Love’s Labourers Are Lost

Author: William Hosbein


Brad and Sarah are freshman at Villanova University, and have recently been spending a lot of their freetime together. They often eat together at the Spit, make the long walk to Tolentine together, and attend the basketball games at Wells Fargo together. A facetime session between Brad and Sarah is starting to wind down. The conversation on facetime comes to an end, and the Sarah asks cutely “Are you gonna hang up?” Brad’s mind instantly imagines the all-to-classic hang up scene, you know the one, “You hang up”, “No you hang up”, and so on. With a smile on his face and a heart full of confidence, Brad responds, “Are you gonna hang up?” Brad expected her to return the question again, but instead received an enthusiastic “Yeah!”, and before Brad could say anything, Sarah quickly hung up. Brad sat there disappointed. He was beginning to have serious feelings for Sarah, feelings of love, and the fact she ended the conversation like that, made him sad. If only Brad had read the play, Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare, assigned by his ACS Moderns teacher, he could have seen this type of cold behavior coming.

In Shakespeare’s late sixteenth century play, Love’ Labour’s Lost, he asserts that men take love more seriously than women. Shakespeare accomplishes this by highlighting the male characters commitment and devotion to love. Additionally, Shakespeare reinforces this notion by emphasizing how women’s cynical and care free view on love.

This idea of love meaning more to men surfaces in the beginning of the play. In Act 1 Scene 1, the King addresses Longaville, Berowne, and Dumaine, making them aware that the men must abide by the “those statutes That are recorded in this schedule here”(Shakespeare, 18-19). Longaville and Dumaine readily agree to the terms the King has set, but Berowne has a several problems with the “schedule”. Berowne has no problem studying for three years “But there are other strict observances:As not to see a woman in that term” and “And one day in a week to touch no food:” and “then to sleep but three hours in the night” (Shakespeare, 38-43). This is the first example of men showing their concern for love. As stated by Berowne, he is unsure whether he wants to sign the documents because they require him to stay away from women. Some l iterary analysts of this play believe Shakespeare wrote Love’s Labour’s Lost through a feminist lens. As a result, people might believe Berowne’s apprehension about not seeing women is rooted in sexual desire. Such a viewpoint is an assumption, not an interpretation, for when Berowne expresses his concern to the King, he never mentions sex or physical contact with women through innuendo, which Shakespeare often highlights in other plays like Romeo and Juliet.

The reason for Berowne’s concern regarding not seeing women becomes apparent in Act 4, Scene 3 when he gives a passionate speech about the importance of love. During the speech he passionately discusses the benefits about pursuing women and love. He proclaims that women and love are an integral part of youth, teach beauty, and enhance one’s senses. Through Berowne’s fear about not seeing women and his ardent speech regarding the power and importance of love, it it evident that love plays an essential role in his life.

Shakespeare reinforces that the men are more devoted to love than the women by highlighting the fact women do not take love as seriously. For example, in Act 1, Scene 2, Armado tells Jaquenetta, “I love thee” (Shakespeare, 338). Jaquenetta simply responds, “So I heard you say” (Shakespeare, 339). Prior to saying he loves her, Armado told Jaquenetta he wanted to visit her at the Lodge. Like Brad had serious feelings for Sarah, Armado clearly had serious feelings for Jaquenetta. He then goes on to confess his love for her, only to receive an insincere response. Some analysts might argue that Armado confessed his love in a basic way. However, telling someone you love them is not like telling them good morning. Saying “I love you” or “I love thee” requires bravery and confidence. Therefore, the way in which someone says “I love you” is irrelevant. Jaquenetta fails to realize this. She hardly acknowledges what Armado tells, showing disrespect and how little she thinks of love. Despite her impassioned reaction, Armado remains determined. At the end of the scene in a small but heartfelt speech he proclaims how deeply in love he is, and that he will attempt to win Jaquenetta’s heart by writing to her. Overall, Armado’s intentness on winning Jaquenetta

The females’ lax attitude towards loves appears again later in the play when they decide to play a prank on the men. Each female character received a gift from their respective lover, the Princess was given a diamond, Rosaline a pearl, Katharine a glove, and Maria a necklace. Instead of appreciating the gifts, the girls decide to use them against the men for entertainment. Each girl swaps gifts so the men mistakenly approach the wrong girl. In addition to swapping gifts, the women refuse to dance with the men. Evidently, the women believe the whole situation is a joke.

Later in the scene, each men approach their respective lovers, only to find out they have been fooled. Despite being annoyed and discouraged, the men are determined to win the heart’s of their lovers. All the men express their love to the women, but the girls remain unconvinced. To be sure that their male counterparts are completely devoted, each girl makes a proposition. The Princess asks the King to spend a year at a monastery, Katherine requests Dumaine become a monk for a year, and Rosaline demands Berowne do community service. The men readily accept the demands of their female counterparts without question. It is important to put this situation into context to understand how devoted the men truly are. They wrote sonnets, bought gifts, and even agreed to adopt new careers, even though the women showed no appreciation for the effort the men put forth.

Although Love’s Labour’s Lost is often considered a feminist play, it is in fact a criticism of the way women love. Shakespeare makes this point by consistently showing the male characters’ devotion and persistence to love. No matter how many times the characters are rejected, or how cruel the girls treat them, the men continue to love. This behavior is consistent with the title of the play in that the men are clearly the labourers of love in the play. In regards to the lost part, the men are clearly lost in love. They write sonnets, buy gifts, and even agree to perform certain jobs. Some might say the men love blindly, explaining why the men are “lost”, or perhaps the men are simply lost in love.