Love’s Labor’s Lost
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
LOVE’S LABOR’S LOST
“Act III is concerned with incidents relating to Don John’s entertainment of the Queen of Navarre in 1577” (Clark 185).
Moth gives Armado love advice consisting of feignings and overdramatized posings. Costard joins them in a scene of verbal chop-logic. Armado gives Costard a love letter to Jaquenetta for him to deliver. (Costard knows that words themselves are not deceptive, but the more affected the more revealing of sham and evasion, hence his delight in mocking the idea of “remuneration.”) A reference to “nothing” (III.i.26f) may be another Oxford “O” pun (Ogburn and Ogburn 199). Greenhill explains the topical references related to the English-Russian connections: Ivan the Terrible discovered a thieving secretary who had been hiding money inside a cooked goose and had the man chopped up as one would dress a goose, including chopping off his head (“costard”) (Greenhill 16-17).
Berowne also engages Costard to deliver a note to Rosaline. Naturally, we expect these love letters will be mixed up. “But the point here, nicely made by the error of the ‘natural man’ Costard, is that the two kinds of love, Berowne’s and Armado’s, are really the same” (Garber 180).Berowne then soliloquizes about the ostensible agony of being a converted former mocker of love. He was “love’s whip” (III.i.174); now he’s obsessed with
A whitely wanton with a velvet brow,
With two pitch-balls stuck in her face for eyes;
Ay, and, by heaven, one that will do the deed
Though Argus were her eunuch and her guard.
Where did this come from? Are Berowne’s assumptions based on anything beyond paranoia? “Nothing in Rosaline’s behavior … warrants these shocking slurs on her honor, which suggests that they were inspired by a real-life original of elastic morals” (Ogburn 613). Rosaline sounds more and more like the Dark Lady of the Sonnets (Bloom 122), and indeed the Oxfordian consensus is that she represents Oxford’s obsession in the late 1570s: Anne Vavasour (Anderson 162; Farina 52). “Cupid’s revenge promises cuckoldry (as in the Sonnets), and the enigmatic, aggressive Rosaline seems a clue to the story of the Sonnets” (Bloom 123). “Though he is careful to distance us from Berowne and all the other fantastics of Love’s Labour’s Lost, Shakespeare seems unable or unwilling to distance himself from the enchantingly negative Rosaline” (Bloom 125). “As a wit, Berowne stands back and looks at the play, almost from outside it, but as a lover he is a catastrophe, and Rosaline is his folly” (Bloom 136).
“The fact that the speech as it stands contains obvious repetitions lends a certain credibility to the view that it underwent revision and that the compositor failed to cut out some passages marked for deletion” (Goddard, I 51).
The reference to “Dan Cupid” (III.i.180) has prompted some interesting speculation. “Dan,” first, means Lord, whose Latin form is Dominus, shortened to Don by the Spanish and distorted into Dan by the English (Asimov 430). Ruth Loyd Miller thinks that the line originally read “Signior Julio’s giant dwarf” — a reference to Giulio Romano’s figure added to Raphael’s Battle of Constantine, which he also included in his own Hall of the Giants in Mantua (in Clark 239ff).