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Customer Review

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Light Comedy; A Timely Message; A Heavy Hand, August 2, 2006
This review is from: Love's Labor's Lost (Folger Shakespeare Library) (Mass Market Paperback)
The Folger Library editions are absolutely the best for scholarship, due to their extensive notation. My preference for Love's Labor's Lost is for the Pelican Books version, with sufficient but abreviated notation. The lighter notation gives wings to Shakespeare's most ponderous romantic comedy.

This is the story of three gentlemen who pledge themselves to three years of intellectual rigor in the court of the King of Navarre, who joins them in their sober enterprise. When the four of them determine that their scholarship must not be interupted by vice, the reader readily understands that their ill-considered commitments can only end in ribald hippocracy. Temptation arrives immediately in the form of the Princess of France and her three ladies in waiting.

The story moves along more or less predictably, though in a style that is almost a parody of Shakespeare. There are scores of allusions, silly, bawdy, and sharp, which apparently would have been recognized by the audience of the time, but which have not travelled well through the intervening four centuries. The result is five acts of mostly turgid iambic pentameter, interrupted by some lilting, if not particularly memorable lines. Such as when Dumaine and Berone start and finish one another's thoughts:

Dumaine: In reason nothing.
Berone: Something then in rhyme.
Dumaine: How follows that?
Berone: Fit in his place and time.

And here are some usages and allusions which you might need to pause to look up:

"misprision" = error
"woodcock" = stupidity
"festinately" = quickly
"dig you den" = give you good evening
"intellect" = purport
"jerks of invention" = strokes of wit
"in print" = to the letter

One of the few lines for which the book is known is, "Where fair is not, praise cannot mend the brow," meaning that compliments cannot make an unattractive person less so.

All in all, Love's Labor's Lost is unlikely to become anyone's favorite Shakespearean comedy. It is for the advanced reader who is willing to take the time to penetrate the subliminal and archaic humor. For that dedicated reader, however, it is worth the effort.
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Location: New England

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