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This play was one of those published in Shakspere's lifetime. The first edition appeared in 1598. In the first collected edi. tion, the folio of 1623, the text differs little from the original quarto.
From the title of the first edition of Love's Labour's Lost,' we learn that, when it was presented before Queen Elizabeth, at the Christ mas of 1597, it had been “newly corrected and augmented." As no edition of the comedy, before it was corrected and augmented, is known to exist, we have no proof that the few allusions to temporary circumstances, which are supposed in some degree to fix the date of the play, may not apply to the augmented copy only. In the extrinsic evi. dence, therefore, which this comedy supplies, there is nothing whatever to disprove the belief which we entertain that, before it bad been “corrected and augmented,” Love's Labour 's Lost' was one of the plays produced by Shakspere about 1589, when, being only twenty-five years of age, he was a joint-proprietor in the Blackfriars theatre. The intrinsic evidence appears to us entirely to support this opinion.
There is no historical foundation for any portion of the action of this comedy. There was no Ferdinand King of Navarre. We have no evidence of a difference between France and Navarre as to possessions in Aquitain.
Charles Lamb was wont to call Love's Labour's Lost' the Comedy of Leisure. 'Tis
certain that in the commonwealth of King Ferdinand of Navarre we have
" All men idle, all;
And women too." But still all this idleness is too energetic to warrant us in calling this the Comedy of Leisure. Let us try again. Is it not the Comedy of Affectations ?
Molière, in his 'Précieuses Ridicules,' has admirably hit off one affectation that had found its way into the private life of his own times. In 'Love's Labour's Lost' Shak. spere presents us almost every variety of affectation that is founded upon a misdirection of intellectual activity. We have here many of the forms in which cleverness is exhibited as opposed to wisdom, and false refinement as opposed to simplicity. The affected characters, even the most fantastical, are not fools; but, at the same time, the natural characters, who, in this play, are chiefly the women, have their intellectual foibles. All the modes of affectation are developed in one continued stream of fun and drollery; every one is laughing at the folly of the other, and the laugh grows louder and louder as the more natural characters, one by one, trip up the heels of the more af fected. The most affected at last join in the laugh with the most natural; and the whole comes down to "plain kersey yea and nay," —from the syntax of Holofernes, and the « fire-new words” of Armado, to “greasy Joan” and “roasted crabs."