'With the publication of Woudhuysen's Arden 3 edition, the magisterial study of the play that will energise a new generation of readers and directors has now arrived.' Eric Rasmussen, University of Nevada at Reno, Shakespeare Survey
When the King of Navarre commits himself and his gentlemen-in-waiting, Longaville, Dumaine, and Berowne, to three years of secluded study, barring all interactions with women, he forgot that a French envoy consisting of the Princess of France and her three ladies-in-waiting, Maria, Katharine, and Rosaline, were imminently expected. The King agrees to temporarily relax his restrictions in the name of politics, but when the flirting begins, it's in the name of love that the King changes his policy altogether. As a scholarly atmosphere has been legislated by the King, much pedantic banter is exchanged. Indeed, among the themes the play explores is the conflict between true erudition and mere posturing. The overwrought language some of the characters use mocks sophistry and lampoons those who glean their knowledge from study instead of from life. Written around 1595, LOVE'S LABORS LOST has no known literary sources, but the political material in the play echoes events of the day, including the French Wars of Religion in which the real King of Navarre, who later became King Henri IV of France, participated. A masquerade featuring a group of gentlemen dressed as Russians (emulated in the drama by the gentlemen-in-waiting) occurred in 1594, no doubt inspiring Shakespeare's depiction. Records indicate that the play was performed for Queen Elizabeth's court in 1597, but it was likely performed even earlier. Documentation suggests it remained in favor well into the 17th century before becoming dormant for about 200 years. A play entitled LOVE'S LABOR'S WON is listed in an important catalogue of Shakespeare's works compiled in 1598. This counterpart may be a lost play, or another play, such as THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, listed under an alternative title.
- Fiction + Literature Genres
- August 1, 1998
- August 1, 1998