Love’s Labours Lost

No written source for the plot has been found for Love’s Labours Lost only the influence of the Italian Commedia dell’arte. Presumably written between 1593-94 but was entered into the Stationer’s Office in 22nd of January 1607 and further editions in 1598 (Q1) and 1623 (F1). Charlton Ogburn suggests that the “Masque of Amazones and Knights” was an early version of this play performed at court in January 1579 and written by Edward de Vere. This play might have been revised soon after the Earl of Oxford had been wounded in the leg by Sir Thomas Knyvett and was named in a dedication by Thomas Watson in his “Hekatompathia” (published 1582). According to Dowden and Charlton Ogburn the play was written late 1590 when the Earl of Oxford’s acting company was disbanded. This was just before Shakespeare’s Sonnets were presumably begun (Kitteridge). There are no true or known literary sources for the play Love’s Labours Lost as far as I am aware apart from those more readily perceived from the Italian Comedia d’elle Arte, but the play draws upon the known biographical events in the life of King Henry of Navarre of France (1553-1610), the attitude of his lords, Biron and Longueville and an overdue debt owed by the late father of a Princess of France. In this sense it appears to be a biographical summary and parody of Henri’s own life and real-life adventures just before or during the Wars of Religion. Therefore this is a finely crafted intellectual skit for the members of the Southampton circle on the parallel life of the fickle faith of at first Protestant Henri IVth of France, an infamous womaniser, who went into exile and eventually, despite all the odds broke oath and converted to Catholicism. Aspects of the play resemble in an analogous sense Pierre de Primaudaye’s “Academie Francaise” (1557) and Robert Wilson’s play “The Cobbler’s Paradise” (1594).

The Mirror Of Illusion

The high celebration at courts of France & England with Masques, Plays & Revels

In medieval France the King of Navarre, together with his friends Berowne, Dumain and Longaville have resolved to become ascetics, renouncing the world and devoting three years of their lives to study. However, Berowne is sceptical and bored with the idea until the King arranges for some light amusement in the form of a skit between Don Adriano and the clown Costard. Don Adriano de Armado complains to the King that Costard has been intimate with Jacquenetta, a wench thus breaking the convention of a ascetic retreat. Subsequently, Costard is sentenced to fast for a week on stale bread and water.
However, it is soon revealed that Armado is in love with Jacquenetta himself. Meanwhile in act II we discover that the Princess of France has arrived at the King of Navarre’s court with three ladies (Rosaline, Maria and Katherine) to negotiate the payment of a debt owed by her father to him. Each of the ladies-in-waiting then encounter one of the three lords in an amorous and witty exchange. In act III Don Adriano gives Costard a letter intended for Jacquenetta and Berowne a letter intended for Rosaline. However, while the ladies are out hunting Costard gives them the wrong letters, Jacquenetta, being unable to read gives the letter to the parson who is impressed by Berowne’s prose style. The three renunciates then declare by reading aloud love-poems which they have composed to court the three ladies now residing in court. The King, although favouring the Princess still berates the others for breaking their vows. We are also introduced to the schoolmaster Holofernes and the Constable Dull who feature more prominently in the final act. In this we are entertained by a pedantic discussion between the schoolmaster and the Constable and to the superior wit of Don Adriano.

Meanwhile it is announced that the King has instructed Armado to perform a pageant in honour of the ladies at court. While the ladies are busy discussing the virtues and follies of the letters of prose written by the renunciates their attendant Boyet announces there are four “Muscovites” request an audience with them. The ladies disguise themselves with masks an await the “actors” who confused by the disguise of the ladies retire to think again. They then return in their usual attire and are told about the arrival of the “Muscovites” and they confess their silly prank. Then the Nine Worthies (Heroes) are represented in the pageant arranged by Don Adriano with Costard as Pompey, Nathaniel as Alexander, Moth as Hercules, Holofernes as Judas Maccabeus, and Armado as Hector. However, the pageant is temporarily interrupted by a French Lord Marcade bringing news of the death of the Princess’s father. Before they leave the court of King Navarre however, the ladies and their suitors agree to spend twelve months apart on some good deed and then to meet again in hope of marrying.

The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:


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The links to my publications 
“Shakespeare’s Qaballah”,
a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry,