Love’s Labour’s Lost, written by Shakespeare, emphasizes that love is important and while it is often discounted, it is in reality, needed and should be encouraged by all. The four main male characters, the King of Navarre, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumain, sign an oath proclaiming that they will strictly study for three years without earthy distractions like food, sleep, and women. While the men believed that this course of action will help their exploration of intelligence, they soon realize how difficult the oath really is in order to prove that love is both unavoidable and necessary in human life. Love’s Labour’s Lost along with other Shakespearean texts like Romeo and Juliet, stress the meaning of love to validate its significance in life and the idea that true love cannot be avoided. The importance of love is often discounted by characters in Shakespeare’s plays which often leads to disaster or heartbreak.
From the beginning, it is clear to readers that the plan set out by the King of Navarre is doomed to fail. While he believes leaving earthly distractions will prove to be positive for the men and lead them to great intelligence, the men, along with the King, soon find out how difficult it really is to keep the oath, mainly in regards to women. When the men are discussing the oath early in the play, Berowne says “O, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep, not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep” (LLL I.i.47-48). Berowne knows the severity of the oath’s restrictions and is hesitant to sign. He sees the reality of the situation while the other men are blindsided by what they think is right for furthering their intelligence and working towards being scholars. The King declares that the point of swearing earthly distractions away is “to know which else we should not know” but Berowne is quick to combat that idea by saying “things hid and barred, you mean, from common sense?” (LLL I.i.56-57). Berwone’s quick and witty comment shows that he sees faults in the oath that the other men do not. He sees the importance of merely experiencing life through common sense. He notices the difference between learning through books and learning through life and feels that neither should be discounted for their importance. This in relation to love shows that learning love merely from books does not provide the same knowledge as experiencing love first hand. Both book and experience are needed to fully know life and become a true scholar. The importance of love continues to be disregarded by the men and the oath is signed leaving the men to strictly study the books.
It is not long however until the distractions of women come about when the Princess of France and her companions, Maria, Rosaline, and Katharine, arrive. While the King tells the women that they must say in the forest because he has “sworn an oath”, his apprehension is obvious (LLL II.i.97). The men all begin to develop feelings for the women and the women begin to develop feelings for the men. The Princess notices early on the feelings the ladies are developing when she says, “God bless my ladies! Are they all in love?” (LLL II.i.77). The love the men feel has become unavoidable. The mere sight of women has caused them to swoon and later break the oath they all signed. They all believed that love was of little importance when in reality they were unable to avoid it. Shakespeare used this idea as a basis of the play in order to prove the importance of love, even though it may often be seen not as important.
Once all the men realize they have broken the oath, they decide to band together in order to receive the love of the women. Berowne exclaims the importance of love to the other men and states, “let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves, or else we lose our ourselves to keep our oaths” (LLL IV.iii.337-338). While they have come to the realization that love is unavoidable and necessary, they do not immediately get the women. The women say that they must perform a year of good works and only after that they can marry. This ending is not a typical ‘happily ever after’ ending expected from a Shakespearean comedy proving that because the men thought love could be avoided they did not receive what they thought they would in return.
The more drastic effects of treating love as not valid can be seen in the Shakespearean text Romeo and Juliet. In this tragedy, a family feud leaves two lovers having to suppress their feelings and eventually set up a secret marriage just to be together. Because the families cannot see the importance of love, the two eventually kill themselves just to be with each other in happiness away from their families. This tragedy displays how unavoidable love really is. Friar Lawrence attempts to bring Romeo to ‘reality’ when he says, “These violent delights have violent ends And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, Which, as they kiss, consume” (II. vi. 9-10). The friar realizes the reality of love on earth when people do not put it in a place of importance and notes the fact that because the relationship between the two families is toxic, the love between Romeo and Juliet will also be toxic. Romeo and Juliet proves that when people oppose love and try to make it of lessor importance, heartbreak or tragedy come about.
The four-letter world of “love” is constantly thrown around in society today, creating this abstract idea of what love is and the importance it truly holds. We, as humans, must realize that love is necessary in human life. We were given the ability to love for a reason and its commonality between all people, no matter race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual preference, clearly shows the importance of this strong emotion. Play after play Shakespeare wrote about true love and the actions and events that unfold when someone is madly in love with another. In his play, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Shakespeare shows that love is one of the most important and valid emotions that a human being can feel and when people try to make it any lessor, disaster is to come.
Shakespeare, William. “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” Shakespeare’s Words | Love’s Labour’s Lost | William Shakespeare. N.p., 2008. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
Shakespeare, William. “Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare’s Words | Romeo and Juliet | William Shakespeare. N.p., 2008. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.