Love's Labour's Lost

From Academic Kids

Love's Labour's Lost is one of William Shakespeare's early comedies; it is believed to have been written around 1595-1596 and is probably contemporaneous with Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream.



The play opens with the King of Navarre and three noble companions taking an oath to devote themselves to three years of study, foreswearing bodily pleasures and the company of women. One of the companions, Berowne, refuses to take the vow seriously, and argues the merits of sensual love. He also reminds Navarre that a princess of France has an appointment to meet him in order to discuss the surrender of the region of Aquitaine. The King denies the princess and her retinue, which includes three lovely young women, entry into his court, insisting that they camp at a certain distance. After Navarre and his friends have interviewed the princess and her companions, each of the men falls in love with one of the ladies.

The slenderness of the main plot is supplemented by several other comic characters. A bombastic Spanish swordsman woos a low-born country wench, assisted by his brilliantly witty page and a country bumpkin in his keeping. There are also two pedantic scholars who sometimes speak to each other in schoolboy Latin.

Following a lighthearted play at love, the news arrives that the Princess's father has died and she must leave to take the throne. The nobles swear to remain true to their ladies, who act surprised that anyone took the flirtation seriously. The play ends with a rather unsatisfying departure and, oddly for a comedy, no weddings. Before this, the comic characters stage an inept pageant to entertain the noble persons, just as the mechanicals perform a barbarous play for the court at the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Style and reputation

Love's Labours is often thought of as Shakespeare's most flamboyantly intellectual play. It abounds in sophisticated wordplay, puns, and literary allusions and is filled with clever pastiches of contemporary poetic forms. It is often assumed that it was written for performance at the Inns of Court, whose students would have been most likely to appreciate its style.

The style of Love's Labours is the principal reason why it has never been among Shakespeare's most popular plays; the pedantic humour makes it extremely inaccessible to contemporary theatregoers.

Film adaptation

Main article: Love's Labour's Lost (2000 movie)

Kenneth Branagh's 2000 film relocated the setting to the 1930s and attempted to make the play more accessible by turning it into a musical. However, the film was a box office disaster.

External link


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