All of Shakespeare by the 450th: Amazing Rhyming and Language Fun in “Love’s Labour’s Lost”
I’ve finished my eighth Shakespeare play and had fun doing it. I’d never read about or seen Love’s Labour’s Lost until this month, and I was pleasantly surprised. According to the New York Times, “For some reason, this once rarely performed comedy has become newly fashionable.” Glad to hear it’s again popular because, while you can’t take it too seriously, it is entertaining. The plot revolves around four young men who swear to live a three-year ascetic-like life of little food, little sleep and banquets of arduous study. The King of Navarre, leader of the band, also convinces his followers to give up any contact during that time with women. Immediately their vows are tested (and they fail spectacularly and immediately at them) by the arrival of the Princess of France with three lovely and witty young women.
Words that come to mind after reading the play: Language, rhyme and wit. Foolish vows and games, and lack of self-control. But I’m left mostly with the message that the world is a very serious place: We can try to ignore its serious essence with all kinds of frivolity, but in the end, the seriousness nature of life overtakes us, rendering our frivolity embarrassingly shallow and us without some of the most desired and important things in our existence.
For even a lighter version of the play, Kenneth Branagh did a shortened version as a musical, where the music and words of such luminaries as Cole Porter, the Gershwin brothers and Irving Berlin replace a big chunk of Shakespeare’s words. It was entertaining, except for one dance scene which seemed totally out of place.
Favorite Word: Honorificabilitudinitatibus, which is “the quality of deserving honor or respect; characterized by honor—honorableness.” If you need a little help pronouncing it, here’s a link to several pronunciation samples. Apparently, it’s the longest word in English (if it is English) that has alternating vowels and consonants.
Quotes that appealed to me for various reasons (and a brief thought on a few of them):
King Ferdinand: “…brave conquerors,—for so you are, that war against your own affections, and the huge army of the world’s desires….”
Longaville: “He weeds the corn and still lets grow the weeding.”
Biron: “…for every man with his affects is born, not by might mater’d but by special grace….”
Costard: “Such is the simplicity of man to hearken after the flesh.”
Princess: “I am less proud to hear you tell my worth than you much willing to be counted wise in spending your wit in the praise of mine.” (How much praise is spent for the benefit of the giver and not the praised?)
Princess: “All pride is willing pride, and yours is so.”
Princess: “A giving hand, though foul, shall have fair praise.”
Longaville: Speaking of his oath to not come near a woman: “If by me broke, what fool is not so wise to lose an oath to win a paradise?” (Rationalization comes so easily.)
Dumain: “O, would the King, Brion, and Longaville, were lovers too! Ill, to example ill, would from my forehead wipe a perjur’d note for none offend where all alike do dote.” (The “everyone’s doing it” excuse has been around a long time.)
Moth: “They have been at a great feast of languages and stolen the scraps.”
Princess: “A heavy heart bears not a nimble tongue….”
Rosaline: “A jest’s prosperity lies in the ear of him that hears it, never in the tongue of him that makes it….”
Next Up: “The Merchant of Venice”