Love as an Equalizer
William Shakespeare play, Love’s Labor’s Lost, presents the idea that love can be an equalizing force between men and women at the time. The men in the play are highly regarded as they leave the world to study in solitude. However, they discover that love trumps the intelligence they would receive from three years of studying. If men are originally presented as superior in society, they fall weak to the sickness of love, and the women gain power because they are the object of the men’s weakness through their ordered love as opposed to the men’s disordered love.
The men’s dedication to their studies presents them as intelligent and superior to others in their society. They are told to “barren tasks, too hard to keep, not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep” (LLL I.i.4-47). Once the women arrive, the men quickly start to fall in love with them. After the scene in which they all find out that one another are falling in love, they decide to rethink the contract. Their priority of gaining intelligence quickly banishing to the power of love. Shakespeare describes love as a sickness, in which the men fall and are unable to heal without time. The powerful men fall powerless to love. It is also ironic how the intelligent men love the women disorderly. They literally leave behind their ration, to study, to love irrationally.
The women however, have the upper hand. In the beginning of the play, they are not treated highly and are left to sleep in tents. The women are illustrated as inferior these men. However, once the men love them, the women gain control. The men hope to show their control and dress up as Russian men to impress the women. However, the women hear about it from Boyet, and decide to deceive the men by disguising themselves as one another. The plan falls for the men, and the King says “We are descried. They’ll mock us now downright” (LLL V.1850). Throughout the conversations, the women are wittier than the men. The King speaks to Rosaline, who he thinks is the princess, saying “Why take we hands then?” and she responds, “Only to part friends. Curtsy, sweet hearts. And so the measure ends” (LLL IV. 1662 – 1664). The women have a control over the men, and the women are empowered. Shakespeare wrote this play with underlying feminist values to show that amidst love, the women are the ones that love rationally. This depicts that women are not actually inferior to men, and uses love to demonstrate this idea.
In the end, the women must leave after hearing the princess’ father has died. The men express their love for the women and ask for their hands in marriage, yet the women deny. Each woman gives their man an order. Rosaline tells Berowne “A twelvemonth shall you spend, and never rest, But seek the weary beds of people sick” (LLL V. 2259). Most women have similar requests for their man to do good for a year until they will see them. Katharine says to the king “Not so, my lord. A twelvemonth and a day I‘ll mark no words that smooth-faced wooers say: Come when the king doth to my lady come; Then, if I have much love, I’ll give you some” (LLL V.2265). Katharine says this to the King implying that she is unsure that his love is real and she will not reciprocate the love until it is certainly real love. This leads to the unanswered question, is their love real? Shakespeare ends the play without the question being answered, but the men continuing their studies (the same as the play began). This not only empower the women by leaving as independent women, but also leaves the men having to wait a year loving these women. The men’s love was quick and overbearing. So, if love is truly a sickness, then only time can heal one’s illness. Therefore, the play ends with the women in full knowledge that the men’s love is unordered and spontaneous. They fear that their love stems from the wrong reasons. In order for it to be true love, it must also contain ration. The play ends in the women being enlightened with the equation to find true love: spontaneous love plus time.
In conclusion, Shakespeare’s play contains a strong message about love. He portrays it through the men’s disordered love and the women’s ordered love. This plot allowed for the women to gain in society because they were the objects of the men’s affection, yet the men lose because they forgo their scholar status because of love. They become subjects of the powerful love and lose their ration. However, the women are more intelligent because they know the true meaning of love. The women have ordered love and understand that true love can only be obtained once ration is in combination with love. Since the men are “love sick” then time is the only healer, and the play ends with them having to wait a year. Love acts as an equalizer in the social statuses of the society and between men and women.