The Complications of Love

Author: Olivia Picarillo

Love’s Labor’s Lost, by William Shakespeare, demonstrates that love is a complicated situation. Shakespeare presents the complications of love through the relationships between the king and the men of his court and the princess and her ladies in waiting. Shakespeare wrote his play to present the complicated way of love in order to reveal to his audience that their journeys to find love might be difficult to navigate. Shakespeare wanted this play to reach many different people in the time that it was written and today so that it can be used to understand the complicated nature of love in life. Shakespeare uses the relationships in Love’s Labor’s Lost to demonstrate the long and intricate journey to find love.

At the beginning of the play, the king and his men decide to all sign an oath thatWright, John Massey. Illustrations to Shakespeare - Large Vignettes. Late 18th Century. LUNA: Folger Digital Image Collection. Web. <>. commits them to studying in the palace for a three year time period. Also included in the oath is the promise “not to see a woman in that term” (LLL I.i.37). This begins their difficult journey of love in the play, as it sets the men up to supposedly not be open to love during the term of their studies. However, as the play progresses, this aspect of the oath creates trouble for the men. A visiting princess, her ladies in waiting, and other women in the castle end up being the subjects of the men’s affections. When the women arrive at the castle, each man immediately falls for one of the woman, and Armado, a guest of the court, even goes further to say “[he] will hereupon confess [he is] in love”  already with a local country maid (LLL I.ii.56). The men falling so quickly into love deepens the complications of their relationships. The men know that they are breaking their oath and begin to secretly try to win over the woman that they adore. The relationships and love are complicated even further with the secrecy.  By having the men fall in love so quickly, Shakespeare is demonstrating how love can quickly become a part of and complicate one’s life. 

As the relationships progress, the men eventually find out that the other men have fallen in love and are also pursuing relationships with the women. At first, they all act shocked and disappointed that the others have gone against the oath, but then Berowne suggests that they “lose [their] oaths to find [themselves], / Or else [they] lose [themselves] to keep [their] oaths” (LLL IV.iii.337-338). This change of heart for the men demonstrates how the complications of love can change the way people think and act. The men have decided that in order to “find [themselves]” and understand their studies in the best way possible they must pursue their love and the women. The love that they feel for the women is becoming such a large part of each of their lives that is complicating and changing the plans and oath that they created before. The men suddenly want to “lose [their] oaths” because of the women that they have met and start to see women during their study term. During their conversation, Longaville goes on to ask the other men, “shall we resolve to woo these girls of France?” (LLL IV.iii.347). All of the men wholeheartedly agree “to woo [the] girls” and their oath from the beginning of the play is completely disregarded. The relationships are becoming more and more complicated as the play continues, especially now that everyone is aware of the other’s loves. The change of the men’s plans to only study for three years has been thwarted by their sudden feelings for the women in the palace. By having the men change their plans, Shakespeare is demonstrating how the relationships are so complicated that they have taken over the men’s lives and changed the ways that they think.

The final scene of the play solidifies the complicated nature of love and the characters relationships. The group of women are together, discussing the gifts the men that are courting them gave to each one. It occurs to them how quickly the men fell in love and they realize how complicated their relationships are. The Princess suggests that they play a trick on the men and instructs Rosaline to trade gifts with her so  “the King will court thee for his dear” and “so shall Berowne take [her] for Rosaline” (LLL V.ii.131-133). The women are purposefully planning to confuse the men so that they are able to prove to them that their love may not be as simple as the men believe it to be. The women want to show the men just how complicated love and relationships are. Shakespeare is demonstrating through the trick the women play that love is difficult to maneuver. At the end of the play, the women tell the men that they must spend a year in solitude or working the land in order to win them over. The men accept this request and the relationships are finished for the timeline of the play. This proposition put forth Wright, John Massey. Illustrations to Shakespeare - Group Scenes (Tableaux). Late 18th Century. LUNA: Folger Digital Image Collection. Web. <>.by the women continues to show how love is intricate and a difficult journey to go through.  By concluding the play with the relationships at a stand still, Shakespeare demonstrates to his audience that love is not easy to find and it takes a lot to keep the ones you love.

Shakespeare uses the relationships between his characters in Love’s Labor’s Lost to demonstrate the difficult nature of love and longevity of the journey to find it. Shakespeare originally wrote Love’s Labor’s Lost to demonstrate the complicated journey that love entails. The play has had enduring significance because of the audience’s ability to connect with the characters emotions of falling quickly in love but not being able to fully understand their relationships. It is still thought-provoking today because of its ability to make its audience members think about the journeys of love that they have been on and understand that all emotional journeys are difficult to manage.