Love’s Labour’s Lost
Love’s Labour’s Lost is an early comedy written by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written in the mid-1590s and its first recorded performance was in 1597, attended by Queen Elizabeth I. It was in this same period that Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The plot concerns the King of Navarre and his three companions (Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville) vowing to avoid the company of women. The King passes a declaration that no woman can come within a mile of the royal court. When the Princess of France arrives, she must camp the required distance. When the king goes to visit her, he falls in love with the Princess. A mix up of letters leads to the revelation that, when the King chastises his companions for breaking the rules, Berowne tells everyone that the king, too, is in love. In the end, the Princess must leave in order to assume the throne of France, but everyone declares his or her love for each other.
Critics note that this play is especially rich in language, being replete with wordplay and puns, although the play has never been among the favorites of Shakespeare’s work. Many feel it still bears the stamp of a young playwright learning his craft. Much of the language and literary allusions in the play are deeply tied to Elizabethan themes that often are beyond the scope of modern audiences.