Study Guide

Love's Labour's Lost Sex

By William Shakespeare

Sex

BEROWNE
But there are other strict observances:
As not to see a woman in that term,
Which I hope well is not enrollèd there; (1.1.37-39)

Berowne would love to study for three years, but not if it means he doesn't get the pleasure of female company. He doubts any of the lords can stick to this plan, but eventually agrees anyway.

COSTARD
Such is the sinplicity of man to hearken after
the flesh. (1.1.222-223)

For Costard, this goes without saying. It's a truth that the lords will have to learn.

BOYET
Why, all his behaviors did make their retire
To the court of his eye, peeping thorough desire. (2.1.246-247)

Boyet describes the King's eying of the Princess. Have you noticed that, in this play, attraction is all about the eyes?

ARMADO
My love is most immaculate white and red.
BOY
Most maculate thoughts, master, are masked
under such colors. (1.2.90-92)

Armado is describing Jaquenetta's beauty, but Moth takes the opportunity to make a bawdy joke about the colors involved in sexual arousal.

MOTH
'The hobby-horse is forgot.'
ARMADO
Call'st thou my love 'hobby-horse'? (3.2.30-31)

Armado is right to get offended. In Elizabethan slang, a hobby-horse was a prostitute.

BEROWNE
Ay, and by heaven, one that will do the deed
Though Argus were her eunuch and her guard. (3.1.208-209)

Berowne fantasizes about having sex with Rosaline even in the face of scary obstacles.

MARIA
You still wrangle with her, Boyet, and she strikes at
   the brow.
BOYET
But she herself is hit lower. Have I hit her now? (4.1.136-138)

Rosaline may have won this round of wit with Boyet – but she can't win against her sexual desire. This mind/body divide is a big theme in the play.

NATHANIEL
Sir, I praise the Lord for you, and so may
my parishioners, for their sons are well tutored by
you, and their daughters profit very greatly under
you.
[...]
HOLOFERNES
…if their daughters be ingenious,
they shall want no instruction; (4.2.90-93; 95-96)

Yes, Holofernes seems to also have his mind in the gutter. The love fever affects almost every character in the play, even the learnèd and scholarly teacher.

BEROWNE
This is the liver vein, which makes flesh a deity... (4.3.74)

Berowne overhears Longaville fantasizing about paradise with Katharine. In Elizabethan science, the liver was considered the source of sexual desire.