Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Act IV, Scene 1
This scene takes place in the park, where the princess and her companions are hunting. Once again the Princess displays an agility of mind as she twists around words and phrases, leaving the forester with whom she speaks completely befuddled and at a loss for words. Time and again, he tries desperately to retract his words and explain himself with apologies.
At this point, Boyet decides to make a crack at women who dominate "only for praise' sake when they strive to be lords o'er their lords;" the Princess, however, is sharp with her reply, putting Boyet into his place. Costard arrives in the park to make his first delivery. When he informs the princess of the letter from Biron for Rosaline, she immediately takes the letter from him, asking Boyet to read it aloud. Boyet, realizing that Costard has made an error, states that the letter is really meant for Jaquenetta. For amusement, the princess still tells Boyet to read the letter aloud. Everyone is entertained by the pretentious contents and amused to learn that the letter has been written by Armado, the Spaniard, for the country maiden. At the close of the scene, the princess leaves to continue hunting, while Boyet, Maria, Rosaline, and Costard talk and jest with one another.
This scene centers on the princess, who opens the entire act with a display of her quick wit against the unarmed Forester, who is lost and bewildered by her words. Later in the scene, she gently teases all the men, artfully manipulating the conversation in order to comment on fame, love, and hunting. The scene also allows her to speak of the selfishness of mankind when fame is the objective:
Glory grows guilty of detested crimes When for fame's sake, for praise, an outward part, We bend to that the working of the heart.
Her words, though couched in a conversation on hunting, obviously allude to the vows of the King and his lords, who want to achieve fame and immortality through their little academy. It is typical of Shakespeare to introduce a truism through a character's reflection without drawing direct attention to the parallel.
The last part of the scene shows the princess amusing herself and all present by having Boyet read the pompous and wordy love letter Armado has drafted to the country girl; as anticipated, Costard has delivered it to Rosaline by accident. Although Armado is made to seem the fool in this scene, there is also a clear foreshadowing that Biron's love letter is now certain to fall into the wrong hands.