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Act I, Scene 2
This scene opens with a conversation between the verbose Spanish traveler, Armado, and his flighty page, Moth. Armado confesses that he is in love with Jaquenetta, the woman whom Costard was accused of trying to seduce. Most of the conversation revolves around Armado's justification of his feelings, since he, too, has pledged celibacy for three years. To make himself feel better, he instructs Moth to tell him the names of great and worthy men who have succumbed to the power of love despite their best intentions. When Moth supplies him with names and details, Armado's drooping ego is boosted. Likening himself to these heroes of the past, Armado begins to feel better about his weakening resolve.
Armado asks to be entertained by song, but is put off by the arrival of Costard, Constable Dull, and the object of his love, Jaquenetta. Dull delivers Costard to Armado's custody, telling him the King has decided Costard's punishment should include excessive fasting. In the meantime, Armado flirts with Jaquenetta, arranging to meet her at a later time. She gently pokes fun at Armado, but agrees to the meeting, rather unenthusiastically. He then instructs Moth to take Costard away, though Costard begs that he "not be pent up". Armado is left alone on stage to soliloquize about his predicament, justify his feelings, and bid farewell to "valour", exiting with the intention to write a love sonnet.
Armado is a comic character who, in many ways, serves as a foil to the combined characters of the noblemen. Like the King and the lords, he has sworn himself to three years of celibacy, which he is already having trouble following. Therefore, his inability to deny himself pleasure foreshadows the same inabilities of the noblemen; Armado's justification of his transgression also foreshadows the later justifications of the noblemen. Armado also provides humor throughout the play, for he is the essence of exaggeration. Just as the King is extreme in his resolve, Armado is extreme in his presentation. Of Spanish (therefore, dubious) origin, he is a braggart who thinks of himself as very clever. He speaks as he writes, in a pretentious, boastful, and overdone manner; but his word plays, rather than being witty and sharp, are dull and unimpressive. Additionally, Jaquenetta remarks on his appearance, indicating that he is neither dashing nor noble in bearing. He is, therefore, like the noblemen only in his decision to agree to abstinence; otherwise, he is pompous, excessive, common, and unattractive. The British audience would enjoy this mockery and vilification of a Spaniard, since Spain is a rival country to England.
Part of the humor of this scene comes from the relationship between Armado and his page, Moth. Armado describes Moth as a "slender juvenal," "pretty and apt," and "ingenious." Their conversation is amusing, but is lackluster in comparison to the dialogue between the noblemen. Through Armado's excessive language and ornamental speech, Shakespeare is also poking fun at some of his contemporary writers, who were prone to pretentious language and ornate speeches.