04 March 2013

Love's Labour's Lost

Love's Labour's Lost...or why you shouldn't make an extremely definite resolution to live a life without the opposite sex when a group of women are coming on a state visit.

That's correct. Ferdinand, King of Navarre, decides one day that this is the time for him and his best friends to spend three years as ascetic scholars: much study, little food and some serious fasting, hardly any sleep, and no women!

Unfortunately, this decision coincides with the arrival of the Princess of France, and her ladies-in-waiting. Ferdinand decides that he simply can't have them staying at his home (too much temptation!), and kindly offers her tents in his park.

The best laid plans, of course, go awry. The king and his men fall head over heels for the ladies, and after much sneaking around and sending love letters and trinkets, eventually settle on breaking their vows and speaking frankly with their ladies.

The ladies have also fallen in love, but feel that the men really deserve some teasing and testing for being such idiots, so when the gentlemen show up for a masked party, the ladies swap trinkets to fool the gentlemen into courting the wrong one, just to show them up. When this is revealed, the ladies finally talk plainly with the men. They aren't really happy with the men for breaking a solemn vow just because they showed up (the sudden avowals of love are rather suspect), but nor do they wish to entirely refuse them. Therefore, they demand that the gentlemen spend a year in seclusion, at a hermitage, and if they still then wish to wed the ladies, then they will say yes. The gentlemen agree, and this comedy ends, but not, unusually, with a wedding.

Love's Labour's Lost (there's a bit of tongue-twister) has a unique twist on the happy ending comedy. The ending is essentially happy, since the lovers are united. However, they are parted for twelve months so that the men may prove their love. It's assumed from the conclusion that the men prove themselves and then wedded bliss follows, but of course, one never knows. It's a refreshing change from the sudden tumble into love, followed by matrimony, which is present in most of the comedies. If the parties are all certain at the end of the year, they may have a better chance of true happiness in marriage. But of course, this is a play, and a comedic one at that. Questions of the future don't typically trouble the characters beyond the final scene.

Next play: A Midsummer Night's Dream


"How well he's read, to reason against reading!" Ferdinand, Love's Labour's Lost, I.1.94

"By heaven, I do love, and it hath taught me to rime, and to be melancholy." Berowne, Love's Labour's Lost, IV.3.16

"For wisdom's sake, a word that all men love,
Or for love's sake, a word that loves all men,
Or for men's sake, the authors of these women;
Or women's sake, by whom we men are men,
Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves,
Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths.
It is religion to be thus forsworn;
For charity itself fulfills the law;
And who can sever love from charity?" Berowne, Love Labour's Lost, IV.3.357-365

"Princess: We are wise girls to mock our lovers so.
"Rosaline: They are worse fools to purchase mocking so." Love's Labour's Lost, V.2.58-59

"Berowne: Our wooing doth not end like an old play;
Jack hath not Jill; these ladies' courtesy
Might well have made our sport a comedy.
"Ferdinand: Come, sir, it wants a twelvemonth and a day,
And then 'twill end.
"Berowne: That's too long for a play." Love's Labour's Lost, V.2.882-886

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