. The king's lords immediately show an interest in ladies of the princess. After they exit with the king, they quickly return to be with them. Dumain reveals a curiosity for Katherine, Longaville shows an interest in Maria, and Biron comes in to confirm whether or not Rosaline is married. The third act reveals the parallel development in both the main plot and the comic sub-plot. Biron accosts Costard, the clown and, having tipped him generously, asks him to take to the lady Rosaline a letter confessing his love for her. Costard agrees, just as he has earlier agreed to take a similar letter to Jaquenetta from Don Armado. Costard faithfully hands over the letter to the Princess while she occupies herself with shooting. However, Costard has mixed up the letters, and hands over the Princess the letter intended for Jaquenetta rather than the one for Rosaline. Nevertheless, the Princess insists it be read aloud. After being amused at the letter, she proceeds to the shoot, while Rosaline and Boyet take part in a witty dialogue.