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Love's Labor's Lost
ISBN 0671722743 / 9780671722746 / 0-671-72274-3
Publisher Simon & Schuster
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Another example of Shakespeare's comic fascination with the battle between and misunderstanding of the sexes, Love's Labour's Lost is a difficult play to read, but one which is extremely effective on stage. The Play opens with King Ferdinand of Navarre and his courtiers taking a vow of study and sexual abstinence for a period of three years. However, their vows are soon placed under strain with the arrival of the Princess of France and her ladies in waiting. The inevitable happens, and the different couples attempt to surreptitiously communicate, causing much hilarious confusion and embarrassment in the process. Shakespeare deploys every farcical element in the book, including impersonation, wrongly delivered letters, outrageous puns and word play, fights, drunkenness and masquerades, as Ferdinand's entourage soon learn that rather than running from women to books, it is in fact the opposite sex that "are the books, the arts, the academes/That show, contain, and nourish all the world". However, one of the most interesting aspects of the play is that it does not end with everyone marrying and living happily ever after. The women give as good as they get from the men, and in the end turn the tables in extremely interesting ways. One of Shakespeare's most linguistically challenging, but also intelligent comedies. --Jerry Brotton [via]