Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Love/Hate's Labour's Lost

One of the main topics of discussion in our group has been its juvenile nature, with regards to the male characters and to the play itself. But I think I found another way that this play is childish.

Mean Girls
First, we talked about the whole idea of "swearing off women" as being naive and unrealistic. The king and his lords last barely three acts before giving up on their oath. And, the way they show their love to the Princess of France and her ladies, like passing "check yes or no" notes in class, seems like playground behavior. It seems like not only are these the first women they've interacted with since swearing their oath, they're the first women they've ever interacted with. (We compared the king and his lords to awkward returned missionaries who don't know what to do in the presence of a girl.)

Gossip Girl
Also, we've talked about Shakespeare's immaturity in writing the play. The common opinion seems to be that the main motivation for writing Love's Labour's Lost was the opportunity to craft clever wordplay. And we agreed that was definitely at the expense of everything else. Where are the complex characters like Hamlet? Where is the substantial plot? Why does everything happen so conveniently? So the characters just magically fall in love in an instant? And the king and his lords just happen to cross paths in the forest? A more modern play, or even another Shakespeare play would present some sort of reason for each character to be at that place at that time. But, in Love's Labour's Lost, nothing.

What I discovered by reading Act V was that it's not just the male characters or Shakespeare who have some growing up to do. It's the females too. In Act V, all the women do is make fun of the men.

Rosaline: ... Nay, I have verses too, I think Biron:
The numbers true; and, were the numbering too,
I were the fairest goddess on the ground:
I am compared to twenty thousand fairs.
O, he hath drawn my picture in his letter!

Princess of France: Any thing like?

Rosaline: Much in the letters; nothing in the praise.

Princess of France: Beauteous as ink; a good conclusion.

Katharine: Fair as a text B in a copy-book.


Princess of France: But, Katharine, what was sent to you from fair Dumain?

Katharine: Madam, this glove.

Princess of France: Did he not send you twain?

Ricky after Lucy tricks him yet again
Katharine: Yes, madam, and moreover
Some thousand verses of a faithful lover,
A huge translation of hypocrisy,
Vilely compiled, profound simplicity

Maria: This and these pearls to me sent Longaville: 
The letter is too long by half a mile.

Princess of France: I think no less. Dost thou not wish in heart
The chain were longer and the letter short?

Maria: Ay, or I would these hands might never part.

Princess of France: We are wise girls to mock our lovers so.

Rosaline: They are worse fools to purchase mocking so.
That same Biron I'll torture ere I go:
O that I knew he were but in by the week!
How I would make him fawn and beg and seek
And wait the season and observe the times 
And spend his prodigal wits in bootless rhymes
And shape his service wholly to my hests
And make him proud to make me proud that jests!
So perttaunt-like would I o'ersway his state
That he should be my fool and I his fate.

"Pick A Little, Talk A Little" from The Music Man
And later, after the lords have come dressed as Russians and the ladies mess with them by wearing masks, Rosaline says, "Let's, mock them still."

These women are totally taking advantage of the men, and putting them through torture for their entertainment. They're making the men jump through all these hoops.

Is that a sign of immaturity? Aren't the women acting like girls on the playground too?


  1. I agree with the immaturity of the characters, on both sides, but I’ve been thinking about how we have correlated the immaturity of the characters to Shakespeare’s lack maturity:

    Are we saying that Shakespeare was immature because the characters he is writing about are immature? Could the depth of this play be found in the superficial natures of the characters? Could we consider the plot to be a vehicle for a showcase of literary prowess; like going to an NBA All-Star game and expecting a major showcase of offense?

    And as an appendage to these questions, I think we can make a connection to a device used in the scriptures, parables. Parables are typically showcasing a single principle or point. In the September 1974 Ensign, Richard Anderson said, “Avoid the temptation to make every small detail of a parable have significance. Try to understand the main comparisons Jesus intended without bending his story to illogical lengths. It is a safe rule to err on the side of simplicity in interpreting parables, for Jesus generally apparently had only one main point in mind in a single story. There are exceptions, but they are not common.” The connection between Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and parables is that there can be great depth to simplicity when what is spotlighted has profound implications.

    I think it would be worthwhile to decide if the absence of what is typical or realistic was intentional. What do you think?

  2. That's a very good point Anthony. . . and I haven't really decided yet if he was trying to showcase the superficiality or if he just hadn't perfected characterization yet.
    I think part of it goes back to reading it verses watching it, and how our interpretation is really dependant on where a director takes it. I've been saying how the kind of "juvenile" and sometimes seemingly pointless banter has been been annoying me, but at the same time I think if I were watching it instead of reading it, and able to "read" the actors physical movements and actions along with the dailogue, it wouldn't feel so quite so forced and pointless (and probably wouldn't bother me). This is one I wish we were able to see.
    And as far as the question as to whether the women were being just as immature. . . hahaha. . . my answer is probably, but that doesn't mean there's no truth to it. Also, I have yet to read the last act, but I would like to point out that so far there seems to be very little to indicate that the woman reciprocate any of the "love" the men are feeling for them. That being said. . . if they do not (currently) have any feelings for them, then the teasing is pretty natural reaction to that. . .
    And, I know I refer back to this situation a lot (it seems to have a lot of relevance to this play for some reason) but it reminds me of the metaphorical RM "Mr. Collins” I’ve told you guys about. Just last night I got home (conveniently AFTER home evening) and was immediately overcome with horror stories from my roommates of the awkward things that had passed in my absence. And then, our neighbors (who are also victims to his generous admiration) came over for a good, long freak- out. . .and, of course, to poke fun at the guy (who apparently gets some sort of satisfaction out of scooting over just as someone is sitting down, so she accidentally lands on his lap . . .true story. Poor Julie.)
    Anyway. Point is, when a man is clearly "in love" and is doing stupid and ridiculous things as a result, the girls are going to poke fun at them. (And, if "stupid and ridiculous" includes finding the girl's parents' house number, who live in Virginia, and calling them in the middle of the night. . . they will also shudder in fear and disgust.) They might not mock them directly. . . but they're most likely going to have a few laughs about it with their girlfriends.

    That was a really long comment. . .haha sorry for the extra reading :)

  3. That's a good point, that maybe the women aren't acting immaturely, and they're just reacting as anybody of any maturity status would. It's true that when guys act weird, I would expect my sister in middle school all the way up to my grandma to have similar responses. (I guess it's hard for me to imagine my grandma making fun of somebody, haha, but she would agree that the boy's behavior was strange.)

    As for Anthony's comment about the parables, are you asking if we should be focused on only one point from the play? That we should keep it simple like we do for parables? I definitely understand the need for simplicity when understanding parables. In fact, the propensity for overanalyzing and overthinking "weeds out" the people who don't have the spiritual understanding that is requisite for learning the lesson intended by the parable. But does that apply to Shakespeare? I think good literature (cinema, drama, etc.) purposefully has more than one point to make and presents more than one theme. Yes, sometimes it might be a stretch, and critics like to come up with meaning that the author never intended or included only accidentally. But I think there's benefit to multiple interpretations of one play or book.

    (Then again, I maybe misinterpreted your question, which would make my argument extraneous.)

  4. I just watched I Love Lucy yesterday! Very similar thing happened in the episode too (like usual) where Lucy and Ethel were trying to get back at their men for being the judges at a bath suit competition.
    The same games and immaturity were present by both the men and the women.

    However in the ending, it was the women who learned the lesson best and the men happily went on to judge the contest in the end despite the women not being happy about it.

    Balancing this into maybe women not acting immaturely but rather just reacting as one of normal maturity would, I think that we should take into account what is commonly known amongst adolescents. Girls mature faster than boys and boys take a while to catch up. Even guys who go on missions, it's like a right of way when they come back that they have "grown up" now. Girls "grow up" (generally) much quicker than males I think.

  5. Oh definitely. I think there's a reason why elders are 19 and sisters are 21, and why sisters serve for 18 months and elders serve for 24 months: the elders need to catch up with the sisters. For sure.

  6. About the parables, I wasn't saying that Love's Labour's Lost should be treated like a parable, but that we should be careful of being critical of the absence of certain devices/developments we're used to seeing. In this play , like in parables, there is the focus. If the focus of the play is to showcase literary devices, then the plot or lack their of is just a vehicle for the point of the play. Or perhaps the absence of character is set up so we can see what we don't want to be absent from our own character. Hope that makes sense.