Study Guide

Love's Labour's Lost Cunning and Cleverness

By William Shakespeare

Cunning and Cleverness

KING
A man in all the world's new fashion planted,
That hath a mint of phrases in his brain;
One who the music of his own vain tongue
Doth ravish like enchanting harmony… (1.1.168-171)

For the word-loving lords, Armado's talk will have to be enough entertainment for three years. The fact that Armado will be the sole source of entertainment clues us in (again) to the fact that study and scholarly pursuits will truly be the focus of the Academe.

ARMADO
Thou pretty because little.
BOY
Little pretty, because little. Wherefore apt?
ARMADO
And therefore apt, because quick.
BOY
Speak you this in my praise, master?
ARMADO
In thy condign praise.
BOY
I will praise an eel with the same praise. (1.2.21-26)

Armado attempts to compliment Moth for his quick wit, but Moth, as usual, rejects his master's kind words.

ROSALINE
His eye begets occasion for his wit,
For every object that the one doth catch
The other turns to a mirth-moving jest… (2.1.70-72)

Rosaline is intrigued by Berowne's perpetual joking. He makes fun of everything he sees, and we get the sense that she finds this continually entertaining.

ARMADO
Now, by the salt wave of the Mediterraneum,
a sweet touch, a quick venue of wit! Snip, snap,
quick and home. It rejoiceth my intellect. True
wit. (5.1.58-61)

Like the lords and ladies, Armado loves to watch a battle of wits. In this case, Moth has gotten the better of Holofernes.

BOYET
But to speak that in words which his eye hath
   disclosed.
I only have made a mouth of his eye
By adding a tongue which I know will not lie. (2.1.264-267)

Boyet is an expert in two things: love and eloquence. In articulating the King's love for the Princess, he puts them together.

NATHANIEL
Your reasons at
dinner have been sharp and sententious, pleasant
without scurrility, witty without affection, audacious
without impudency, learned without opinion,
and strange without heresy. (5.1.2-6)

In his exaggerated praise for Holofernes, Nathaniel is a parody of a student who blindly admires his teacher's book learning.

KATHERINE
Yes, madam, and moreover,
Some thousand verses of a faithful lover,
A huge translation of hypocrisy,
Vilely compiled, profound simplicity. (5.2.54-57)

Katharine seems to take Dumain's love letter as a trick. Remember – she's the one whose sister died of love.

PRINCESS
Twenty adieus, my frozen Muskovits.—
Are these the breed of wits so wondered at?
BOYET
Tapers they are, with your sweet breaths puffed
   out. (5.2.292-295)

The Princess enjoys the women's undeniable victory over the men. Words are their weapons.

BEROWNE
This fellow pecks up wit as pigeons peas,
And utters it again when God doth please. (5.2.347-348)

Berowne is jealous of Boyet's intimacy with Rosaline and calls him a brown-nosing, "honey-tongued" servant. This quote is yet another indication that Berowne has feelings for the lady.

BEROWNE
Your wits makes wise things foolish.
[...]
Your capacity
Is of that nature that to your huge store
Wise things seem foolish and rich things but poor. (5.2.408; 410-412)

It's rare for Berowne to openly acknowledge someone else's intelligence. This compliment shows how smitten he is with Rosaline.