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William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost

The Date of Love’s Labour’s Lost

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” may safely be regarded as the earliest of Shakespeare’s plays. Its composition may be assigned without much fear of refutation to the year 1591, when its author was twenty-seven years old. He had probably arrived in London in search of a career five years before, and had at length gained a firm hold on the theatrical profession. He had made some progress in the reputation of an actor. Then, growing conscious of the possession of a playwright’s capacity, he was ambitious to put that consciousness to a practical test.” (Lee, Sir Sydney. Introduction to Love’s Labours Lost. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. New York. (1906)

The Plot of Love’s Labour’s Lost

“The dramatist makes no endeavour to conceal the main source of his inspiration in the passing events and fashions of the day. Contemporary projects of academies for disciplining the young Elizabethan and checking his propensity to riotous living account for the central thread —the monastic vow of the French king and his court —round which the play revolves.” (Lee)

On Shakespeare’s Classical Education

“No other of Shakespeare’s compositions illustrates quite so vividly the character and influence of his education. The play summarily confutes the old-fashioned notion that Shakespeare knew nothing of arty language but his own. The tags of Latin with which the conversation of the schoolmaster and the curate are interspersed are reminiscences of Shakespeare’s school days, and are drawn from Latin grammar-books and phrase-books which were in use at Stratford-on-Avon Grammar School, and in all good Elizabethan schools. They clearly prove that Shakespeare acquired some knowledge of Latin literature at school at Stratford, and that that knowledge abided undiminished in his adult memory.” (Lee)

The Text of Love’s Labour’s Lost

Notes

  1. Lee, Sir Sydney. Introduction to Love’s Labours Lost. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. New York. (1906)

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