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Scene Summaries With Notes
Act I, Scene 1
The play begins with the King of Navarre declaring that he and his nobles, Longaville, Dumain, and Biron, need to be eternally remembered, even in death. The King proposes to accomplish this fame by forming "a little academe" in which the four men will cloister themselves in court and remain celibate for three years in order to diligently pursue their studies, thus accomplishing great learning and subsequent fame. Longaville is quick to comply to the king's plan and signs the document held out by his majesty, saying that for him, "Tis but a three years' fast." Dumain also signs his consent with ease, renouncing worldly pleasure and declaring the he may now be considered dead "to love, to wealth, to pomp". Biron, though having agreed to remain at the court of Navarre for the purpose of studying the art of living, objects to the "other strict observances," which he feels are foolish. He is not prepared to give up sensual pleasure for intellectual enrichment and states, "O, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep - Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep."
Biron asks the King what they may do for recreation since women are a pleasure unavailable to them. It is unanimously decided that Armado, the "refined traveler of Spain", will provide them with entertainment. As they continue to talk, a constable named Anthony Dull enters with a countryman named Costard. The constable carries a letter written by Armado, which accuses the countryman of seducing a woman in spite of the court declaration of abstinence. The accusing letter, addressed to the King, is written in a highly decorous style and spells out in detail the crime of which Costard is accused. Costard admits he knows about the law, but has never heard of it being enforced. The King pronounces his sentence, and Costard is sent to the custody of Armado.