Shakespeare – Love’s Labour’s Lost 1994
At the heart of the book are promises and how easily they are given and broken.
So in the beginning promises of study and learning are given by the king and his men.
“King: Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register’d upon our brazen tombs,
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
Th’endeavour of this present breath may buy
The honor which shall bate his scythe’s keen edge
And make us heirs of all eternity.” (Shakespeare, 1994, p.213).
But even at this first promise, language trickery is used to break it:
“King: How well he’s read, to reason against reading.
Dumaine: Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!
Longaville: He weeds the corn, and still let’s grow the weeding.
Berowne: The spring is near, when green geese are a-breeding.
Dumaine: How follows that?
Berowne: Fit in his place and time.
Dumaine: In reason nothing.
Berowne: Something, then, in rime.” (Shakespeare, 1994, p.214).
Within the same act, these promises are broken fort he prospect of love.
“Longaville: If by me broke, what fool is not so wise
To lose an oath to win a paradise?” (Shakespeare, 1994, p.228).
And very plainly one of the men, is asked to make an argument to justify this.
“King: But what of this? Are we not all in love?
Berowne: Nothing so sure; and thereby all forsworn.
King: Then leave this chat; and, good Berowne, now prove
Our loving lawful, and our faith not torn.
Dumaine: Ay, marry, there; some flattery for this evil.” (Shakespeare, 1994, p.230).
“Berowne: O, we have made a vow to study, lords,
And in that vow we have forsworn our books.
For when would you, my liege, or you, or you,
In leaden contemplation have found out
Such fiery numbers as the prompting eyes
Of beauty’s tutors have enrich you with?
But love, first learned in a lady’s eyes,
Lives not alone immured in the brain;
But, with the motion of all the elements,
Courses as swift as thought in every power,
And gives to every power a double power,
Above their functions and their offices.
Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves,
Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths.” (Shakespeare, 1994, p.231).
The women are not impressed though:
“King: We came to visit you, and purpose now
To lead you to our court; vouchsafe it then.
Princess: This field shall hold me; and to hold your vow:
Nor God, nor I, delights in perjured men.
King: Rebuke me not for that which you provoke.
The virtue of your eye must break my oath.
Princess: You nickname virtue; vice you should have spoke;
For virtue’s office never breaks men’s troth.” (Shakespeare, 1994, p.237).
Thus the men promise to abstain from using flowery language – in the most flowery words:
Thus pour the stars down plagues for perjury
Can any face of brass hold longer out?
Here stand I, lady: dart thy skill at me;
Bruise me with scorn, confound me with a flout;
Thrust thy sharp wit quite through my ignorance;
Cut me to pieces with thy keen conceit;
And I will wish thee never more to dance,
Nor never more in Russian habit wait.
O, never will I trust to speeches penn’d
Nor to the motion of a schoolboy’s tongue,
Nor never come in visard to my friend,
Nor woo in rime, like a blind harper’s song!
Taffeta phrases, silkern terms precise,
Three-piled hyperboles, spruce affectation,
Figures pedantical, these summer flies
Have blown me full of maggot ostentation:
I do forswear them; and I here protest,
By this white glovw,- how white the hand, God knows!-
Henceforth my wooing mind shall be exprest
In russet yeas and honest kersey noes:
And to begin, wench, - so God help me, la!-
My love to thee is sound, sns crack or flaw.
Rosaline: Sans sans, I pray you.” (Shakespeare, 1994, p.238).
But at the end, the women whose love the men want to win, put a stop to all this.
They make the story go back tot he beginning and tell the men, they won’t believe in any of their promises unless they abstain from courtly life for a year.
Only if then they are still in love, will they marry.
So only if they put action behind their words, their words will be trusted.
And time, me thinks, too short
To make a world-without-end bargain in.
No, no, my lord, your grace is perjured much,
Full of dear guiltiness; and therefore this: --
If for my love, as there is no such cause,
You will do aught, this shall you do for me:
Your oath I will not trust; but go with speed
To some forlorn and naked hermitage,
Remove from all the pleasures of the world;
There stay until twelve celestial signs
Have brought about their annual reckoning.
If this austere insociable life
Change not your offer made in heat of blood;
If frosts and fasts, hard lodging and thin weeds
Nip not the gaudy blossoms of your love,
But that it bearthis trial and last love;
Then, at the expiration of the year,
Come challenge me, challenge by these deserts,
And, by this virgin palm now kissing thine,
I will be thine.” (Shakespeare, 1994, p.243).