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LOVE'S LABOR'S LOST.
THE novel upon which this comedy was founded has hitherto eluded the research of the commentators. Mr. Douce thinks it will prove to be of French extraction. "The Dramatis Personæ in a great measure demonstrate this, as well as a palpable Gallicism in Act iv. Sc. 1: viz. the terming a letter a capon."
This is one of Shakspeare's early plays, and the author's youth is certainly perceivable, not only in the style and manner of the versification, but in the lavish superfluity displayed in the execution-the uninterrupted succession of quibbles, equivoques, and sallies of every description. "The sparks of wit fly about in such profusion that they form complete fireworks, and the dialogue for the most part resembles the bustling collision and banter of passing masks at a carnival." The scene in which the king and his companions detect each other's breach of their mutual vow, is capitally contrived. The discovery of Biron's love-letter while rallying his friends, and the manner in which he extricates himself, by ridiculing the folly of the vow, are admirable.
The grotesque characters, don Adrian de Armado, Nathaniel the curate, and Holofernes, that prince of pedants, with the humors of Costard the clown, are well contrasted with the sprightly wit of the principal characters in the play. It has been observed that "Biron and Rosaline suffer much in comparison with Benedick and Beatrice," and it must be confessed that there is some justice in the observation. Yet Biron, "that merry mad-cap lord," is not overrated in Rosaline's admirable character of him"A merrier man, Within the limit of becoming mirth, I never spent an hour's talk withal: His eye begets occasion for his wit; For every object that the one doth catch, The other turns to a mirth-moving jest ;So sweet and voluble is his discourse."
Shakspeare has only shown the inexhaustible powers of his mind, in improving on the admirable originals of his own creation, in a more mature age.
Malone placed the composition of this play first in 1591, afterwards in 1594. Dr. Drake thinks we may safely assign it to the earlier period. The first edition was printed in 1598.
FERDINAND, King of Navarre.
LONGAVILLE, Lords, attending on the King.
BOYET, } Lords, attending on the Princess of France.
DON ADRIANO DE ARMADO, a fantastical Spaniard.
SIR NATHANIEL, a Curate.
HOLOFERNE'S, a Schoolmaster.
DULL, a Constable.
COSTARD, a Clown.
MоTH, Page to Armado.
Princess of France.
JAQUENETTA, a Country Wench.
Officers and Others, Attendants on the King and Princess.
Ladies, attending on the Princess.
This enumeration of Persons was made by Rowe.
1 Berowne in all the old editions.
LOVE'S LABOR'S LOST.
SCENE I. Navarre. A Park with a Palace in it.
Enter the King, BIRON, LONGAVILLE, and DUMAIN.
King. LET fame, that all hunt after in their lives, Live registered upon our brazen tombs, And then grace us in the disgrace of death; When, spite of cormorant, devouring time, The endeavor of this present breath may buy That honor, which shall bate his scythe's keen edge, And make us heirs of all eternity. Therefore, brave conquerors!--for so you are, That war against your own affections, And the huge army of the world's desires,Our 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, Birón, Dumain, and Longaville, Have sworn for three years' term to live with me, My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes, That are recorded in this schedule here.
Your oaths are past, and now subscribe your names;
If you are armed to do, as sworn to do,
Long. I am resolved. 'Tis but a three years' fast; The mind shall banquet. though the body pine.
Fat paunches have lean pates; and dainty bits
Biron. I can but say their protestation over,
King. Your oath is passed to pass away from
Biron. 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, Birón, and to the rest. Biron. 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
Biron. Things hid and barred, you mean, from common sense?
King. Ay, that is study's godlike recompense.
Or, study where to meet some mistress fine,
King. These be the stops that hinder study quite, And train our intellects to vain delight.
Biron. Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain,
Which, with pain purchased, doth inherit pain.
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 beguile;
By fixing it upon a fairer eye;
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed,
That will not be deep-searched with saucy looks.
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.3
King. How well he's read, to reason against reading!
Dum. Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding!
1 Dishonestly, treacherously.
2 The sense of this declamation is only this, that a man by too close study may read himself blind.
3 That is, too much knowledge gives no real solution of doubts, but merely fame, or a name, a thing which every godfather can give.