Love as a Disease

Author: Claire Jansen

Both the Heptamaron by Marguerite of Navarre and Love Labor’s Lost by William Shakespeare depict love negatively, as if it were a disease of the mind. Each of these texts have unsatisfactory endings, realistically showing that love does not always end happily ever after. The Heptamaron is made up of short stories about love with different characters in each, while Love Labor’s Lost is about four men who take an oath to not talk to women but soon all fall in love by the end of the play. However, both texts share similarities while demonstrating the reality of love.


In Story Eighteen, the main character tests her lover’s affection and loyalty in many ways. The man remains patient throughout the story; eventually the woman believes his love is true and apologizes for putting him through so much. The moral of this story is that “Love is a subtle teacher” (214). Therefore, love can bring about traits in people they did not even know existed within themselves, such as patience in the case of the man. However, sometimes these characteristics are not always positive, as people can become obsessed or make rash decisions because they are blinded by love. The fact that love is personified in this story and many others demonstrates the powerful effect is has, much like an actual human being would have on another person.


Story Twenty-four of the Heptamaron highlights the dangers of testing someone’s limits when it comes to love. A handsome man named Elisor falls in love with the Queen but keeps his feelings a secret because she is married. He finally reveals the truth, telling her that he will, “love, revere and adore [her] not as a woman, but as [his] God on earth” (276). This demonstrates how deeply he respects her and longs for her to return these sentiments. However, she initially does not; instead the Queen thinks his love is a sickness. This attitude was normal for this time, as love was often viewed as an illness, especially when men were the ones showing their emotions. Expressing love and passion were usually seen as feminine characteristics. The Queen immediately writes off his feelings as a disease, thus attempting to diminish them and make it seem as though love is something that can simply be cured. She then decides to test Elisor’s love by asking him to go away and not talk to her for seven years. If he still loves her after this time, they can be together because she will be sure of how deeply he loves her.


Seven years later, Elisor returns from his solitude, but he no longer wants the Queen. She immediately “[weeps] tears of regret beyond belief” (282). This reaction shows that perhaps she should have accepted him when he still loved her rather than making him prove his feelings in such an extreme and cruel way. Through this unhappy ending, Marguerite of Navarre is telling the readers that the time we have to love can be fleeting and people should act upon it while they still have the chance.


Similarly, in Love Labor’s Lost, the women test their lovers’ limits in an extreme way. They make the men wait a full year without talking to them before they can pursue a romantic relationship. However, the play ends before the year is through, and so the readers are never able to know the outcome. There is a shift, however, when the princess’s father dies and a period of mourning begins. The last line continues this somber tone, which contrasts with the light-hearted banter that was characteristic throughout the entirety of the play. This inconclusive and somewhat dismal ending once again demonstrates that love does not always work out in the way people want and sometimes the happily ever after cannot exist.


Throughout these two texts, both Marguerite of Navarre and William Shakespeare demonstrate to their readers that love cannot always be perfect. Love is often viewed in a negative light, as at the time these were written many believed it was a form of sickness because it altered peoples’ minds. Despite the fact that these texts were written hundreds of years ago, they are still relevant to readers today because they illustrate the truth about love in an attempt to show that a fairytale ending usually does not exist. They are also warnings to the readers to take advantage of true feelings when people are still around because love can be fleeting.

Dilmen, Nevit. Broken Heart Symbol. December 23, 2009. Wikimedia Commons. Accessed March 27, 2018.

Empowerment of Women through Shakespeare

Author: Emma Kirchner

Gender roles have been engrained in society for hundreds even thousands of years. However, there have been countless movements in order to trump these stereotypes of how men and women should behave especially in regard to one another. Shakespeare took a more progressive route in the making of his play, Love’s Labor’s Lost, particularly in this time period, by changing the typical roles of men and women. While women are classically portrayed as indecisive, overflowing with emotions, and overall inferior to men; Shakespeare takes a different approach and brings light to women’s capabilities and men’s potential weaknesses in their characters.

From the very beginning of this play, the women knew exactly what they wanted, and they never turned back on it. They knew which Lords they loved and how to get them in their grasp, but led them in circles in the process just to demonstrate their authority. Women are usually portrayed as unable to make decisions, which is what makes their ability to choose what man they love and never wavering so refreshing in this play. The women are also assigned great intelligence by Shakespeare and always seem to know the right thing to do, whereas the men get flustered easily and appear to never know the right answer. Essentially, each characteristic that the men and women possess in Love’s Labor’s Lost would be reversed in any stereotypical depiction of both genders in other plays. Whether Shakespeare chose this borderline radical route to be ironic, or add to the comedic aspect of his play, it is refreshing for women to get the recognition they genuinely deserve. Because a person is female, does not mean they are unable to achieve certain things in their lifetime. Women are just as capable as the men next to them, yet, they are never given a fair opportunity to demonstrate their abilities because of the unwarranted suppression that has been engrained in society since human beings walked this earth.

In regard to this play, the five reigning queens of Navarre were the largest group of female sovereigns during the Middle Ages. These queens accomplished a successful reign just like all of the men preceding them; demonstrating how women are more than qualified to partake in jobs societally assigned to men. Not only are women put at a disadvantage for getting hired in the working industry they are also wrongfully accused of being incapable to handle their own emotions. There is a stereotype that women need men to survive and become obsessive with men that they are interested in, however, Shakespeare defeats this stereotype as the women make the Lords work for their love, essentially begging the women to reciprocate their feelings back to the men. It is not uncommon for women to have a grip on their emotions, and while this stereotype is often overplayed, people genuinely start to view women in this negative light that has been shining on them for no genuine reason.

Men are sought out to be these incredibly capable humans that can do no wrong. While these stereotypes have been engrained in our minds and pushed society to treat each other unfairly, these characteristics of what makes a man so desirable can undoubtedly be found in women as well. For some reason, men are portrayed to have little weaknesses whether that be in strength, or in their personality. Obviously, this is not actually true, for men have made plenty of mistakes and obtain some obvious flaws that all human beings are capable of having. They know they have this power which can easily go to their head and allow them to abuse it, which is a fault in itself. Shakespeare characterizes men in a whole new light in Love’s Labor’s Lost, for the men are complete idiots who do not have a hold on any type of emotion they are experiencing. From the very start of the play, the Lords are instructed by the King to study for three years, meaning they would have to give up eating out, a regular sleep cycle, and interacting with women. While they were willing to give up almost all of those things, the men outraged when the King said they could not interact with women. They agreed to this promise, however, almost broke it immediately for they each fell in love with the Princess and her friends. This not only demonstrates a man’s lack of ability to follow through with what they promise, but also their incapability to sort out their emotions, for they did not even truly know who they loved as the women were able to trick them into declaring their love for the wrong person. The women took the men’s borderline stupidity and used it to their advantage as they called the shots. The women were able to spell it out for them and convinced the men to work hard for a year, and only then could they have their love. Not only is this demonstrating the women’s ability to make decisions and encompass power, but also the men’s weaknesses for they were utterly confused throughout most of this play. Any move the men made, the women were one step ahead, which is what added to the comedic aspect, and emphasizes the women’s intelligence and wit.

Unfortunately, women are constantly depicted as lessor than men, incapable of making decisions in a timely manner, and helpless when it comes to getting a grasp on their emotions. However, Shakespeare has a more progressive attitude in his play, Love’s Labor’s Lost, and highlights women’s abilities and men’s potential weaknesses they may encompass. It is refreshing and eye opening that even in that time period, Shakespeare was able to depict women in a positive light and views them as equals in comparison to the male gender.




Shakespeare’s Desire to Refute

Author: Brandon Corrales

Although social stereotypes have been prevalent in both the 16th and 21st centuries, it was less common for those living in the former to combat them publicly. In spite of this, Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost defies the generalizations made by society. The play’s progressive themes derive from its questioning of the validity of social classes and gender roles. Most scholars believe that Shakespeare’s own life influenced his intentions for these liberal ideas. Despite being famous, the author was not of high class and had to self-educate himself instead of attending university. Shakespeare’s achievements drove him to refute the superiority that the higher classes often boasted; he intended to unmask these misconceptions as a form of revenge. Writing Love’s Labour’s Lost was Shakespeare’s way of rebelling against the stereotypes of the society he lived in.

The author first uses the main character’s ignorance of love to demonstrate that one’s socioeconomic status is not indicative of one’s knowledge. This occurs when the King expresses the rules of the oath that he, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine make during their three years of study. “Therefore brave conquerors, for so you are, That war against your own affection, And the huge army of the world’s desires…You three, Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville, Have sworn for three years’ term, to live with me” (I, Lines 9-17). The main sacrifice that these men make in this pledge is their freedoms to be in relations with women. This belief that the men have the ability to wage a war on their own affections is one that Shakespeare emphasizes. His intention is to discredit their intelligence. Since the author has these characters make this oath with the intention on learning more about life, he generates irony as they are depriving themselves of confronting the opposite gender. This proves that although these men are of the highest social class, they are still capable of making false assumptions.

Shakespeare further targets the higher class through the relationship of Braggart and Page. Page, otherwise known as Braggart’s slave, demonstrates that the lower class can be knowledgeable. This is seen when Page gives Braggart advice on his love affairs. “If you swallowed love with singing love sometime through: nose as if you snuffed up love by smelling love with your penthouse-like o’er…these are complements, these are humors, these betray nice wenches that would be betrayed without these…do you note that most are affected by these” (IV, Line 638). Page’s statement expresses a well-developed view about love and what it can do to man. He acknowledges that all human beings are susceptible to this concept, and claims that understands love because of his own experiences. When Braggart accepts his servant’s observations, the form of their relationship changes in the eyes of the readers. Page is no longer inferior to Braggart, but an equal, as their exchange in this scene represents a brotherly bond. The text becomes more ironic when Page refers to him as a “negligible student” (Shakespeare IV, Line 646). These lessons that Page teaches show that the oath that the men take in the beginning of the story was ignorant. They believe that abstaining from being with women would develop their knowledge of the world; however, they failed as it paradoxically prevented them from obtaining understandings about love.

Similarly to the characters of lower classes, the females in Love’s Labour’s Lost are empowered by Shakespeare in order to defy certain gender stereotypes. He achieves this by making the women appear to be more intelligent. The plot of the play summarizes how four oblivious men believed that they could learn the complexities of the world by shutting themselves into years of study. Their foolishness is exploited by the women when they switch disguises to fool each of their respective lovers. “…And will they so? The Gallants shall be task’d: For Ladies we will every one be mask’d, And not a man of hem shall have the grace Despite of suit, to see a Lady’s face…And change your Favors too, so shall your Loves Woo contrary, deceived by these removes” (IX, Lines 1564-1573). During the time period that this play was written, women were labeled as inferior to men. The fact that Shakespeare writes a scene where people of this gender attempt to deceive men of high class, and accomplish this task, makes the text very progressive. His characterization of these figures supports the idea that Shakespeare wrote this play for his own satisfaction.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is not a play that should be ignored. This text does not stay within the plot it contains, but extends to the life of Shakespeare, who emits his values and experiences in the characters he creates. The characterization of the men of high class is one that portrays them as foolish. This effect is intended by the author, as he wants to prove that belonging to a certain social group does not determine one’s personal qualities.