- Verlag: Seltzer Books
"LOVE'S LABOURS LOST"
Love's Labours Lost is one of the earliest of Shakespeare's dramas, and has many of the peculiarities of his poems, which are also the work of his earlier life. The opening speech of the king on the immortality of fame--on the triumph of fame over death--and the nobler parts of Biron, display something of the monumental style of Shakespeare's Sonnets, and are not without their concerts of thought and expression. This connexion of Love's Labours Lost with Shakespeare's poems is further enforced by the actual insertion in it of three sonnets and a faultless song; which, in accordance with his practice in other plays, are inwoven into the argument of the piece and, like the golden ornaments of a fair woman, give it a peculiar air of distinction. There is merriment in it also, with choice illustrations of both wit and humour; a laughter, often exquisite, ringing, if faintly, yet as genuine laughter still, though sometimes sinking into mere burlesque, which has not lasted quite so well. And Shakespeare brings a serious effect out of the trifling of his characters. A dainty love-making is interchanged with the more cumbrous play: below the many artifices of Biron's amorous speeches we may trace sometimes the "unutterable longing;" and the lines in which Katherine describes the blighting through love of her younger sister are one of the most touching things in older literature. Again, how many echoes seem awakened by those strange words, actually said in jest! "The sweet war-man (Hector of Troy) is dead and rotten; sweet chucks, beat not the bones of the buried: when he breathed, he was a man!"--words which may remind us of Shakespeare's own epitaph. In the last scene, an ingenious turn is given to the action, so that the piece does not conclude after the manner of other comedies.--
Our wooing doth not end like an old play; Jack hath not Jill:
and Shakespeare strikes a passionate note across it at last, in the entrance of the messenger, who announces to the princess that the king her father is suddenly dead.
The merely dramatic interest of the piece is slight enough; only just sufficient, indeed, to form the vehicle of its wit and poetry. The scene--a park of the King of Navarre--is unaltered throughout; and the unity of the play is not so much the unity of a drama as that of a series of pictorial groups, in which the same figures reappear, in different combinations but on the same background. It is as if Shakespeare had intended to bind together, by some inventive conceit, the devices of an ancient tapestry, and give voices to its figures. On one side, a fair palace; on the other, the tents of the Princess of France, who has come on an embassy from her father to the King of Navarre; in the midst, a wide space of smooth grass.
The same personages are combined over and over again into a series of gallant scenes--the princess, the three masked ladies, the quaint, pedantic king; one of those amiable kings men have never loved enough, whose serious occupation with the things of the mind seems, by contrast with the more usual forms of kingship, like frivolity or play. Some of the figures are grotesque merely, and all the male ones at least, a little fantastic. Certain objects reappearing from scene to scene--love-letters crammed with verses to the margin, and lovers' toys--hint obscurely at some story of intrigue. Between these groups, on a smaller scale, come the slighter and more homely episodes, with Sir Nathaniel the curate, the country-maid Jaquenetta, Moth or Mote the elfin-page, with Hiems and Ver, who recite "the dialogue that the two learned men have compiled in praise of the owl and the cuckoo." The ladies are lodged in tents, because the king, like the princess of the modern poet's