Parallels

August 9, 2011 at 12:04 pm (Analysis and Discussion, Love's Labour's Lost, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , , , , )

As may be obvious from my non-interest in the Shakespeare authorship question, I am not much for conspiracy theories. So, the multiple theories on whether or not there may have been a sequel to Love’s Labour’s Lost parallels for me the conspiracy stuff and let’s just say I won’t lose sleep over the possibilities.

But, LLL leaves so many loose ends that it does seem possible (maybe even probable) to me that there was a sequel that brought it all together. There are historical references to a play called Love’s Labour’s Won… although it has vanished without a trace (to date).

I read this in an online discussion group on the topic and it makes sense to me:

(1) In 1952 a bookseller’s inventory was discovered that listed both LLL and LLW as separate listings in alphabetical order…The bookseller would have had no reason to fabricate the names in his stock.

(2) The internal evidence in LLL is even more evocative. The play does
not end like a traditional comedy, as Birowne notes (“Jack hath not
Jill”), and the ending is full of strong hints of a continuation after a
year (“it wants a twelvemonth and a day, / And then ’twill end. That’s
too long for a play.”). In other words, “stay tuned.” The tasks
assigned the various gentlemen provide good grist for another comedy.
Posted by Larry Weiss at Shaksper, the Global Electronic Shakespeare Conference

List of several plays from the verso of the 1603 leaf used to bind a book of sermons in 1637, including ''Love's Labour's Won''

I don’t know anything about the person who posted this and to be honest, I did not read most of the discussion. But this quote pretty much describes what’s been in the back of my mind. There is historical evidence that a play named Love’s Labour’s Won existed. We don’t have it today. The play Love’s Labour’s Lost ends oddly, with loose ends, with tasks assigned to the characters that could be material for another play. I agree that Berowne’s words sound like “stay tuned” and that the second play would probably wind up with four (or more!) weddings.

Theories
That said, another idea is that maybe Love’s Labour’s Won was just a subtitle for another play. Or maybe it was an alternate title for another Shakespearean play… one that we are familiar with by a different name. There are various ideas about this–possibly The Taming of the Shrew, All’s Well That Ends Well, As You Like It, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing or Troilus and Cressida.

In the article “Wonne” is “Lost, quite lost,” G. Harold Metz analyzes the literature on the subject (published in 1986, so maybe it’s out of date, but I found it interesting) and came to this conclusion:

The attempts to identify Love’s Labour’s Won with an acknowledged Shakespearean play are seriously or even fatally hampered by the fact that we do not have any knowledge of the play beyond the title… It seems clear that we are left with the conclusion, however unhappy to contemplate, that this title in Meres’s list represents a lost Shakespearean play…

The probability that Love’s Labour’s Won has been lost need not lead us to conclude that it is forever beyond recovery. Q1 of Titus Andronicus, which was known to Langbaine in 1691, dropped from sight for two centuries until the unique copy now in the Folger Shakespeare Library came to light in the modest book collection of a Swedish postal employee in 1904. We may hope that a similar stroke of good luck will someday restore Love’s Labour’s Won to us. But at this moment in time, except for the title, Wonne is “all, all lost, quite lost.”

“Wonne” Is “Lost, Quite Lost,” G. Harold Metz, Modern Language Studies Vol. 16, No. 2 (Spring, 1986), pp. 3-12

Much Ado About Something?
As Metz points out, most of the scholars he cites admit that Love’s Labour’s Won is probably a lost work, and yet they are unable to stop themselves from conjecturing which existing play it might have been.

So, in that vein, I will do the same and since Much Ado About Nothing is the only one of the possibilities that I’m fairly familiar with at this point, I will talk about it (for no purpose other than to talk, since I don’t really think Much Ado is LLW!).

It is not hard to see parallels between LLL and Much Ado About Nothing. Let’s consider a few:

The Sparring Love-match: Berowne and Rosaline’s sexy sparring is reminiscent of Much Ado’s Beatrice and Benedick. In both cases there was a relationship prior to the play’s action and in both cases, they apparently did not part amicably and that history colors the sparring. However, in Much Ado, it was Beatrice who was hurt by Benedick prior to the play, while in LLL, it appears that Rosaline may have dumped Berowne. Also, there is deeper character development in Much Ado and I am more emotionally attached to B&B than B&R. I find Beatrice and Benedick a much more likable pair… they sizzle and seem well-matched. Rosaline is not so likable for me and in general, I care less about the outcome of R&B’s romance, while I root for B&B and am pleased by their marriage.

Masks/Mistaken Identities: This occurs in both Much Ado and LLL. The reasons for and outcomes of the masks are quite different. In Much Ado, these mistakes are central to the plot and affect nearly all the characters. In LLL, the masks and mistakes are just pastimes and tricks.

Mocked Men: Berowne and Benedick are teased pretty mercilessly by their guy friends in both plays. In LLL, all the guys are in the same silly boat, being mocked by the ladies, as well. In Much Ado, that’s not the case.

Eavesdropping: In both plays, there is some silly eavesdropping to out the men’s true feelings. In LLL, the men eavesdrop on each other to prove that each of them have broken their oath to give up women, but it does not bring B&R together. In Much Ado, the eavesdropping brings B&B together.

Intercepted/Mocked Love Letters: Both plays have ‘em. In Much Ado, Beatrice gets to read Benedick’s letter and it melts her heart. In LLL, Rosaline never sees the letter from Berowne.

Rustic Foils: Both plays have a comic constable: Dogberry in Much Ado and Dull in LLL. However, Dogberry’s verbal style and silliness has more in common with LLL’s Costard.

I will stop there. There are similarities, for sure. But the characters and plays feel very different to me. What I want is a Love’s Labour’s Won where we see the king attempt (and fail) to be a hermit for a year and Berowne to work in a hospital and care for the sick (for a day or two) and Dumaine and Longaville to fail at whatever they are supposed to do for a year, and Don Armado to faithfully farm and take care of Jaquenetta and her child (whoever the father really is!) and for everyone somehow to get happily married at the end!  I will be sure to post about that if the lost play is found!

The Owl and the Cuckoo
Love’s Labour’s Lost ends with a parallel that I really don’t understand… the song about the Owl and the Cuckoo. Don Armado brings it up at the end:

This side is Hiems, Winter, this Ver, the Spring;
the one maintained by the owl, the other by the
cuckoo. Ver, begin.

THE SONG

SPRING.
When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he, Cuckoo;
Cuckoo, cuckoo: O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!
When shepherds pipe on oaten straws
And merry larks are ploughmen’s clocks,
When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,
And maidens bleach their summer smocks
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he, Cuckoo;
Cuckoo, cuckoo: O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!
WINTER.
When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw
And birds sit brooding in the snow
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
V.2.873-894

What the heck does this song mean? Can anyone help me understand the purpose of the song and how it relates to the rest of the play? The play within the play, the Nine Worthies, is nothing but interrupted, and yet this song, meant to end the Nine Worthies (and how does it even relate to the Nine Worthies?), is sung in its entirety, without interruption or comment. Why?

Twas the Night Before Christmas
And now I will end with a fun parallel. When I first read the honey-tongued old lovemonger Boyet’s speech to the Princess (below), I thought it reminded me of the Grinch (I always have Dr. Seuss on the brain) but then I realized it was A Visit from St. Nicholas that rang the bell. (“When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer…”) Hear the rhythm?

Why, all his behaviors did make their retire
To the court of his eye, peeping thorough desire:
His heart, like an agate, with your print impress’d,
Proud with his form, in his eye pride express’d:
His tongue, all impatient to speak and not see,
Did stumble with haste in his eyesight to be;
All senses to that sense did make their repair,
To feel only looking on fairest of fair:
Methought all his senses were lock’d in his eye,
As jewels in crystal for some prince to buy;
Who, tendering their own worth from where they were glass’d,
Did point you to buy them, along as you pass’d:
His face’s own margent did quote such amazes
That all eyes saw his eyes enchanted with gazes.
I’ll give you Aquitaine and all that is his,
An you give him for my sake but one loving kiss.
II.1.233-248

On that silly note, I think I will end my thoughts on Love’s Labour’s Lost. I would love to hear from anyone, comments, clarifications, disagreements… whatever you like.

I am looking forward to the next play: The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Maybe it will not take me a whole year!

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2 Comments

  1. Tue Sorensen said,

    Well, I can tell you what the spring part of the song means (the winter part just seems to be descriptive). The cuckoo refers to “cuckold” – the point is that in the springtime, people have a tendency to be unfaithful, and hence married men are in great danger of being cuckolded. The imagery of cuckoldry (with the horns that men with cheating wives were said to grow, more metaphorically than actually) was extremely popular in Elizabethan times, and Shakespeare refers to it over and over in virtually all his plays. I think, for a while there in the Renaissance, people weren’t taking monogamy as seriously as convention and authority required. And apparently, instead of punishing those who cheated, it was considered much more entertaining to make fun of those – husbands, esp. – who were cheated.

    As for Love’s Labour’s Won; I used to be quite convinced that it was another title for Much Ado About Nothing, but then I gravitated towards The Taming of the Shrew… Now, I don’t know. It is tempting to think that it is an actual, lost play. But why wasn’t it included in the First Folio, then? The extant version of LLL is revised 1597 edition – the original may be from several years earlier, placing it closer to Shrew than Ado… Still, I believe the most probable answer is that it is Much Ado About Nothing – as you point out, the two plays have many plot similarities.

    • orwhatyouwill said,

      But nobody is married yet in this play, so why the long song about cuckolds? Unless it’s a set up for LLW where the girls all move on to other romantic interests? I just don’t really get the purpose of the song.

      Shrew seems totally different than LLL. Dunno why LLW wasn’t included in First Folio, but I think it’s lost. And I have now officially burned as many synapses on that unanswerable question as I am willing to burn. The End.

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