Monday, February 27, 2006

Love's Labor's Lost - Notes

Pronunciation of Berowne: Hell, I don't even know how it is spelled. Cambridge, New Cambridge, Hardin Craig, Norton all spell it Biron. Riverside, Signet, and Bevington (interestingly, in that Bevington is really the fourth edition of Hardin Craig) go with Berowne. I can't find any comment on this in textual notes.

David Bevington, in exploring topical hypotheses that the plot is drawn from the "Elizabethan contemporary scene," poking fun at literary figures such as John Florio [Florio, by the way, comes up as the "real" Shakespeare in the authorship heresies], Thomas Nashe, Gabriel Harvey, Sir Walter Ralegh, and George Chapman, also notes currency of some of the names: Navarre (Henry of Navarre, King Henry IV of France), Dumaine (De Mayenne, brother of the Catholic Guise) and "Berowne" (Biron, Henry IV's general). Bevington dismisses any topical meaning in this, but to me it suggests Shakespeare's custom of choosing "foreign" names -- we are pretty sure he never met an Antipholus in Stratford.

Randall wondered who the fool is. I didn't focus very carefully on them. Like Randall, I remember in both the stage productions waiting for Armado to get off the stage so we could get back to the Princess and the bookmen. In reading, I find Armado more pleasant, if only for the set up of "remuneration" I mentioned last time, and Holofernes has that one touching moment when he condemns the bookmen's abuse with "this is not generous, not gentle, not humble." Dull caught my attention early as a malapropist, which makes him an early draft for Dogberry among others, but this trait seems lost later in the play. I like Moth because he sees through the pedantry and pomposity of the other fools: "They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps" (V.i.36). Am I pushing too hard to think forward to the Boy in Henry IV who sees through Falstaff and Pistol (and, pathetically, is killed by the French in Henry V). There is another Moth in Midsummer but he is one of Titania's fairies offering his services to Bottom. Costard has promise, but he is inconsistent. He has slept with Jacquenetta (is that Touchstone?), he can't read or reckon (Peter, the illiterate servant in Romeo?) so he mixes up the two letters, he is cast as Pompion the Great (Bottom or, maybe, Snout in Midsummer?).

I guess I would take Don Adriano de Armado as most interesting, but partially because he 1) anticipates Angelo, Claudio, Isabella in Measure for Measure -- seizes Costard in the name of the law, then transgresses to the same passion, and 2) surrenders to Jacquenetta in anticipation of the courtiers' collapse before the gaze of the ladies of France. Cyrus Hoy said "It is the glory of love to subdue men," and we get the low/high comedy of Armado in The Nine Worthies comparing his fall to Sampson, Soloman, and Heracles. If our discussion goes on, I may read the play again to keep in mind these "drafts" of comic characters in the later plays. The Princess, the smartest of characters, gives us the overview:

"That sport best pleases that doth [least] know how.
Where zeal strives to content, and the contents
Dies in the zeal of that which it presents.
Their form confounded makes most form in mirth,
When great things laboring perish in their birth." (V.ii.516-21)

Lady Townley, in Etherege's Man of Mode, has a similar comment on the uses of fools to enliven superior society: "'Tis good to have an universal taste; we should love wit, but for variety be able to divert ourselves with the extravagancies of those who want it" (III.ii.151-54). As to pedantry, Medley in the same Etherege play, notes "Many a fool had been lost to the world had their indulgent parents wisely bestowed neither learning nor good breeding on 'em" (I.i.434-36).

Unresolved ending? I've spoken to the love endings. But what about the unresolved political question of the Princess's territorial claims to Aquitane? I think I've got the answer. You see, young Fortinbras will march an army across Navarre...

Gil (I really do know how to spell "forswear," and I know Navarre does not "forswear the world" in the first act of Love's Labor's Lost)

No comments: