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MonkeyNotes-Love's Labour's Lost by William Shakespeare
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OVERALL ANALYSES

CHARACTERS

Love's Labour's Lost is more about groups of character types than strong individual persons. For all practical purposes, the men and women act together to effect their influence on the plot and Themes of the play.

The King of Navarre, Biron, Longaville, and Dumain

These four noblemen are shown to be an idealistic and arrogant group from the opening scene of the play. In an effort to find fame and seek immortality, the King has decided to start a small academy at court in order to expand knowledge and improve reason. During the three-year period of study, the members of the academy must give up all means of pleasure, fast, and remain celibate, not even talking to women. The King invites his three lords, Biron, Longaville, and Dumain, to participate in the experiment with him and wants each of them to sign an oath. Dismissing three years as nothing, Longaville and Dumain easily give the King their signatures. The more practical Biron, though interested in the pursuit of learning, feels like the terms of the experiment are too stringent and will soon be broken. In the end, he goes along with his friends and signs his name.

The plan is doomed to failure from the very beginning. As soon as the princess and her ladies arrive at court, the men justify meeting with them for political reasons (a mere necessity) and find themselves instantly attracted to them. The rest of the play shows each of them pursuing one of the ladies, while trying to hide from the other men that they have broken their vow. When the truth comes forward, and all four men confess to each other their feelings of love, they are still unable to face the ladies, who have predicted that they will be unable to keep their vow. As a result, all four men foolishly agree to dress up as Russians at the masque in order to secretly woo their loves. The ladies, however, learn about the disguise before the masque and trap the men. Finally, the King and his lords also openly confess their love and admit to the failure of their experiment. To punish the men for their foolishness, the ladies insist that they wait for a year to publicly show their love; during this time the King must live in a monastery and Biron must entertain patients in a hospital. Although not pleased over waiting a year, the men are delighted that their love's labors have not been lost.


Although all four men act in foolish and arrogant ways in the play, Biron is portrayed as the wisest and most practical among them. Though he refers to the King as "my liege", it is well understood that in thought, academics, and language, Biron is the superior man in the foursome, as displayed by the comparison of the love-poems written by each. Biron, with his skillful manipulation of words, rises far above all the others in intellect, talent, and skill. The others realize Biron's superiority, for it is Biron to whom the men apply when they need some verbal justification of their love. While the King, Longaville and Dumain are able to participate in witty repartee, they lack the power to rationalize in order to suit their purpose or turn their thoughts into pure rhetoric, whereas Biron is a supreme logician and rhetorician. In spite of the differences in their intellect and abilities, in the end all four men gain the love of their ladies, the prize for which they have worked during the course of the play.

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