Monday, October 10, 2011

Press play

One of the biggest things to look for when reading Love's Labour's Lost is wordplay. From our class discussions and things I've read online, that's what makes the play worthwhile. It's not known for its fascinating plot or three-dimensional characters. It seems like everything else was sacrificed for the sake of Shakespeare's cleverness in his writing.

I've seen a few instances of this famous wordplay, but this time reading the play I decided to look for it specifically. And when I had this "wordplay hunting" as my focus, I found that the play is just loaded with it - especially with Armado and Moth (who you'll remember from my last post about Love's Labour's Lost).

So here are some examples:

Moth: Master, will you win your love with a French brawl?
Don Adriano de Armado: How meanest thou? brawling in French?

Moth: ... and make them men of note—do you note me?

Don Adriano de Armado: How hast thou purchased this experience?
Moth: By my penny of observation.
(I think this is like saying "a penny for your thoughts")

Moth: And out of heart, master: all those three I will prove.
Don Adriano de Armado: What wilt thou prove?
Moth: A man, if I live; ...
("Prove" as in "I will show you" and "prove" as in "become")

Moth: As swift as lead, sir.
Don Adriano de Armado: The meaning, pretty ingenious? Is not lead a metal heavy, dull, and slow? ...
Moth: You are too swift, sir, to say so: Is that lead slow which is fired from a gun?
(Good point.)

Costard: Pray you, which is the head lady?
Princess of France: Thou shalt know her, fellow, by the rest that have no heads.
Costard: Which is the greatest lady, the highest?
Princess of France: The thickest and the tallest.
("Head" and "highest" as in "main, principal, chief" and also as in "the body part above the neck" or "height" and "stature")

Biron: ... they have pitched a toil; I am toiling in a pitch...

All this, especially Moth and Armado, made me think of yet another classic comedic gem:


  1. I'm trying to decide how much I like the style of this play; meaning that I am learning to reserve judgement till I feel I have a good understanding. I have really enjoyed most of it, but there have been a couple of times when I'm not feeling the humor of a particular exchange. Like when Costard broke his shin in Act 3 Scene 1, and they go on about l'envoy's and such...

  2. I agree with Anthony, kind of going back to the discussion in class how maybe all of the forced word play and blatant rhyming is maybe a little more juvenile? I keep thinking about how this was one of his earlier plays, and maybe the characterization part of his writing was as developed as with his later plays.
    Makes me think of the Beatles in a way. . .I'm not really in love with a lot of their earlier work, it's a lot of oversimplified and repetitive stuff, just the "Boy band" songs to please the girls. But they were young when they started, and were still in a process of developing their style and talents. It's the later stuff that has the depth, meaning, and complexity that I really love, and maybe Shakespeare was still in a process of developing as well.

  3. Yeah Anthony, that's a good example. Maybe the French words for "l'envoy" and "salve" sound similar? Or the Old English words?

    And Christa, nice Beatles reference! And that's true about their growth as musicians. I think I like both sides of their musicology, but it's true that one is more simple and another more complex.