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Act V, Scene 2
The princess and her ladies have received love letters and tokens of affection from the four "book-mates." They show their gifts to each other and complain about the verbosity of the letters. Rosaline is of the opinion that there is "much in the letters, nothing in the praise." Katherine states that she has been presented with "some thousand verses." Maria believes that her letter is "too long by half a mile." In actuality, all of the women are amused, not flattered, by the overpowering declarations of love. They all seem somewhat wary of love and guarded against the men's eager and effusive propositions. They also agree that the men, though they have learned the impossibility of keeping their vows, have yet to admit their own fleshly weaknesses and fallibility. The foursome decides to humble the foolish men before they submit to their courtship.
Boyet enters with the news that he has overheard the men in the park. Rather than admit to the women that they can no longer keep their vows, the men have decided to come to the women in disguise, courting them as Russian Muscovites. Irritated by the presumptuousness of the lords and their continued resistance to surrendering, the princess suggests to the women that they, too, don masks and pretend to be one another in order to confuse their lovers. With this plan of action, they exchange gifts with one another and wait on the arrival of the lords.
Oblivious to the plot against them, the men approach the women whom they incorrectly 'recognize' from the gifts they carry. The ladies resist the men, refusing to dance or even flirt. At last, the men leave, deciding to come back as themselves. Goaded by Boyet, the ladies decide to continue the game when the men return. Upon re-entering, the King and the lords, now themselves, are told by the women about the foolish and unwelcome Russian suitors who have been pestering them. Crestfallen, Biron promises not to be like the Russians; he will not take recourse to "taffeta phrases, silken terms precise/ three-piled hyperboles, spruce affectation" to express his love to Rosaline. Instead, he promises to use plain and simple speech to express himself. Rosaline, finding his words quite humorous and hypocritical, finishes Biron off by indicating she knows of his Russian disguise. She asks him, "Which of the visors was it that you wore?" Revealing that they have known the men's plot all along, the women then disclose to the lords that they had been wooing the wrong ladies. Finally, everything is sorted out, and the ladies graciously take their suitors in hand.
The performers enter one by one, each playing his part: Armado as Hector of Troy; Costard as Pompeii the Great; Nathaniel as Alexander the Great; Moth as Hercules; and Holofernes as Judas Maccabaeus. Each of the actors is interrupted mid-speech and raucously ridiculed. Holofernes is forced to leave the stage, utterly humiliated. When incited by Biron, Costard accuses Armado of getting Jaquenetta pregnant; in return, Armado challenges him to a duel, but then backs down because he is not wearing a shirt under his outer garments.
In the midst of the confusion, a messenger, Mercade, brings the sad news of the death of the King of France, immediately changing the comic mood to one of seriousness. The Princess, who became Queen on the death of her father, prepares to leave for France with her ladies.
Before they depart, the women are willing to consider the proposals of the men, since they have forsaken their foolish notions and decided to be honest and truthful; however, the women are to have the last word. They ask for a twelve-month waiting period, during which time each lord must prove himself by performing the tasks set for him. For example, the King must live in isolation, and Biron must use his wit to entertain the sick to help alleviate their pain. The play comes to a close with songs of spring and winter, written by "the two learned men."