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

Major Theme

Love's Labour's Lost is based on the conflict between the idealistic and the practical - the head vs. the heart. The King and his lords, Biron, Longaville, and Dumain, vow to reject real life for a scholarly and celibate existence for a period of three years. The four men have the arrogant belief that they can master their own humanity and achieve some kind of immortal fame by this intense pursuit of intelligence and reason. Through the play, Shakespeare shows that the men are destined to fail and that matters of the heart will prevail over matters of the mind.

Minor Theme

Drawing from the primary theme, Shakespeare, in a secondary theme, flouts pretension and praises acceptance of what one really is. Some of the characters, ignoring reality, believe themselves to be what they are not. In order to prove this, they cloister themselves away to pursue knowledge (the King and his lords) and resort to flowery and high-flown speech (Holofernes, Armado). Shakespeare shows the foolishness of each of them in the course of the play. By contrast to the men, the four women, although somewhat naïve, are infinitely wiser, more practical and more realistic about themselves.


MOOD

The play, though it begins on the king's solemn note of proclamation, loses its seriousness in the very first scene. It quickly becomes clear that the solemn vows are foolish and destined to fail. Beyond that, the tone becomes lighthearted, anticipatory, and delightful. The frivolity of the play, coupled with confusion, sarcasm, and a great deal of come-uppance, reaches its peak in Act IV as disguises are donned, mistresses are mistaken, and love vows are made to the wrong people. In short, the play is consumed throughout by a spirit of good-hearted fun until the last scene. The shocking announcement of King of France's death is a sober note that at first seems out of place and unanticipated. In the end, however, the dry humor of the Princess's reaction to her father's death (a year of pronounced mourning) and the effect of her grief on the silly men with all their scheming, has its own special humor.

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