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October Books 5) Love's Labour's Lost

5) Love's Labour's Lost, by William Shakespeare

About half of Love's Labour's lost is an amusing story about four men (the King of Navarre and three friends) who swear off women, and how their vows crumble away once they encounter four attractive women (the Princess of France and her four friends). Apart from a certain weirdness in the final scene (where the men unsuccessfully disguise themselves as a visiting delegation of Russians, and the women, having unmasked them, tell them all to spend the next year doing good works before they can get married), it more or less makes sense. The highlight is probably Act 4 Scene 3, where the four men catch each other in the act of writing love poems.

The rest of the play, unfortunately, is pretty impenetrable; half a dozen improbably named caricatures (including a Comic Wench) talking incomprehensibly at each other. It doesn't work well today, and I have difficulty in believing that it really worked well in the 1590s. Yet Elizabeth I commissioned a special performance of the play at court. Presumably there are a bunch of in-jokes which have been lost in the following four centuries.

Arkangel rise to the occasion this time, and come close to making the whole thing worth listening to. Alex Jennings as Berowne, the King's lead companion, is particularly good (and rather outshines Greg Wise as the King). The two female leads, Samantha Bond and Emma Fielding as the Princess and her chief companion Rosaline are both good as well. And the whole cast, though struggling against the odds, makes it a more enjoyable listening experience than I had feared when reading the script.

But basically you can skip this one unless it has been heavily cut by someone who knows what they are doing.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love's Labour's Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night's Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All's Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter's Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 7th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC)
Christ, I'm struggling through this one myself at the moment. I'm about half way through the Complete Works, and this is the first one I've had trouble finishing. You're right about 4.3 - that's the one bit where I thought "hey ho, this is starting too get entertaining". It didn't last. I will get to the end of Act 5, I will!
Oct. 7th, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
Kenneth Branagh adaptation
This musical adaptation with Cole Porter songs is rather entertraining... maybe you should check it out

Tom (Veronikas Brother)
Oct. 7th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Kenneth Branagh adaptation
Cheers - although I'm generally a Branagh fan, I have to say I was rather put off by the WikiPedia entry calling it "a box-office and critical disappointment"!

(Glad to hear from you - I guessed my Slovakia-based reader was probably you!)
Oct. 8th, 2008 08:04 am (UTC)
Re: Kenneth Branagh adaptation
I liked it a lot. It's silly fluff, but that's pretty much what I was expecting.
Oct. 8th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Kenneth Branagh adaptation
When it comes to critics and Branagh I take their words with a pinch of salt, I have no idea what he did to him, but they seem to have an absolute bias against him.
Oct. 8th, 2008 12:33 pm (UTC)
djm4 has just seen this at the RSC (with David Tennant among the cast). He isn't on LJ much these days, but I'll try to remember to ask him if he feels like commenting here. I know he enjoyed the production.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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