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Ir Love’s labor is apparently lost on the beauteous dames and sprightly courtiers of Navarro and France, poetic readers have still to be grateful for the many fine things that his inspiration has caused his votaries to utter. The play is not for those who see no merit but in broad and striking effects, for it really is deficient in dramatic interest; still it has an infinite variety of beauties; there is a rich vein of gold running through the lode, although the earthly mixture is greater in proportion than in most of the metal from the same prolific mine. The characters are numerous and well contrasted; the one thing wanting to them, and consequently to the play, is determined purpose. It is, however, pleasant to consort with a happy lot of Fortune's darlings, who seem to carve out penance for themselves simply to get rid of their superfluous leisure; and who have nothing to do throughout the long, delightful, summer day, but to amuse, bafile, laud, and depreciate each other, in blissful ignorance of time and business, vice and sorrow.
Biron and Rosaline have been often noted as the precursors of Benedick and Beatrice, and well deserve the compliment. The King and Princess, in their general courtesy and intellectual gifts, advance much more than conventional claim to the title of “ Matchless Navarre," and the “Maid of grace and completo majesty.” The scholastic enthusiasm of Holofernes and Nathaniel is not without its interest to those who, in the language of the Curate, have “ learned to feed upon the delicacies of a book.” The sentence in which this phrase
occurs, rivals, in merit, his praise of the Schoolmaster's table-talk ; - an eulogium, which Johnsop (an unexcepitionable judge in such a case), calls, “a finished representation of colloquial excellence.”
Costard is admirable throughout, – bating the occasional coarseness, which he shares with bis betters in the scene. His mode of meeting the accusation of Armado, in the first Act, would have been worthy of Touchstone, Launcelot, or Ferto. Equally good is his overflowing delight in the witty impertinence of Moth; his exaltation, on successfully standing for “ Pompion the Great,” though he knows not the degree of the worthy;” and his triumphant compassion on the histrionic failure of the poor Curate: “He is a marvelous good neighbor, in sooth, and a very good bowler; but for Alexander, alas! you see how it is; a little o'er parted.”
Among the finer passages of the play (albeit they abound beyond the power of enumeration), are Biron's enthusiastic praise of Rosaline ; her description of him; his expostulation with the King and Courtiers, in the first Act; and his glowing laudation of love and women in the last. Dumain's exquisite Sonnet, “On a Day,”
must not be forgotten; nor the “ Dialogue of the Owl and the Cuckoo;" words which, married to the exquisite | music of Arne, contribute to form as auspicious a conjunction as ever was ratified at the altar of Apollo.
At what time the first edition of this play appeared is altogether uncertain; probably about 1590: it is, undoubtedly, one of Shakspeare's earlier productions. The edition of 1598 has the following title: “A pleasant conceited comedie, called Love's Labor's Lost.' As it was presented before her Highness this last Christmas. Newly corrected and augmented by W. Shakspeare.” The drama was, probably, on various accounts especially pleasing to Elizabeth. The voluntary, yet unwilling, maiden Queen — she who was so peevishly jealous of the marriage of her maids of honor — must have relished, intensely, the postponement of so many sexual unions “for a twelvemonth and a day," with a tolerable prospect of the matches failing altogether. The learning of the pedants must have been anything but caviare to the accomplished pupil of Ascham; while the grandiloquence of Armado would provoke a smile, both for herself and the author, from the lion-hearted woman who had so heroically defied alike the thunder and the machinations of the wily and redoubtable Philip.
“ It is not unimportant (says Mr. Coleridge) to notice how strong a presumption the dictions and allusions of this play afford, that, though Shakspeare's acquirements in the dead languages might not be such as we suppose consistent with a learned education, his habits had nevertheless been scholastic and those of a student."
Love's Labor's Lost.
SCENE I.–Navarre. A Park, with a Palace in it. | Fat paunches have lean pates; and dainty bits
Make rich the ribs, but bankerout the wits. Enter the KING, BIRON, LONGAVILLE, and
Dum. My loving lord, Dumain is mortified. DUMAIN.
The grosser manner of these world's delights King. Let fame, that all hunt after in their He throws upon the gross world's baser slaves. lives,
To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die; Live registered upon our brazen tombs,
With all these living in philosophy. And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
say their protestation over : When, spite of cormorant devouring time, So much, dear liege, I have already sworn; The endeavor of this present breath may buy That is, to live and study here three years. That honor which shall bate his scythe's keen edge, But there are other strict observances : And make us heirs of all eternity.
As, not to see a woman in that term; Therefore, brave conquerors !—for so you are, Which I hope well is not enrolled there : That war against your own affections,
And one day in a week to touch no food; And the huge army of the world's desires, - And but one meal on every day beside; Our late edíct shall strongly stand in force : The which I hope is not enrolled there : Navarre shall be the wonder of the world; And then, to sleep but three hours in the night, Our court shall be a little academe,
And not be seen to wink of all the day Still and contemplative in living art.
(When I was wont to think no harm all night, You three, Birón, Dumain, and Longaville, And make a dark night too of half the day); Have sworn for three years' term to live with me, Which I hope well is not enrolled there : My fellow scholars, and to keep those statutes 0, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep; That are recorded in this schedule here :
Not to see the ladies, - study,- fast, - not sleep; Your oaths are past, and now subscribe your King. Your oath is passed to pass away from names;
these. That his own hand may strike his honor down Biron. Let me say no, my liege, an if you please; That violates the smallest branch herein :
I only swore to study with your grace, If you are armed to do as sworn to do,
And stay here in your court for three years' space. Subscribe to your deep oath, and keep it too. Long. You swore to that, Birón, and to the rest. Long. I am resolved : 't is but a three years' Biron. By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in fast;
jest. — The mind shall banquet, though the body pine : What is the end of study? - let me know.
King. Why, that to know which else we should Long. He weeds the corn, and still lets grow
the not know.
weeding Biron. Things hid and barred, you mean, from Biron. The spring is near,
green geese are common sense ?
a-breeding King. Ay, that is study's godlike recompense. Dum. How follows that?
Biron. Come on then, I will swear to study so, Biron. Fit in his place and time. To know the thing I am forbid to know:
Dum. In reason nothing. As thus, - To study where I well may dine,
Biron. Something, then, in rhyme. When I to feast expressly am forbid :
King. Birón is like an envious sneaping frost, Or, study where to meet some mistress fine, That bites the first-born infants of the spring.
When mistresses from common sense are hid : Biron. Well, say I am; why should proud sumOr, having sworn too hard-a-keeping oath,
mer boast, Study to break it, and not break
Before the birds have any cause to sing ? If study's gain be thus, and this be so,
Why should I joy in any abortive birth ? Study knows that which yet he doth not know : At Christmas I no more desire a rose, Swear me to this, and I will ne'er say no. Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows; King. These be the stops that hinder study But like of each thing that in season grows. quite,
So you, to study now it is too late, And train our intellects to vain delight.
Climb o'er the house to unlock the little gate. Biron. Why, all delights are vain; and that King. Well, sit you out: go home, Birón; most vain,
adieu ! Which, with pain purchased doth inherit pain : Biron. No, my good lord; I have sworn to stay As, painfully to pore upon a book, To seek the light of truth; while truth the And though I have for barbarism spoke more while
Than for that angel knowledge you can say, Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look : Yet confident I'll keep what I have swore, Light, seeking light, doth light of light be- And bide the penance of each three years' day. guile :
Give me the paper, let me read the same; So, ere you find where light in darkness lies, And to the strick'st decrees I'll write my name. Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes. King. How well this yielding rescues thee from Study me how to please the eye indeed,
shame! By fixing it upon a fairer eye;
BIRON reads. Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed,
And give him light that was it blinded by. “ Item, That no woman shall come within a mile of Study is like the heaven's glorious sun,
my court,". That will not be deep-searched with saucy looks; Hath this been proclaimed ? Small have continual plodders ever won,
Long. Four days ago.
Biron. Let's see the penalty.
“On pain of losing her tongue.”.
Long. Marry, that did I. King. How well he's read, to reason against Biron. Sweet lord, and why? reading!
Long. To fright them hence with that dread Dum. Proceeded well, to stop all good proceed
Biron. A dangerous law against gentility.
This child of fancy, that Armado hight, “ Item, If any man be seen to talk with a woman For interim to our studies, shall relate, within the term three years, he shall endure such In high-born words, the worth of many a knight public shame as the rest of the court shall possibly de
From tawny Spain, lost in the world's debate. vise."
How you delight my lords, I know not, I; This article, my liege, yourself must break; But I protest, I love to hear him lie,
For well you know, here comes in embassy And I will use him for my minstrelsy. The French king's daughter, with yourself to Biron. Armado is a most illustrious wight, speak, —
A man of fire-new words, fashion's own knight.
Enter DULL, with a letter, and COSTARD. King. What say you, lords ? — why, this was quite forgot.
Dull. Which is the duke's own person ? Biron. So study evermore is overshot;
Biron. This, fellow : what wouldst? While it doth study to have what it would, Dull. I myself reprehend hịs own person, for I It doth forget to do the thing it should :
am his grace's tharborough : but I would see his And when it hath the thing it hunteth most, own person in flesh and blood. 'Tis won as towns with fire; so won, so lost.
Biron. This is he. King. We must of force dispense with this de- Dull. Signior Arme
Arme — commends you. cree;
There's villainy abroad; this letter will tell you She must lie here on mere necessity.
Biron. Necessity will make us all forsworn Cost. Sir, the contempts thereof are as touching Three thousand times, within this three years' me. space :
King. A letter from the magnificent Armado. For every man with his affects is born;
Biron. How low soever the matter, I hope in Not by might mastered, but by special grace : God for high words. If I break faith, this word shall speak for me, Long. A high hope for a low having: God I am forsworn on mere necessity.
grant us patience! So to the laws at large I write my name :
Biron. To hear? or forbear hearing ?
[Subscribes. Long. To hear meekly, sir, and to laugh modeAnd he that breaks them in the least degree, rately; or to forbear both. Stands in attainder of eternal shame :
Biron. Well, sir, be it as the style shall give us Suggestions are to others as to me;
cause to climb in the merriness. But I believe, although I seem so loth,
Cost. The matter is to me, sir, as concerning I am the last that will last keep his oath.
Jaquenetta. The manner of it is, I was taken But is there no quick recreation granted ? with the manner. King. Ay, that there is : our court you know is Biron. In what manner ? haunted
Cost. In manner and form following, sir; all With a refinéd traveler of Spain;
those three : I was seen with her in the manorA man in all the world's new fashion planted, house, sitting with her upon the form, and taken
That hath a mint of phrases in his brain : following her into the park; which, put together, One whom the music of his own vain tongue is in manner and form following. Now, sir, for the Doth ravish, like enchanting harmony;
manner, it is the manner of a man to speak to A man of complements, whom right and wrong a woman : for the form, - in some form. Have chose as umpire of their mutiny:
Biron. For the following, sir.