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MonkeyNotes-Love's Labour's Lost by William Shakespeare
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LITERARY INFORMATION

Although published in 1598, Love's Labour's Lost was probably written some years before publication in 1593 or 1594. The first edition seems to be a revised version of the play, and while it carries Shakespeare's name on the title page, it also refers to a performance before the Queen "this last Christmas. Newly corrected and augmented by W. Shakespeare". As a play, Love's Labour's Lost provoked a great deal of censure in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Dr. Johnson remarked that "there are many passages mean, childish and vulgar, and some which ought not to have been exhibited to a maiden queen". John Dover Wilson, however, crowns it with praise, insisting that it is "full of fun, of permanent wit". It is clear this play is one that evokes incredibly mixed opinions.

Love's Labour's Lost is essentially a play of language and of human nature, for it has a comparatively simple plot, devoid of intrigue. There seems to be no known source for the play, although there is some historical basis for the plot. Shakespeare uses as a backdrop to this satirical drama the fact that in 1578, Catherine de Media of France, escorted by her daughter Marguerite and other ladies in her entourage, sailed to the court of Henry of Navarre, in order to settle the matter of final sovereignty of the Aquitane region.


Some critics suggest that the group of protagonists satirized in this play bear resemblance to Shakespeare's contemporaries, Raleigh, Chapman, and Thomas Nashe. It is, however, a point of controversy whether Boyet was intended as a portrait of Chapman and whether Raleigh has been identified with Armado, whose 'affair' with Jaquenetta suggests Raleigh's liaison with Elizabeth Throckmorton, whom he eventually married. Other critics suggest that the characters are all imagined and meant to suggest general human foibles. Shakespeare, however, did borrow the names of contemporary French courtiers for his Lords, the original names being Biron, Longaville and Dumain. He also borrowed certain characters types from the Italian commedia dell'arte, such as the pedant Holofernes, the braggart Armado, the parasite Nathaniel, the illiterate constable Dull, and the mumbling clown Costard. These two-dimensional characters were also commonly used in French and German drama, and eventually appeared in comic operas as well.

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