Love's Labour's Lost is a comedic play following Ferdinand, King of Navarre, and his friends and attendants the Lords Biron, Longaville, and Dumaine as they attempt to forswear the company of women for three years. All immediately become infatuated with the Princess of Aquitaine and her Ladies in Waiting, leading to a variety of comedic situations and much frustration for all involved. The play makes frequent reference to period literature, making its humor somewhat inaccessible.
Love's Labour's Lost is an early comedy by Shakespeare, written around 1595-6 and first performed in 1597.
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 fixèd 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.
King of Navarre: How well he's read, to reason against reading!
But like of each thing that in season grows.
Nothing becomes him ill, that he would well.
I never spent an hour’s talk withal:
His eye begets occasion for his wit;
For every object that the one doth catch,
The other turns to a mirth-moving jest;
Which his fair tongue (conceit's expositor)
Delivers in such apt and gracious words
That aged ears play truant at his tales,
And younger hearings are quite ravished;
So sweet and voluble is his discourse.
To sell a bargain well is as cunning as fast and loose.
The anointed sovereign of sighs and groans,
Liege of all loiterers and malcontents,
Dread prince of plackets, king of cod-pieces,
Sole imperator and great general
Of trotting paritors. O my little heart!
Spied a blossom passing fair,
Playing in the wanton air:
Through the velvet leaves the wind
All unseen, gan passage find;
That the lover, sick to death,
Wish'd himself the heaven's breath,
'Air,' quoth he, 'thy cheeks may blow;
Air, would I might triumph so!
But, alas! my hand hath sworn
Ne'er to pluck thee from thy thorn:
Vow, alack! for youth unmeet:
Youth, so apt to pluck a sweet.
Do not call it sin in me
That I am forsworn for thee
Thou for whom Jove would swear
Juno but an Ethiope were;
Turning mortal for thy love.
Learning is but an adjunct to ourself;
And where we are, our learning likewise is.
And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.
They are the books, the arts, the academes,
That show, contain, and nourish all the world.
And, to begin, wench— so God help me, la! —
My love to thee is sound, sans crack or flaw.
Of him that makes it.
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue,
Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men, for thus sings he:
Cuckoo, cuckoo— O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear!
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp'd, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl:
To-whit, to-who– A merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.