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MonkeyNotes-Love's Labour's Lost by William Shakespeare
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CONFLICT

The play does not have clearly demarcated protagonists and antagonists, in the conventional sense. Both groups of characters, the men with their silly notions and the women who oppose them, are likable -- heroes in the romantic sense. There are no villains, no wicked characters. Instead, there are pleasant and entertaining characters that need to be taught valuable lessons. The source of the conflict, then, comes not from a character but from ideas. It is a battle of the "heart" over the "head".

Protagonist: The protagonist of the play is the concept of love and humanity, as symbolized in the women in the play. They become representatives of the "heart".

Antagonist: The antagonist of the play is pride and vanity, as symbolized in the men who think they can achieve immortality through abstinence and learning. They become representatives of the "head", although theirs is a false and pretentious allegiance to the mind, reason, and learning.

Climax: The last scene of the Fourth Act is the first climax of the plot, for it is in this scene that the men reveal that their hearts have overcome their heads. Each of the young lords surrenders to love, unaware that others are witnessing their ultimate acts of learning. While each character believes himself to be alone, and hence reads aloud his profession of love in the form of eloquent verse, the others stand aside watching. One by one the characters come out of their hiding to expose each other. In a sense, the protagonist (the heart) has here proclaimed victory over the antagonist (the head). The men have been unable to make their hearts submit to their intellect or reason. They, however, are still proud and do not want to face the ladies and publicly admit they have broken their vows. As a result they plan a masque, where they will disguise themselves as Russians and woo their loves. The ladies, however, hear of the plan before the masque and trick the men into revealing their true selves. When Biron apologizes for all the men for their foolish behavior, the final moment of climax is reached as the men acknowledge to all that the heart has defeated the head.


Outcome: The play ends in comedy, for the protagonist (the heart) overcomes the antagonist (the head). The result is that natural order of things is restored, for though the men must prove their love by fulfilling the tasks set for them, there is a promise of reward by way of future marriage. The men and the women come together, and love does not go unrequited. The notion of greatness through abstinence is recognized as both unnatural and unreasonable, and love and romance prevail.

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