One of my two reading projects for the next couple of years is to go through the plays of Shakespeare and the novels of Kenneth Robeson’s Doc Savage. Yeah, I know, could I choose two more divergent authors/subjects/reading choices?
This one is about Shakespeare’s LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST.
So, let me state right up front, I’m not actually reading the plays. I firmly believe Shakespeare’s works are meant to be experienced, to be heard. I just get the nuance when I read them. So I’m going through the amazing Arkangel collection of recorded works. And I must say, I’ve enjoyed most of the plays up to now, including HENRY IV group of plays, THE COMEDY OF ERRORS, TITUS ANDRONICUS, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, and, of course, LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST. I didn’t expect to enjoy them as much as I have been. Perhaps that’s because I only experienced one play back in early high school, delivered by a teacher that, looking back, seemed to want to suck the soul from the work and dissect it like a frog pinned to a board. Couldn’t even tell you which play it was.
But now I’m going through the plays, taking a breather to listen to something else in between.
Up to now, the only one that left me cold was THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. It had its moments, but overall, the ending killed it for me. It felt mysoginistic. But I’ve been shaken, been moved to tears and thoroughly enjoyed the others. Passages such as Queen Margaret’s from HENRY VI, PART 2:
Give me thy hand,
That I may dew it with my mournful tears;
Nor let the rain of heaven wet this place,
To wash away my woful monuments.
O, could this kiss be printed in thy hand,
That thou mightst think upon these by the seal,
Through whom a thousand sighs are breathed for thee!
So, get thee gone, that I may know my grief;
‘Tis but surmised whiles thou art standing by,
As one that surfeits thinking on a want.
I will repeal thee, or, be well assured,
Adventure to be banished myself:
And banished I am, if but from thee.
Go; speak not to me; even now be gone.
O, go not yet! Even thus two friends condemn’d
Embrace and kiss and take ten thousand leaves,
Loather a hundred times to part than die.
Yet now farewell; and farewell life with thee!
Can you not feel her pain?
Then there was the psychotic trio of Aaron, Demetrius and Chiron and the rape of Lavinia in TITUS ANDRONICUS. Nothing could have prepared me for that and it shakes me to this day to think about how Demetrius and Chiron mocked the girl after cutting off her hands and cutting out her tongue.
Then, yesterday, I finally got through LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST. I can only say this about the play…incredible word play, such as this (not the best example, but the one I remember)…
Therefore, as he is an ass, let him go.
And so adieu, sweet Jude! nay, why dost thou stay?
For the latter end of his name.
For the ass to the Jude; give it him:–Jud-as, away!
I guess, just overall, the story felt…ridiculous to me. And yes, I know Shakespeare can come up with some ridiculous plots at times, but this…something was missing. It just didn’t do it for me.
So in the end, maybe it’s a good thing the rumoured sequel, LOVE’S LABOUR’S WON is ultimately lost to us. Sorry, big guy, but I’m sure the next one will work better for me. Next up, ROMEO AND JULIET.