Summary and Analysis
Act V: Scene 1
Don Armado beseeches Holofernes to help him prepare "some delightful ostentation, or show, or pageant, or antic, or firework" to entertain the Princess, as the King desires. Holofernes proposes "The Nine Worthies," in which he himself will play three of the parts, and the rest of the sub-plot figures (Costard, Dull, Moth, and Armado) will fill in the others.
The heart of the comedy in this scene is the meeting between the master of effusive digression, Armado, with the master of pedantic blabber, Holofernes. Both are mocked by the diminutive Moth and are observed in awe by "goodman" Dull, who speaks no word until the end of the scene, and then as he says, "Nor understood none neither." Love's Labour's Lost was certainly played before an educated Elizabethan audience, if not expressly commissioned by the highly cultured nobility. Such an audience would undoubtedly have enjoyed the lampoon of pretentious academics offered here. (Some critics even claim that this early play reveals Shakespeare's recent experiences as a rural schoolmaster, before he dedicated himself to the stage). The Latin quotations and extended linguistic quibbles would, for the most part, be lost on a modern audience, though with some cutting the sense of the comedy can remain intact. Among the secondary characters, Moths wit is sharpest: "They have been at a great feast of languages," he tells Costard, "and stol'n the scraps."
Compounding Holofernes's pretentiousness is his hypocrisy. After privately disparaging Don Armado's habit of drawing "out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple [fibre] of his argument' at the beginning of the scene, he later unctuously compliments Armado, to his face (possibly with a sarcastic wink to Nathaniel) on his skillful embroidery of language:
Armado: Sir, it is the Kings most sweet pleasure and
affection to congratulate the Princess at her
pavilion in the posteriors [hindquarters] of
this day, which the rude multitude call the
Holofernes: The posterior of the day, most generous sir, is
liable, congruent, and measurable for the
afternoon. The word is well culled, chose,
sweet and apt, I do assure you, sir, I do
This scene naturally contrasts to the previous one, in which the well-bred characters engaged in their own language games and then were mildly chided for hypocrisy. Remember that Shakespeare expected these scenes to flow from one to the other without act or scene divisions as such, thus sharpening the contrast.