Not too long ago I decided I wanted to read some of Shakespeare's lesser known plays and I decided to start with 'Love's Labour's Lost' (expect a review of 'Cymbeline' in the near future). Whereas most Shakespeare plays have sources, 'LLL' is one of the few that seem to have been all Shakespeare's creation, 'The Tempest' is another one of these.
H.R. Woudhuysen calls this Shakespeare's 'most flamboyantly intellectual play' and I simply have to agree. The plot centers around King Ferdinand and three nobles, Berowne, Dumaine and Longaville, who all swear to only devote themselves to study and neglect all other earthly pleasures, such as women. Yet their oath is doomed to fail since a Princess and her ladies are on their way to meet with the King. Of course the men immediately fall in love. Forced to camp outside oft he castle walls, so the men can keep their oaths, the women decide to play tricks on them. As typical of Shakespeare, there are masks and confusions and plays-within-plays. But the story comes to a rather tragic end as the princess has to return home where her father has suddenly died. The men swear to wait a year for their ladies to prove their love and the goodbyes are said.
I did really enjoy this play. The intellectualism of it just contrasted perfectly with the typical Shakespeare wit. The play starts with maybe my favourite scene as we see the four men deciding on their oath, when suddenly Berowne realizes the full impact of giving up on women. This scene is also where maybe my favourite quote from the play comes from: 'If study's gain be this, and this be so, study knows that which yet it doth not know. Swear me to this and I will ne'er say no.' -Berowne It definitely inspired me to try a bit harder in my exam revision. As in all Shakespeare plays, there is a hilarious side-plot that sometimes threatens to overshadow the actual plot. In this case it is a overly flamboyant Spanish swordsman, Don Adriano de Armado, who falls in love with a country wench. He writes her the most ridiculous love letters I have ever read and is continuously made a fool of my his clever page, Moth.
My favourite character though, is Holofernes, a schoolmaster, who erupts onto the scene halfway through the play. I think this is why Woudhuysen thought the play flamboyantly intellectual.
Just look at this:'Most barbarous intimation! yet a kind of insinutation, as it were, in via, in way, of explication; facere, as it were, replication, or rather, ostentare, to show, as it were, his inclination - after his undressed, untrained, or rather, unlettered, or ratherest, unconfirmed dashion - to insert again my hand credo for a deer.' -Holofernes He uses his Latin as a way of impressing others, completely missing the fact that it makes him look ridiculous. Having studied Latin myself, I found this highly entertaining.
The Princess and her ladies were also very amusing characters. I have started to notice a pattern in Shakespeare's comedies, where the ladies seem to always toy with the men who fall in love with them. Be it innocently or unawares, or very consciously as in 'LLL'. It is done with so much wit and intelligence that I felt the ending almost betrayed the play. It almost seemed to rash, as if Shakespeare didn't know how to end the play. On the other hand, it was the perfect way to draw these people of noble rank, who had been busying themselves with study and love games, back to the real life, forcing them to make real love pledges. It is also a highly unusual ending for Shakespearean or Elizabethan theatre, so if you are, like me, doing an A-level English exam on Wednesday, this might be a good play to use as wider reading.
Evidence has been found that Shakespeare wrote a sequel play, 'Love's Labour's Won', yet it has been lost. Some, such as Woudhuysen, suggest that it was an alternative title for 'Much Ado About Nothing' or 'Alls' Well That Ends Well', but I just love the thought that perhaps somewhere out there there is a manuscript of 'Love's Labour Won' flying around that no one has found yet.
Overall, I give this play...
I truly enjoyed this play. It both challenged me and made me laugh out loud. The plot was typical Shakespeare and the ending was an interesting twist. The characters are memorable and although some of the jokes may be a bit more difficult to understand, it is definitely a play worth reading.