Love's Labour's Lost



  • A comedy by Shakespeare, first performed in 1594 - 95in London. Until the 20th century this was perhaps the least popularof Shakespeare's plays; there is no record of a revival between 1605and 1839. This neglect can be attributed mainly to the play's extravagantverbal wit, which involves numerous puns and allusions that are nowincomprehensible without footnotes. Modern playgoers, however, seembetter able to appreciate the high spirits and human warmth beneaththe verbal pyrotechnics. The many 20th-century revivals include PeterBrook's first production at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1956.

    The play describes the doomed attempt of the King of Navarreand three of his nobles to dedicate themselves to a celibate lifeof study. This idealism is quickly undermined by the arrival of thePrincess of France and her three beautiful ladies-in-waiting. Thefour young men embark upon a muddled but eventually successful pursuitof the ladies. The play's last scene brings a sudden change of moodwhen a messenger arrives with news of the death of the Princess'sfather. The four marriages are postponed for a year, during whichtime the fickle young men must show their steadfastness by engagingin good works. Other characters include the rustic clown Costard,the pedant Holofernes, and the affected Spaniard Don Armado. It isthought that some or all of these characters may have been suggestedby living models (see Chapman, George).