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Love's Labour's Lost

Love's Labour's Lost


by William Shakespeare

Analysis: What's Up With the Title?

This one is a head-scratcher for students and scholars alike, the whole world over. The first issue is a purely practical one: how do you spell the dang thing, anyway? Is it Love's Labors Lost? Love's Labour's Lost? Are there two apostrophes? One? None?

You might not be the best speller, but this time the confusion is not your fault: we don't know exactly what Shakespeare intended. Different editions have printed it different ways ever since he penned the play. Argh!

But we can make a little more headway on the meaning of the title: it could suggest either that the labor of love is lost, or the lost labors of love. Either way, the title gives us a couple of hints of what we're about to see—a very convoluted love story. For the smitten characters, love means work, mostly of the literary kind: hours spent working out flattering images and melodious rhymes. And as for that "lost"—well, the play doesn't end with wedding bells... and the labor these poor dudes put in trying to seal themselves off from love doesn't exactly pan out.

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