Love’s Labour’s Lost | 2006
About the Play by Bob Rumsby
The King of Navarre and three lords (Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine) sign a pact to live a pure, academic life for three years, denying themselves worldly pleasures (especially women). Before the ink has dried, the lords realize that the Princess of France and her train (including the ladies Rosaline, Katherine, and Maria) are en route to Navarre. The King admits them only as far as the park surrounding his estate, but it soon becomes clear that each man has met his match. The four ladies will be impossible to ignore.
In the meantime, a subplot unfolds among Costard the clown, Constable Dull, the country wench Jaquenetta, the braggart Don Armado, and his page Moth (pronounced Mote). Accused of consorting with Jaquenetta, Costard is put in the custody of Dull, while Armado declares himself in love with Jaquenetta.
Costard becomes the go-between for both Berowne and Armado and predictably sends their lovesick letters to the wrong women. His mistake sparks some entertaining comedy, as the lords and ladies seek to deceive each other by using disguise. Dressed as Russians, the lords present themselves to the ladies; in turn, the ladies exchange favors and wear masks. Yet these labours of love prove fruitless in the end, when the news of the death of the King of France interrupts the comedy and “the scene begins to cloud.”
As the play unfolds, we witness the growth of the “merry madcap lord” Berowne, an interesting character who tops the charts for lines spoken by a male character in a Shakespeare comedy. Much of the linguistic power of this play derives from his long, self-questioning speeches, as he grapples with his attraction to Rosaline and his failure to remain above love. Two other characters stand out in a different way with their own verbal excesses, as Shakespeare satirizes the Elizabethan academic world through the cameo double act of Holofernes and Sir Nathaniel.
One of the difficulties of staging this play is the length of the last act. Act 5, Scene 2 is the longest scene in all of Shakespeare (about 40 pages!). In our production we took the liberty of breaking this scene into two parts (without cutting any lines). We also split the character of Boyet into four parts—four different lords answering to one name and serving the four ladies.