An Introduction to Love's Labour's Lost by William Shakespeare
• Love's Labour's Lost is one of William
Shakespeare's early comedies, believed to have
been written in the mid-1590s for a
performance at the Inns of Court before Queen
• It follows the King of Navarre and his three
companions as they attempt to foreswear the
company of women for three years of study
and fasting, and their subsequent infatuation
with the Princess of Aquitaine and her ladies.
• In an untraditional ending for a comedy, the
play closes with the death of the Princess's
father, and all weddings are delayed for a year.
• The play draws on themes of masculine love
and desire, reckoning and rationalization, and
reality versus fantasy.
HISTORY & SOURCES
• Though first published in quarto in 1598, the
play's title page suggests a revision of an
earlier version of the play.
• Love's Labour's Lost is, along with
Shakespeare's The Tempest, a play without any
obvious sources. Some possible influences on
it can be found in the early plays of John Lyly,
Robert Wilson's The Cobbler's Prophecy
(c.1590) and Pierre de la Primaudaye's
L'Academie française (1577).
• The four main male characters are all loosely
based on historical figures; Navarre is based on
Henry of Navarre (who later became King
Henry IV of France), Berowne on Charles de
Gontaut, duc de Biron, Dumain on Charles, duc
de Mayenne and Longaville on Henri I
d'Orléans, duc de Longueville.
CHARACTERS• Ferdinand – King of Navarre
• Lord Berowne (or Biron), Lord Longueville
(or Longaville) and Lord Dumaine –
attending on the King
• Princess of France
• Lady Rosaline, Lady Maria, Lady Katharine
and Boyet – attending on the Princess
• Marcadé – messenger
• Don Adriano de Armado – a fantastical
• Moth – Armado's page
• Sir Nathaniel – curate
• Holofernes – schoolmaster
• Dull – constable
• Costard – a rustic
• Jaquenetta – country wench
• The story is a classic Shakespearean battle
of the wits between men and women.
• Ferdinand, the King of Navarre has entered
into a vow with his attending lords
Longaville, Dumaine, and Berowne to
abstain from rich foods, adequate amounts
of sleep, and the company of women for 3
• No sooner do they sign the paper than the
Princess of France and her attending ladies
Maria, Katherine and Rosaline arrive.
• Immediate attraction leads to big
problems as the gentleman try to figure
out how to woo these feisty ladies without
breaking their vows—or, at least, without
letting the other gentleman know.
THE STORY... CONTINUED
• The King and his lords lie in hiding and watch one
another as each subsequently reveals their feelings
of love. The King ultimately chastises the lords for
breaking the oath, but Berowne reveals that the
King is likewise in love with the Princess. Berowne
declares that the only study worthy of mankind is
that of the opposite sex, and he and the other men
collectively decide to pursue their loves.
• The men arrive at the Princess's camp disguised as
Muscovites. The ladies decide to trick the men,
dressing as one another. When all identities are
righted, they watch a play. The four lords – as well
as the ladies' courtier Boyet – mock the play, and
Don Armado and Costard almost come to blows.
• Finally, news arrives that the Princess's father has
died, and she must leave to take the throne. The
king and his nobles 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 what they say is true. The Princess and
her ladies depart from the King's court.
• Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register'd upon our brazen tombs
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
The endeavour of this present breath may buy
That honour which shall bate his scythe's keen edge,
And make us heirs of all eternity. (1.1.1)
• These are barren tasks, too hard to keep,
Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep! (1.1.48)
• Painfully to pore upon a book
To seek the light of truth; while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look. (1.1.73)
• Study is like the heaven's glorious sun,
That will not be deep-searched with saucy looks;
Small have continual plodders ever won,
Save base authority from others' books.
These earthly godfathers of Heaven's lights
That give a name to every fixed star,
Have no more profit of their shining nights
Than those that walk and wot not what they are. (1.1.84)
• How well he's read, to reason against reading! (1.1.94)
• At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows. (1.1.105)
• A man in all the world’s new fashion planted,
That hath a mint of phrases in his brain. (1.1.164)
• Your wit's too hot, it speeds too fast, 'twill tire. (2.1.119)
• By my penny of observation. (3.1.25)
• A wightly wanton with a velvet brow,
With two pitch balls stuck in her face for eyes;
Ay, and, by heaven, one that will do the deed
Though Argus were her eunuch and her guard:
And I to sigh for her! to watch for her!
To pray for her! (3.1.206)
• He hath not fed of the dainties that are bred in a book;
he hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink. (4.2.25)
• Many can brook the weather that love not the wind. (4.2.37)
• From women's eyes this doctrine I derive:
They are the ground, the books, the academes,
From whence doth spring the true Promethean fire. (4.3.302)
• But love, first learned in a lady's eyes,
Lives not alone immured in the brain,
But, with the motion of all elements,
Courses as swift as thought in every power,
And gives to every power a double power,
Above their functions and their offices. (4.3.327)
• From women's eyes this doctrine I derive:
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire;
They are the books, the arts, the academes,
That show, contain, and nourish all the world. (4.3.350)
• He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of
his argument. (5.1.18)
• They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.
• They have measured many a mile
To tread a measure with you on this grass. (5.2.88)
• A jest's prosperity lies in the ear
Of him that hears it, never in the tongue
Of him that makes it. (5.2.869)
• When daisies pied and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men. (5.2.902)
• Love's Labour's Lost abounds in sophisticated
wordplay, puns, and literary allusions and is filled
with clever pastiches of contemporary poetic forms.
• Critic and historian John Pendergast states that
"perhaps more than any other Shakespearean play,
it explores the power and limitations of language,
and this blatant concern for language led many early
critics to believe that it was the work of a playwright
just learning his art."
• It has never been among Shakespeare's most
popular plays, likely because its pedantic humor and
linguistic density are extremely demanding of
• The satirical allusions of Navarre's court are likewise
inaccessible, "having been principally directed to
fashions of language that have long passed away,
and [are] consequently little understood, rather
than in any great deficiency of invention."
LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST
SEQUEL?• In 1598, Francis Meres recorded a list of a dozen of
Shakespeare plays. His list of Shakespearean
"for Comedy, witness his Ge[n]tleme[n] of Verona,
his [Comedy of] Errors, his Love's labors lost, his
Love's labours wonne, his Midsummers night
dreame, & his Merchant of Venice".
• Love's Labour's Won is the name of a play written by
William Shakespeare before 1598. The play appears
to have been published by 1603, but no copies are
known to have survived.
• One theory holds that it is a lost work, possibly a
sequel to Love's Labour's Lost.
• Another theory is that the title is an alternative
name for a known Shakespeare play, possibly Much
Ado About Nothing.
L.L.L. IN THE MODERN DAY
• Despite the play being one of
Shakespeare’s most difficult and
demanding plays, several adaptions
have been made for film, television,
• Five movies have been made, the first
in 1904, a television movie in 1965, a
BBC production in 1985, and a feature
film in 2000.
• The Globe Theatre released a filmed
production on DVD in 2010.
• In 2013, the Public Theater of New York
City turned Love’s Labour’s Lost into a
broadway-style musical extravaganza.
A NUTSY THE SQUIRREL PRODUCTION
COPYRIGHT 2014 OAK HILLS MEDIA CENTER
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.