16a. Love's Labour's Lost, by 1598


previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams


(Numbers in bold refer to the Documents section and bibliographical citations refer to the Bibliography of The Real Shakespeare II, on-line edition)



    The play was presented before Queen Elizabeth on Boxing Day 1597, for her special delectation (236). This signal mark of favour, duly proclaimed on the title-page of the 1598 first edition (246), may have been deemed tantamount to the usual official registration of a text before publication, of which the archives retain no trace. Shakespeare's authorship was also announced (for the first time on any printed playscript) and noted by Francis Meres in his 1598 work-list (242), under the rubric 'most excellent in [English comedy] for the stage'. It is often needlessly assumed that the title-page words 'Newly corrected and augmented' imply a previous publication. The strange stranglehold of 'Bad Quarto' lore has constrained critics (e.g. Halliday 2/1964, 289; Kerrigan 1982, 241-2) to propose an earlier pirated reported version which later vanished without trace, but 'perhaps ...will one day be found' (Kerrigan, loc. cit.). This notion invokes a parallel with Romeo and Juliet Q1, which was also announced as 'newly corrected, augmented and amended'; but the sensible inference is the opposite, namely that this too was Shakespeare's first version which he later revised (Chapter 14). This is also what the Love's Labour's Losttitle page actually says, namely that Shakespeare was a revising author, intent upon improvement and addition. This is thus the first personal fact ever publicly stated about him by name, and his agents White and Burby rightly felt it was significant enough to record. The text inadvertently adds specific proof by including passages which he had plainly rejected and replaced; and this duplication persists not only in the 1631 second edition (530) but even in the 1623 Folio text (502), which was therefore set up from Q1. So either Shakespeare himself had not noticed this duplication or else the text he had prepared for his Folio version had gone astray.

    On any analysis, the variants are valuable; they not only prove revision but exemplify it. This is how the original passage would have looked had Shakespeare amended the manuscript instead of copying it out again on a separate leaf.  


O, we haue made a vow

[And where that you haue vowd] to studie (Lordes)

And in that vow we ours.

[In that each of you] haue forsworne [his] Booke/.

[Can you still dreame and poare and thereon looke].




            For when would you my [Lord], or you, or you,

            In leaden contemplation have found out

            [Haue found the ground of Studies excellence

            Without the beautie of a womans face?]


   Here the poet inserts twenty-eight new lines hymning love, and rejoins his first version at


            From womens eyes this doctrine I derive.


    Now two lines are reversed as well as amended. 'From whence doth spring the true' is changed to 'They sparkle still the right', and 'the Ground, the Bookes' becomes 'the books, the arts', while the academs now 'show, contain and nourish all the world'. Finally the last fifteen lines are scrapped and replaced with a quite different peroration of twelve lines.

    Had the amendments been inserted in the first version, not written out again (to become IV.iii.292f in modern editions), the word 'lord' would have been changed to 'liege' and 'true' to 'right'. But these are exactly the kinds of alteration that occur in the two versions of Richard III, and in that context are freely assumed to disprove revision, on the ground that no one, and Shakespeare least of all, could possibly have substituted one synonym for another. However, the opposite is true; this is exactly how he demonstrably revised, in an actual extant case. Indeed, the same liege/lord switch also appears in Richard III (II.i.53). Further, the reviser's transpositions of lines would certainly be cited as 'evidence' of 'memorial reconstruction' had they occurred in a so-called 'Bad Quarto'; but their demonstrable cause, on the contrary, is authorial revision.

    Both versions invoke the ingenious conceit that a woman's eyes sparkle Promethean fire, a mythological reference explained more fully in The Taming of A Shrew (599-600); there, in Emilia's 'bright looks sparkles the radiant fire/Wily Prometheus slyly stole from Jove'. The congruence of language and idea is surely beyond coincidence; so unless wily Shakespeare slyly stole both from a colleague, that early comedy was also his own work (RS1 136-45).

    Again, both the 1598 Q and the 1623 Folio text print a first draft and a revision consecutively, instead of excising the former, which reads


Berow. And what to me my Loue? and what to me?

Rosal. You must be purged to, your sinnes are rackt.

You are attaint with faultes and periurie:

Therefore if you my fauour mean to get,

A tweluemonth shall you spende and never rest,

But seek the weery beddes of people sick.


    Had the changes been superimposed on those MS lines, to give the text now printed as V.ii. 841f, the first three lines above would have been deleted and replaced by new dialogue, while the next three would have been augmented and amended to read


And therewithal to win me if you please,

            Without the which I am not to be won,

            You shall this twelvemonth term from day to day

            Visit the speechless sick...'.


    In between the two versions, the style has strengthened; 'speechless' for example is a new and expressive epithet. As before, the first version could easily have been dismissed with contempt as the product of forgetful and piratical actors in a supposed process of 'memorial reconstruction' from the supposedly pre-existing 1598 text, which alone is truly Shakespearean. Prima facie, however, Shakespeare wrote both versions, in all such instances. The inference that Q1 was printed from a manuscript copy is enhanced by its many unusual spellings. Many of these 'recur in editions of Shakespeare's plays demonstrably set from his papers' (Kerrigan 1982, 242); but the given examples such as 'annothanize' for 'anatomize' and 'auchthoryty' for 'authority' surely corroborate the finding that he was educationally disadvantaged (RS1 17-19). Other such examples are well worth noting: 'hudge [huge], Achademe [Academe], strikt, abhortive...his handwriting could be difficult to decipher' (Kerrigan 1982, 244-5). No doubt both aspects rapidly improved with practice; but they should surely be invoked as the simple known causes of 'Bad Quarto' text before inventing complex unknowns.

     The title-page too confirms that there had been an earlier legitimate version of unknown date. As so often, personal and topical references provide clear clues to composition. Even the anti-biographical school concedes (Kerrigan 1982, 10) that the play relates at one level to the 1589-93 union of France and Navarre, when Henry of Navarre with the Dukes of Biron and Longueville was opposed by the Duke of Mayenne in his contention for the French crown. Even though Shakespeare's King of Navarre numbers Dumaine as well as Berowne and Longaville among his entourage, the names are not merely coincidental, as Queen Elizabeth and her court could not have failed to notice. At another level, there are also (pace Kerrigan, op. cit.) allusions to personalities and events in England. Thus the tiny character Moth is repeatedly called 'tender juvenal' (I.ii.8,12 [bis],13) and once 'acute juvenal' (III.i.66) because he encapsulates certain aspects of the young satirist Thomas Nashe, who is styled 'Juvenal' by his mentor Greene (Groatsworth 1592) and associated with the Roman satirist Juvenal by the author of the Parnassus plays. There is thus no justification at all (pace Kerrigan op. cit., Wells 1986 and Taylor 1988) for changing the Quarto and Folio spelling Moth to 'Mote'; on the contrary, this obscures the no doubt intentional Moth-Thom identity (cf. the spelling Thom for Tom at V.ii.894) as well as Nashe's mention (Menaphon1589) of his own activities at candle-time (RS1 72, 77-8, 88). There is no doubt, further, that Shakespeare's plentiful puns on pierceperson and the like are aimed at Nashe's Pierce Penniless (see also Honigmann 1982, 68-9). They are worth citing, if only to show how sheerly incomprehensible the text would be if shorn of such allusion: 'person...Exit Moth...penny' (III.i.124, 134, 139); Master Person (bis) quasi pers-one...pierced...piercing a hogshead' (IV.ii.82-3, 87); 'halfpenny purse of wit' (i.e. Moth, V.i.74). Pierce Penniless, published in late 1592, has been identified as containing covert attacks on Shakespeare (RS1 68-78); and as Honigmann says 'the likeliest explanation of the quips about Nashe in Love's Labour's Lost is that they belong to the same quarrel and to the same date' (Honigmann 1982, 69).

     What also belongs to the same date is Shakespeare's association with Southampton and the ensuing sonnet-sequence1 (RS1 103-13). It is no surprise that the 1598 play has a learned patron and mentor in Ferdinand of Navarre whose chief supporter Berowne sometimes seems to speak with Shakespeare's voice; he may indeed have played that part. Berowne and his compeers all write sonnets, and Berowne himself seems to recall Venus and Adonis (snails' tender horns, IV.iii.335/1033-4) as well as the Sonnets themselves (what we derive from eyes, IV.iii.298, 347/14.9; eyes as windows to the heart or breast, V.ii.838/24.10-11) including his and their Dark Lady (with black eyes and hair, III.i.197, IV.iii.254/127.9, 130.4). No wonder that Southampton as well as his sovereign continued to attend what seem to be command performances (344).


1further linked with the play by an image cluster also noted in Edward III and Edmund Ironside(RS1 117).