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Love's Labour's Lost

William Shakespeare


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Description

Love's Labour's Lost was one of Shakespeare's early comedies. It tells the story of the King of Navarre and his three companions (Lords Berowne, Dumaine, and Longaville) who, in an attempt to spend three years studying and fasting, decide to avoid the company of women. This is all thwarted however with the arrival of the Princess of France and her court ladies. Setting up camp outside the court (due to the King having imposed a ban on women inside), the Princess and her companions stir feelings of love in the men. The play is notable for the inclusion of the longest word in all of Shakespeare's plays: honorificabilitudinitatibus. One of the main themes of Love's Labour's Lost, is that of masculine desire, which throughout the play is deferred and confused. The earliest recorded performance of this play was in 1597, before Queen Elizabeth.

Part of the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World set.

This book has 113 pages in the PDF version, and was originally written in the mid 1590's.

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Excerpt from 'Love's Labour's Lost'

The king of Navarre's park.

Enter FERDINAND king of Navarre, BIRON, LONGAVILLE and DUMAIN

FERDINAND

Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register'd upon our brazen tombs
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
The endeavor of this present breath may buy
That honour which shall bate his scythe's keen edge
And make us heirs of all eternity.
Therefore, brave conquerors,--for so you are,
That war against your own affections
And the huge army of the world's desires,--
Our late edict shall strongly stand in force:
Navarre shall be the wonder of the world;
Our court shall be a little Academe,
Still and contemplative in living art.
You three, Biron, Dumain, and Longaville,
Have sworn for three years' term to live with me
My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes
That are recorded in this schedule here:
Your oaths are pass'd; and now subscribe your names,
That his own hand may strike his honour down
That violates the smallest branch herein:
If you are arm'd to do as sworn to do,
Subscribe to your deep oaths, and keep it too.

LONGAVILLE

I am resolved; 'tis but a three years' fast:
The mind shall banquet, though the body pine:
Fat paunches have lean pates, and dainty bits
Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits.

DUMAIN

My loving lord, Dumain is mortified:
The grosser manner of these world's delights
He throws upon the gross world's baser slaves:
To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die;
With all these living in philosophy.

BIRON

I can but say their protestation over;
So much, dear liege, I have already sworn,
That is, to live and study here three years.
But there are other strict observances;
As, not to see a woman in that term,
Which I hope well is not enrolled there;
And one day in a week to touch no food
And but one meal on every day beside,
The which I hope is not enrolled there;
And then, to sleep but three hours in the night,
And not be seen to wink of all the day--
When I was wont to think no harm all night
And make a dark night too of half the day--
Which I hope well is not enrolled there:
O, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep,
Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep!

FERDINAND

Your oath is pass'd to pass away from these.

BIRON

Let me say no, my liege, an if you please:
I only swore to study with your grace
And stay here in your court for three years' space.

LONGAVILLE

You swore to that, Biron, and to the rest.

BIRON

By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest.
What is the end of study? let me know.

FERDINAND

Why, that to know, which else we should not know.

BIRON

Things hid and barr'd, you mean, from common sense?

FERDINAND

Ay, that is study's godlike recompense.

BIRON

Come on, then; I will swear to study so,
To know the thing I am forbid to know:
As thus,--to study where I well may dine,
When I to feast expressly am forbid;
Or study where to meet some mistress fine,
When mistresses from common sense are hid;
Or, having sworn too hard a keeping oath,
Study to break it and not break my troth.
If study's gain be thus and this be so,
Study knows that which yet it doth not know:
Swear me to this, and I will ne'er say no.

FERDINAND

These be the stops that hinder study quite
And train our intellects to vain delight.

BIRON

Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain,
Which with pain purchased doth inherit pain:
As, painfully to pore upon a book
To seek the light of truth; while truth the while
Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look:
Light seeking light doth light of light beguile:
So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
Study me how to please the eye indeed
By fixing it upon a fairer eye,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed
And give him light that it was blinded by.
Study is like the heaven's glorious sun
That will not be deep-search'd with saucy looks:
Small have continual plodders ever won
Save base authority from others' books
These earthly godfathers of heaven's lights
That give a name to every fixed star
Have no more profit of their shining nights
Than those that walk and wot not what they are.
Too much to know is to know nought but fame;
And every godfather can give a name.

FERDINAND

How well he's read, to reason against reading!

DUMAIN

Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!

LONGAVILLE

He weeds the corn and still lets grow the weeding.

BIRON

The spring is near when green geese are a-breeding.

DUMAIN

How follows that?

BIRON

Fit in his place and time.

DUMAIN

In reason nothing.

BIRON

Something then in rhyme.

FERDINAND

Biron is like an envious sneaping frost,
That bites the first-born infants of the spring.

BIRON

Well, say I am; why should proud summer boast
Before the birds have any cause to sing?
Why should I joy in any abortive birth?
At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.
So you, to study now it is too late,
Climb o'er the house to unlock the little gate.

FERDINAND

Well, sit you out: go home, Biron: adieu.

BIRON

No, my good lord; I have sworn to stay with you:
And though I have for barbarism spoke more
Than for that angel knowledge you can say,
Yet confident I'll keep what I have swore
And bide the penance of each three years' day.
Give me the paper; let me read the same;
And to the strict'st decrees I'll write my name.

Production notes: This edition of Love's Labour's Lost was published by Global Grey ebooks on the 14th August 2019, and updated on the 24th March 2021. The artwork used for the cover is 'Love's Labour's Lost' by Thomas Stothard.

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