A life of study

The King of Navarre and his three companions - Berowne, Dumaine and Longaville - commit to a life of study and self-improvement for three years. This means putting aside all thoughts of women and love. Berowne in particular is sceptical about such a scheme.

To help them keep their oath, the King demands that all women must remain at least a mile from the court.

A wench in the park

Don Adriano de Armado, a visitor from Spain, tells the King that the court jester, Costard, has been spending time in the park with Jaquenetta, a country girl. This is strictly against the King's rules. Costard is told off and handed over to Don Armado, who will keep an eye on him.

But Don Armado then tells his page, Moth, that he's the one who actually has a fancy for Jaquenetta. He writes her a letter and foolishly asks Costard to deliver it.

The ladies of France arrive

Just as the King and his men are settling down to a life of study, the Princess of France and her three ladies-in-waiting arrive. The women are forced to camp a mile away.

But it isn't long before the King and his men find themselves falling for the charms of the ladies . . .

The men admit their true desires

In the swapping of letters, the extent to which the men have forgotten their oath is revealed. They catch each other out composing love poetry. At first the King is angry that his men have broken their oaths, but then his feelings for the Princess are also forced out into the open. They quickly agree that they should visit the ladies' camp.

The men arrive disguised as Muscovites. To pay them back for the trick, the ladies swap clothes and impersonate each other. After much confusion, their true identities are revealed. They sit and watch a play.

A play and then sad news

There is laughter during the play and there are arguments. The lords and ladies are betrothed. But then news arrives that the Princess's father has died, and she must leave to ascend the throne.

The King and his men swear to remain faithful to their ladies, but the ladies, unconvinced that their love is strong, declare that the men must wait a year and a day to prove that what they say is true. The Princess and her ladies depart, and the men go off to an uncertain future.