Sunday, February 12, 2006

Love's Labor's Lost - Questions


While we await Ernst's opening remarks, I thought I'd toss out a few of the questions I am left with after finishing Love's Labor's Lost.

1) What accounts for its structure? After a steady diet of Romeo, Macbeth, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, and Othello, I cannot quite discern the hand that shaped those plays in the arrangement of acts and scenes in this play. Heck, new characters trot onto the stage in Act IV, scene ii!

2) Is this all Shakespeare? Any discussion of Pericles includes caveats about which parts Shakespeare wrote and which he didn't. Reading the lines of Berowne, Navarre, the Princess and her ladies, I find it easy to hear echoes of other, familiar, Shakespearean characters. Armado, Moth, Holoferness, and Nathaniel seem out-of-tune with other comic figures, rude and otherwise, that I'm familiar with. Where, then is the specifically Shakespearean in these characters?

3) Who's this Lyly guy, and is he being mocked or imitated? I spent the week reading a bit on Lyly and Euphusim and Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit, yet I still feel unclear about which character -- Moth? Armado? Holoferness? -- most reflects Lylian style (sources that I read differ on which characters Shakespeare meant to embody the style). So, is there a solid close reading out there that illuminates both Lyly and his connection to a passage in this play? Then, why would Shakespeare expend such vast amounts of space in this play on this particular imitative endeavor?

4) Shakespeare's works are compelling for the note of complexity introduced so often -- Malvolio in Twelfth Night, the judgment of Shylock in Merchant, Winter's Tale. But of all of Shakespeare's comedies I have seen, this is the only one that does not end with marriages or unifications, so what are we to make of the colossal "if" presented at the end of Love's Labor's Lost? Jack hath not Jill ... unless. And why doesn't any other play end with a similar lack of clear resolution?

5) Who is the fool? Love's Labor's Lost is full of comic characters, many of whom are clearly foolish. Yet it seems to lack a Feste or Puck character, a fool whose wit rises above. Is it Moth? Is it Berowne? Does this play lack a balance of comedy found in other plays?


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