The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor

Having experienced some of the other comedies penned by Shakespeare before, I had very low expectations for Love’s Labour’s Lost.

I generally find his comedies to be silly, over-wrought, and just not funny in the least. Add to this that Shakespeare’s women characters (in keeping with the socially accepted standards of their time) often draw the short straw and end up engaged or married to biggest buffoons and jerkiest of asshats written in the plays, I really was not expecting to come across one of Shakespeare’s comedies that I liked.

But I really liked Love’s Labour’s Lost.

+++ Plot Spoiler’s Ahead +++

Sure, the plot is idiotic, and don’t get me started on why the guys ended up dressing as Muscovites to woo their beloveds… I don’t even know.

What made the play for me, tho, was that the ladies not only saw through them, but that they end up chastising the men for their frivolity. I think this was the first of the comedies where some weight is given to romantic entanglements, and where male characters are not only faulted but where they actually seem to recognise that they need to – not make amends – but labour for their respective loves.

Studies my lady? mistress, look on me;
Behold the window of my heart, mine eye,
What humble suit attends thy answer there:
Impose some service on me for thy love.

Oft have I heard of you, my Lord Biron,
Before I saw you; and the world’s large tongue
Proclaims you for a man replete with mocks,
Full of comparisons and wounding flouts,
Which you on all estates will execute
That lie within the mercy of your wit.
To weed this wormwood from your fruitful brain,
And therewithal to win me, if you please,
Without the which I am not to be won,
You shall this twelvemonth term from day to day
Visit the speechless sick and still converse
With groaning wretches; and your task shall be,
With all the fierce endeavor of your wit
To enforce the pained impotent to smile.

To move wild laughter in the throat of death?
It cannot be; it is impossible:
Mirth cannot move a soul in agony.

Why, that’s the way to choke a gibing spirit,
Whose influence is begot of that loose grace
Which shallow laughing hearers give to fools:
A jest’s prosperity lies in the ear
Of him that hears it, never in the tongue
Of him that makes it: then, if sickly ears,
Deaf’d with the clamours of their own dear groans,
Will hear your idle scorns, continue then,
And I will have you and that fault withal;
But if they will not, throw away that spirit,
And I shall find you empty of that fault,
Right joyful of your reformation.

A twelvemonth! well; befall what will befall,
I’ll jest a twelvemonth in an hospital.

I also very much enjoyed that that play ended on a serious note which seems to shake everyone out of their play-acting with each other, and it is the Princess of France rather than one of boys who takes up the lead in setting out the terms on which future engagements are to be arranged.

Yes, indeed, I enjoyed everything that makes this play less of a comedy.