Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
I Need a Hero! I'm Holding Out for a Hero Till the End of the Night!
The poor dudes in Love's Labour's Lost. They really need some role models. But there aren't any particularly great men around (maybe in part because the men our guys think of as "great" are all found in antiquity) and so they decide to cut all the fun out of their lives in order to be heroic.
We think this is a lot like saying "Okay. The Rock eats approximately 1,000 calories worth of cod every day; therefore, we'll eat a ton of cod. Plus, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton both only need five hours of sleep per night, so we'll exist on like four."
This hero worship extends to speculating on whether famous dudes fell in love:
great men have been in love?
Most sweet Hercules! More authority, dear
boy, name more; and, sweet my child, let them be
men of good repute and carriage. (1.2.64-69)
Talk about hero worship.
Rich or poor, the men in the play need people to look up to. The motif of heroes recurs again and again —take a gander at "Allusions" for a running list.
Of course, as these dudes fall head over heels in love they start wondering even more about the love lives of great men. Instead of applying the strict standards that Great Men follow to themselves they start excusing themselves—if famous dudes have fallen in love, then it's okay if they do too. The men seem to want to reassure themselves that their behavior is okay; that they're still big dogs:
...yet was Samson so tempted,
and he had an excellent strength; yet was Solomon
so seduced, and he had a very good wit. Cupid's
butt-shaft is too hard for Hercules' club, and therefore
too much odds for a Spaniard's rapier. (1.2.173-177)
Oof. They're going from saying "The Rock eats cod at every meal, so we will too!" to saying, "Eh. Prince Harry totally smokes cigarettes. It's cool if we light up."
But do the men of Love's Labour's Lost manage to be heroes? Judging from the disastrous Pageant of the Nine Worthies, we'd say not. Shakespeare enjoys lampooning the men and reminding us that they are simply human.