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

This is a brilliant comedic scene in which the audience is actively involved, for each hidden man can be seen by the onlookers. The realization that all are guilty of the same offense and that discovery is inevitable makes the scene both eagerly anticipated and very amusing. In fact, when the men are discovered, there is even an added bonus in the arrival of Costard and Jaquenetta, who come to expose Biron for his own part in the hypocrisy. One by one, the oaths the men have made crumble apart.

While discussing dramatic technique, it is important to understand that the "asides" spoken by the characters in hiding are purely for the benefit of the audience. These quips are not heard by the character that dominates the scene at the time, or by any of the other characters in hiding at various places on stage. In other words, there are many people on stage, supposedly unaware of each other, and the audience has the full benefit of seeing and hearing them all.


It is often possible to gauge the intellect of characters through their speech. Therefore, it is important to note the different styles in which the King, Longaville, and Dumain write their emotions, and compare them to the eloquence and sophistication of Biron's sonnet to Rosaline. The King's style seems to be embedded in the conventional courtly tradition of Elizabethan poetry that raises the beloved on a pedestal and is almost cloyingly sweet:

So sweet a kiss the golden sun gives no To those fresh morning drops upon the rose, As thy eye-beams when their fresh rays have smote The night of dew that on my cheeks down flows.

This is exactly the kind of poetry from which Shakespeare has freed himself. Longaville, on the other hand, writes cleverly, but rather than give expression to his heart-felt love, he seems to be rationalizing and justifying his deviation from the correct behavior. He claims that "a woman I forswore, but I will prove,/Thou being a goddess, I forswore not thee." His argument seems intellectual, almost cold. Dumain, for his part, makes a rather clumsy attempt to profess his love and winds up by wishing that "the King, Biron and Longaville were lovers too!....For none offend where all alike do dote."

The height of the comic scene comes when Biron, pretending total innocence, censures all of the men for their love, when he is equally guilty. Since the audience knows of his love for Rosaline and the letter he has written to her, his words have great dramatic irony:

I that am honest, I that hold it sin To break the vow that I am engaged in; I am betrayed with keeping company With men like you, men of inconstancy.

When Jaquenetta enters and tells of Biron's letter and announces that he has broken his vows, all the men are finally exposed. The scene then turns its focus to the theme of the play, the overwhelming power of love over reason. The men recognize they are helpless when it comes to repressing natural feelings of love and emotion. The lesson, however, is not entirely complete. Rather than confess failure, they ask Biron to devise some rationalization or justification that would make it seem they had not failed, merely changed their focus. At the end of the scene, Biron displays his verbal facility in his "justification". Pleased with the rationalization, the men decide the time has come to openly pursue their love.

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