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Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Intro

In A Nutshell

William Shakespeare probably wrote his comedy Love's Labour's Lost around 1594, in the same era as Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. It shares a number of themes with those plays: love, marriage, friendship, nature, the impact of death, plays-within-plays, the inter-mingling of the nobility with peasantry.

Rather than drawing from history, literature, or mythology, as he did for many of his other plays, Shakespeare invented the plot for Love's Labour's Lost. Indeed, this play is most likely the only play Shakespeare ever wrote whose story is completely original. In Love's Labour's Lost, four young noblemen of Navarre take a vow to study for three years, and not to see women. And, what do you know? Four beautiful French women show up at their door. Love's Labour's Lost explores the continuum between scholarly learning (i.e., learning about life by keeping your nose in a book) and pure instinct (i.e., enjoying life by eating, drinking, flirting, and connecting with the world around you). Once the young scholars set eyes on the ladies of France, they stagger in the open space between reason and instinct, books and common sense, man and woman.

Love's Labour's Lost is known for its explosion of wordplay. And we're talking pyrotechnics. In some ways, the words that characters use in this play are more important than what they are actually trying to say. Make no mistake, Shakespeare was having fun when he wrote this play – the kind of fun that kindergarteners have when their inner-artist is liberated, and when they discover finger painting involves dipping their hands into buckets of paint and then smearing (only, instead of kindergarteners, we have a brilliant writer in his prime; and instead of paint, he used words). Puns, rhymes, and allusions are around every corner.

This word-loving quality makes Love's Labour's Lost a bit challenging for us to navigate our way through the play, and also made it unpopular and almost unperformed from the mid 17th to the early 20th centuries. Producers thought it was dated. When, in the 1920s, directors discovered new approaches to the language and emphasized the style instead of obscuring it, the play surged again in popularity, and has never looked back.

 

Why Should I Care?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
All work

Oh! Sorry about that. You interrupted our, uh, writing. Yeah, that's it. You see, we were just contemplating a very important lesson that we had picked up from reading Love's Labour's Lost. Hey, you might be into this idea, too, come to think of it. Check it out:

Fun is an important part of life. You might know someone—in fact, you might be someone—who is all about work. Whether it's training to be the next greatest freestyle pole jumper or practicing to be the #1 accordion player in your school band, you might be 100% dedicated to your goal, putting everything you have into it. And yet, this play is a helpful reminder that balance is important in life.

Sure, it's good to be dedicated. It's good to work hard. But too much of a good thing is, well, a very bad thing. Just as you can goof-off too much, you can overdo it with work, or exercise, or even (as in this play) studying. Reading this play is like helpful reminder of that important fact. And, it might also come in handy when certain parents (we're looking at you Mr. and Mrs. Nag-a-lot) crack the whip about doing your homework.

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