Love's Labour's Lost
(Shakespeare). Ferdinand, King of Navarre, with the three lords, Biron', Longaville, and Dumain, make a vow to spend three years in study, during which time they bind themselves to look upon no woman. Scarce is the vow made when the Princess of France, with Rosaline, Maria, and Catherine are announced, bringing a petition from the King of France. The four gentlemen fall in love with the four ladies, and send them verses; they also visit them masked as Muscovites. The ladies treat the whole matter as a jest, and when the gentlemen declare their intentions to be honourable impose upon them a delay of twelve months, to be spent in works of charity. If at the expiration of that time they still wish to marry, the ladies promise to lend a favourable ear to their respective suits.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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