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The problem of dating exactly Shakespeare's earliest plays is beset with peculiar difficulties. During the first few years of his dramatic activity, he made experiments in all the three main divisions of the drama of his time, comedy, tragedy, and history; and within these divisions his versatility showed itself still farther. Thus, in the field of comedy, he seems to have laid especial stress on diction in Love's Labour 's Lost, on character in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, on situation and plot in The Comedy of Errors. This variety of aim makes it hard to arrange these plays in order of production on mere internal evidence, as might hare been possible had they been successive attempts along precisely the same lines; and external evidence is very scanty and inconclusive. The order adopted here is as probable as any; but the three comedies placed first should be regarded as essentially contemporaneous.

The first extant edition of Love's Labour 's Lost was published as a quarto in 1598. The titlepage of this edition states that it is printed“ as it was presented before her Highness this last Christmas. Newly corrected and augmented by W. Shakespere.” If this volume was issued before March 25, 1598 (0. S.), “last Christmas " would mean Christmas of 1598; if after March 25, it would mean Christmas of 1597. References to the play in Meres's Palladis Tamia (1598), and in Tofte's Alba or Month's Mind of a Melancholy Lover (1598), do not help to determine this point. The indication of an earlier form of the play given in the words “corrected and augniented” is corroborated by certain peculiarities in the text. The speech of Biron in iv. iii. 289–365, and the conversation between him and Rosaline in v. ii. 827-832, 847-881, show undoubted traces of revision, the earlier form of some of the lines having been retained in the later text by the mistake of the printer. We have no means of defining closely the augmentations, but from the disproportion in the length of the acts, and from the style of the speeches, it is fairly clear that they must have been chiefly in the fourth and fifth acts, and in the speeches of Biron and Rosaline. The date of this earlier version is to be conjectured from internal evidence only. The very great frequency of riming lines, the occurrence of speeches rimed alternately and in sonnet form, the slightness of the characterization, the obvious symmetry in the arrangement of the persons, the nature of the topical allusions, all these, combined with the impression of immaturity produced by the play, have led to a fairly general agreement that it is one of Shakespeare's first independent attempts, and is to be placed not later than 1591.

The Quarto of 1598 is the direct source of the next printed text, that of the First Folio. This edition of the play, though somewhat more carefully printed than the Quarto, has no independent authority, and adds nothing save the last line and the division into acts. The present text is, accordingly, based on that of the Quarto.

No source of the plot as a whole bas yet been discovered, and it is quite possible that the story was invented by Shakespeare himself. Hints may have been derived from French history. Monstrelet relates that, in the first quarter of the fifteenth century, a king of Navarre renounced his claims to certain French lordships on condition of receiving the Duchy of Nemours and 200,000 crowns. Again, in 1586, Catherine de' Medici, accompanied by a bevy of ladies, visited the court of Henry of Navarre, and attempted to settle the disputes between that prince and her son, Henry III. The charms of the ladies in her retinue were expected to aid in the accomplishment of her diplomatic purposes. The names of Biron and Longaville are those of two well-known adherents of Henry of Navarre in the civil wars which were raging when the play was written; and the name of Dumain is an anglicized form of that of the Duc de Mayenne who figured on the other side in the same conflict. Further, in 1582, a Russian ambassador arrived in England to arrange • treaty, and to take home with him a wife for the Czar from among the kinswomen of Elizabeth. A lady was selected, and was presented to the ambassador in a pavilion in the gardens of York House with a ceremony which may have given a hint for the masque of the Muscovites in v. ii. 158 ff., especially as the episode was long remembered as a joke.

In the characters of Armado and Holofernes traces have been found of the stock types of the braggart soldier and the pedant of Latin and Italian comedy. In the stage directions of the early copies, Armado is often called “ Braggart,” and Holofernes “ Pedant.” Some of the for. mer's characteristics may have been suggested by an eccentric Italian who haunted the court of Elizabeth, and was known as the “fantastical monarcho." Boyet calls Armado “ a phantasime, a Monarcho" (iv. i. 101), and Holofernes refers to him as a “fanatical phantasime" (v. i. 19). The name of Holofernes may be due to its occurrence in Rabelais as that of the tutor of Garagantua. The rustic pedant had been recently exploited by Sir Philip Sidney in the character of Rombus in The Lady of the May. The scraps of Latin put into the mouth of Holofernes and of Nathaniel are taken from sixteenth-century school-books, a fact which may partly account for the attempts to find in the Pedant a portrait of Shakespeare's own schoolmaster. Endeavors to identify him with John Florio, and to point out in other characters in the play allusions to men concerned in current controversies, are not convincing.

The main point of Love's Labour's Lost for Shakespeare's contemporaries must have been in its pervading burlesque of current fads and affectations. The wit-combats of the lords and ladies, the affected diction of the sonneteering courtiers, the preposterous bombast of Armado, the latinized English and pedantic alliteration of Holofernes, and the quips of Moth, are all parodies of the absurdities into which the prevailing interest in linguistic feats had led almost all classes of Elizabethan society. Euphuism is to-day the most familiar of these fashions, but Euphuism itself, in the strict sense, is not specifically attacked. There are, however, other indications of the influence of Lyly, at this date by far the greatest master of English comedy. The farcical scenes with Moth, Armado, and the clowns, the repartee between the ladies and the courtiers, the scene in which the lovers betray their broken vows, and the general method of representing courtly intercourse, are all foreshadowed in the work of Lyly. Nor need it be supposed that all the verbal affectation and quaintnesses in the play are due to a burlesque intention. Shakespeare himself, as all his early work goes to show, was fascinated by the word-play in which his contemporaries indulged, and the eloquence of the finer speeches of Biron is probably the outcome of a genuine delight in the discovery of his own power to manipulate words as skilfully as his fellows.

The general drift of the play is evident alike in the plot and in the verbal parodies, namely, the exposure of the absurdity of departing from common sense, and the ability of Nature to assert herself to the discomfiture of those who foolishly attempt to organize society on artificial lines that run counter to the fundamental laws of our constitution. “Biron," or “ Berowne

as it appears in the early copies, is accented on the second syllable, and rimes with "moon ;" " Boyet” rimes with "debt; " " Moth” was pronounced “mote ;" and “Rosaline" rimes with "thine."

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DULL, a constable. Brnex,

COSTARD, a clown. LONS AVILLE, lords attending on the Ring.

MOTH, page to Armado.

A Forester.
lords attending on the Princess of France.

The PRINCESS of France.

ROSALINE, Dos ADRIANO DE ARMADO, a fantastical Spaniard.

MARIA, ladies attending on the Princess. & NATHANIEL, a curate.

HOLOFERNES, a schoolmaster.

JAQUENETTA, a country wench.
Lords, Attendants, etc.

SCENE : Navarre, the King's palace, and the country near it.]







ACT I [SCENE I. Th king of Navarre's park.] Ester FERDINAD, king of Navarre, Biron,

LONG VILLE, and DUMAIN. King: Let fime, that all hunt after in their Live regist'rej upon our brazen tombs And then grice us in the disgrace of death ; When, spite, f cormorant, devouring Time, The endeavur of this present breath may huy 5 That honor which shall bate his scythe's keen

edg And mak us heirs of all eternity. Therefor,, brave conquerors, - for so you are, That was against your own affections And the page army of the world's desires, Ou late edict shall strongly stand in force. Navarre shall be the wonder of the world · Our court shall be a little Academe, Still and contemplative in living art. You three, Biron, Dumain, and Longaville, Hare sworn for three years' term to live with me Vy follow-scholars, and to keep those statutes That are recorded in this schedule here. You oaths are pass'd; and now subscribe your

names, This own hand may strike his honour down

hat violates the smallest branch herein. if you are arm'd to do as sworn to do, Subscribe to your deep oaths, and keep it too. Long. I am resolv'd; 't is but a three years'

fast. The mind shall banquet, though the body pine. Fat paunches have lean pates, and dainty bits Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the

wits. Dum. My loving lord, Dumain is mortified. The grosser manner of these world's delights He throws upon the gross world's baser slaves. To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die, 31 With all these living in philosophy.

Bir. I can but say their protestation over. So much, dear liege, I have already sworn, That is, to live and study here three years. But there are other strict observances; As, not to see a woman in that term, Which I hope well is not enrolled there. And one day in a week to touch no food, And but one meal on every day beside, The which I hope is not enrolled there ; And then, to sleep but three hours in the night, And not be seen to wink of all the day, When I was wont to think no harm all night And make a dark night too of half the day, Which I hope well is not enrolled there. 0, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep, Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep! King. Your oath is pass'd to pass away from

these. Bir. Let me say no, my liege, an if you please. I only swore to study with your grace And stay here in your court for three years'

space. Long. You swore to that, Biron, and to the

rest. Bir. By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in

jest. What is the end of study? Let me know. King. Why, that to know which else we

should not know, Bir. Things hid and barr’d, you mean, from

common sense ? King. Ay, that is study's god-like recom

pence. Bir. Come on, then; I will swear to study

To know the thing I am forbid to know ;
As thus, - to study where I well may dine,

When I to feast expressly am forbid;
Or study where to meet some mistress fine,

When mistresses from common sense are hid;
Or, having sworn too hard a keeping oath,
Study to break it and not break my troth.
If study's gain be thus and this be so,






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Study knows that which yet it doth not know.
Swear me to this, and I will ne'er say no.
King. These be the stops that hinder study

quite, And train our intellects to vain delight. Bir. Why, all delights are vain, but that

most vain, Which, with pain purchas'd, doth inherit pain; As, painfully to pore upon a book To seek the light of truth; while truth the

while Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look. Light seeking light doth light of light be

So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
Study me how to please the eye indeed

By fixing it upon a fairer eye,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed

And give him light that it was blinded by.
Study is like the heaven's glorious sun
That will not be deep-search'd with saucy

looks. Small have continual plodders ever won,

Save base authority from others' books. These earthly godfathers of heaven's lights,

That give a name to every fixed star, Have no more profit of their shining nights Than those that walk and wot not what they

are. Too much to know is to know nought but

fame; And every godfather can give a name. King. How well he's read, to reason against

reading! Dum. Proceeded well, to stop all good pro

ceeding! Long: He weeds the corn and still lets grow

the weeding. Bir. The spring is near when green geese are

a-breeding. Dum. How follows that? Bir.

Fit in his place and time. Dum. In reason nothing. Bir.

Something then in rhyme. King. Biron is like an envious sneaping frost 100

That bites the first-born infants of the spring. Bir. Well, say I am ; why should proud sum

mer boast Before the birds have any cause to sing ? Why should I joy in any abortive birth ? At Christmas I no more desire a rose Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows; But like of each thing that in season grows. So you (to study now it is too late,) Climb o'er the house to unlock the little

gate. King. Well, sit you out. Go home, Biron,

adieu, Bir. No, my good lord, I have sworn to stay And though I have for barbarism spoke more Than for that angel, knowledge, you can

say, Yet, confident, I'll keep what I have sworn, And bide the penance of each three years'


Give me the paper; let me read the same; And to the strictest decrees I 'll write my name King. How well this yielding rescues thee

from shame! Bir. (Reads.) Item, That no woman shall ? come within a mile of my court" Hath this been proclaimed ?

Long. Four days ago.

Bir. Let's see the penalty: [Reads.). “On pain of losing her tongue.” Who devis'd this penalty ?

Long. Marry, that did I.
Bir. Sweet lord, and why?
Long. To fright them hence with that dread

[Bir.] A dangerous law against gentility!
[Reads.] Item, If any man be seen to talk (1.3
with a woman within the term of three years,
he shall endure such public shame as the rest of
the court can possibly devise:”
This article, my liege, yourself must break;

For well you know here comes in embassy 1.36 The French king's daughter with yourself to

speakA maid of grace and complete majestyAbout surrender up of Aquitaine

To her decrepit, sick, and bedrid father;
Therefore this article is made in vain,

Or vainly comes the admired princess hither.
King. What say you, lords ? Why, this was

quite forgot.
Bir. So study evermore is overshot.
While it doth study to have what it would,
It doth forget to do the thing it should;
And when it hath the thing it hunteth most,
'Tis won as towns with fire, so won, so lost.
King. We must of force dispense with this

She must lie here on mere necessity.

Bir. Necessity will make us all forsworn 150
Three thousand times within this three years'

space ;
For every man with his affects is born.

Not by might mast'red, but by special grace.
If I break faith, this word shall speak for me;
I am forsworn on mere necessity.'
So to the laws at large I write my name ;

And he that breaks them in the least degree
Stands in attainder of eternal shame.

Suggestions are to other as to me ;
But I believe, although I seem so loath,
I am the last that will last keep his oath.
But is there no quick recreation granted ?
King. Ay, that there is. Our court, you

know, is haunted
With a refined traveller of Spain ;
A man in all the world's new fashion planted,

That hath a mint of phrases in his brain; 166
One who the music of his own vain tongue

Doth ravish lit-e enchanting harmony;
A man of complements, whom right and wrong

Have chose as umpire of their mutiny.
This child of fancy, that Armado hight,

For interim to our studies shall relate,
In high-born words, the worth of many a knight

From tawny Spain, lost in the world's debate.

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physic of thy health-giving air ; and, as I am (236 a gentleman, betook myself to walk. The time when? About the sixth hour; when beasts most graze, birds best peck, and men sit down to that nourishment which is called supper; so much for the time when. Now for 240 the ground which; which, I mean, I walk'd upon : it is yeleped thy park. Then for the place where; where, I mean, I did encounter that obscene and most preposterous event, that draweth from my snow-white pen the ebon- (245 coloured ink which here thou viewest, beholdest, surveyest, or seest ; but to the place where : it standeth north-north-east and by east from the west corner of thy curious-knotted garden. There did I see that low-spirited swain, [200 that base minnow of thy mirth,"

Cost. Me?

King. [Reads.] “ That unlettered smallknowing soul,”

Cost. Me? King. [Reads]. “That shallow vassal,". Cost. Still me? King. [Reads.] "Which, as I remember, hight Costard,”

Cost. 0, me!

King. [Reads.] “Sorted and consorted, con trary to thy established proclaimed edict and continent canon, which with - 0, with - but with this I passion to say wherewith,'

Cost. With a wench.

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How you delight, my lords, I know not, I ;
But, I protest, I love to hear him lie,
And I will use him for my minstrelsy.

Bir, Armado is a most illustrious wight,
A man of fire-new words, fashion's own knight.
Long. Costard the swain and he shall be our

sport; And, so to study, three years is but short. Enter a Constable (DULL] with a letter, and Cos

TARD. Dull. Which is the Duke's own person? Bir. This, fellow. What wouldst ? Dull. I myself reprebend his own person, for I am his grace's tharborough ; but I would see his own person in flesh and blood.

Bir. This is be.

Dull. Signior Arme- Arme- commends you. There's villany abroad. This letter will tell you more.

Cost. Sir, the contempts thereof are as touching me. King. A letter from the magnificent Armado.

Bir. How low soever the matter, I hope in God for high words.

Long. A high hope for a low heaven. God grant us patience!

Bir. To hear? or forbear hearing ? Long. To hear meekly, sir, and to laugh moderately ; or to forbear both. ns cause to climb in the merriness.

Cost. The matter is to me, sir, as concerning Jaquenetta. The manner of it is, I was taken with the manner.

Bir. In what manner?

Cost. In manner and form following, sir; all those three: I was seen with her in the manorhouse, sitting with her upon the form, and taken following her into the park; which, put together, is in manner and form following. (210 Now, sir, for the manner, - it is the manner of a man to speak to a woman ; for the form, in some form. Bir. For the following, sir ?

Cost. As it shall follow in my correction; and God defend the right! King. Will you hear this letter with attention? Bir. As we would hear an oracle. Cost. Such is the simplicity of man to hearken after the flesh.

King. (Reads.) “Great deputy, the welkin's vicegerent, and sole dominator of Navarre, my soul's earth's god, and body's fostering Cost. Not a word of Costard yet. King. (Reads.) "So it is,". Cost. It may be so ; but if he say it is so, he is, in telling trae, but so. King. Peace!

Cost. Be to me, and every man that dares not bght ! King. No words ! Cost. Of other men's secrets, I beseech you.

King. (Reads.) "So it is, besieged with table-coloured melancholy, I did commend the hlack oppressing humour to the most wholesome

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mother Eve, a female ; or, for thy more sweet understanding, a woman. Him I, as my everesteemed duty pricks me on, have sent to thee, to receive the meed of punishment, by thy sweet Grace's officer, Anthony Dull; a man of 270 good repute, carriage, bearing, and estimation."

Dull. Me, an 't shall please you; I am Anthony Dull.

King. [Reads.] “For Jaquenetta, the weaker vessel called which I apprehend- [275 ed with the aforesaid swain, -I keep her as a vessel of thy law's fury; and shall, at the least of thy sweet notice, bring her to trial. Thine, in all compliments of devoted and heartburning heat of duty,

DON ÅDRIANO DE ARMADO." Biron. This is not so well as I looked for, but the best that ever I heard.

King. Ay, the best for the worst. But, sirrah, what say you to this?

Cost. Sir, I confess the wench.
King. Did you hear the proclamation ?

Cost. I do confess much of the hearing it, but little of the marking of it.

King. It was proclaimed a year's imprisonment, to be taken with a wench.

Cost. I was taken with none, sir; I was taken with a damsel. King. Well, it was proclaimed damsel.

Cost. This was no damsel neither, sir; she was a virgin.

King. It is so varied too; for it was proclaimed virgin.

Cost. If it were, I deny her virginity; I was taken with a maid.







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