The plot tweet: Lovers both courtly and rustic sit around mocking one another. Nothing much happens and nobody gets married -- a pure festival of language.
My favorite line:
At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows,
But like of each thing that in season grows. (Berowne)
This play opens with a proposal we know is doomed to fail: The king of Navarre and his three friends swear off love, sleep and food to devote their attention to scholarship.
Navarre shall be the wonder of the world;Shakespeare's protagonist, Berowne, already knows this isn't going to work, but he swears along with the others -- who are almost instantly undone by the arrival of the princess of France and her entourage. What follows is a feast of courtly love poetry, much of it intentionally awful on Shakespeare's part, interspersed with comical scenes of the local rustics mocking one another's use of language.
Our court shall be a little academe,
Still and contemplative in living art.
Rosaline is an interesting character here, and scholars often compare her to the Dark Lady in the sonnets. She and Berowne have met before, but Shakespeare doesn't give us the history. It must be bad, because Berowne discusses his fears of being cuckolded by her, and she often treats him with harsh disdain. If their relationship does have similarities to Shakespeare's love of the Dark Lady, however, we'll never know for sure.
Marjorie Garber writes that Love's Labour's Lost is easy to watch but hard to read, because so much of the humor depends on the actors' comic timing and interactions. I wholeheartedly agree: Although I enjoyed the Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of this play several years ago, I was actually bored by the text. Did anyone else have this experience as a reader?
I have, at least, found an opportunity to disagree with Harold Bloom, who considers this "festival of language" to be his favorite Shakespeare play, and an important lyrical step in Shakespeare's emancipation from Christopher Marlowe. Bloom is probably right, as usual, but I must agree instead with William Hazlitt, who writes, "If we were to part with any of the author's comedies, it should be this."