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The Great Feast of Language in "Love's Labour's Lost"

The Great Feast of Language in "Love's Labour's Lost"

William C. Carroll
Copyright Date: 1976
Pages: 296
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    The Great Feast of Language in "Love's Labour's Lost"
    Book Description:

    This book contends that inLove's Labour's LostShakespeare sought to discover the ways in which the imagination uses and abuses language. The author's critical reading shows that the characters are endowed with a wide variety of rhetorical disguises. Each assumes that his verbal and social point of view is correct, and the limitations and virtues of each viewpoint are explored as the drama unfolds.

    In an elegant examination of theme and style, Professor Carroll heightens the reader's awareness of Shakespeare's marvellously inventive use of language. The author analyzes the different kinds of style, the characters' attitudes toward language, the play's theatrical modes, the frequent metamorphoses, and the debates. The term "debate"-justified by Shakespeare's use of the medievalconflictus-relates to both theme and structure. The author finds that the conflicting theories about the proper relation of language and imagination are resolved stylistically and thematically only in the final Debate between Spring and Winter, where the playwright reasserts the nature and value of good art.

    Originally published in 1976.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6765-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Note on Documentation
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Words, words, words. Hamlet’s bored reply to Polonius can serve as the artist’s perennial rebuke to the critic. Critics, in turn, have leveled the same accusation againstLove’s Labour’s Lost,all too often finding it Shakespeare’s windiest play. I disagree with that verdict, but in doing so I run the risk of adding more words to the critical debate. Moreover, there exists so great a potential for unintended but selfrevealing irony in writing aboutLove’s Labour’sLost that one may hesitate even to begin. The imitative fallacy has often proved fatal to critics of the play, but sharing the same...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The Great Feast
    (pp. 11-64)

    The first thing one notices aboutLove’s Labour’s Lostis its intense preoccupation with language. Its “great feast” ranges from Dull’s spare plate to the verbal gluttony and subsequent indigestion of Armado and Holofernes. InMuch Ado About Nothing,Benedick tells us that Claudio, in love, has “turned orthography; his words are a very fantastical banquet—just so many strange dishes” (II.iii. 20–2). But Claudio’s excesses pale before the fantastic appetites indulged by the characters ofLove’s Labour’s Lost,many of whom seem to have come from another planet: “A’ speaks not like a man of God’s making” (V.ii....

  7. CHAPTER TWO Theatricality
    (pp. 65-96)

    Theatrical styles are no less important inLove’s Labour’s Lostthan verbal ones are, and the play provides us with an equally broad range of models and parodies of both actors and audiences. There is nothing new in saying that a Shakespearean play is concerned with its own theatricality, and there are other plays, like Hamlet andA Midsummer Night’s Dream,with compelling plays-within-the-play. Few of the other early plays, however, are as insistent about exploring their own roots, or as self-consciously “artificial” and “theatrical” as this one. In addition to the usual brief allusions to the stage,Love’s Labour’s...

    (pp. 97-131)

    Berowne articulates what the audience already knows—that every man is, more often than not, ruled by his “affects,” his “affections” or passions, rather than by his reason. Whether “grace” is capitalized or not, these “affects” amount to a kind of original sin that man cannot overrule by his own will. Navarre had earlier in the same scene described the lords’ proposed asceticism in similar terms:

    Therefore, brave conquerors—for so you are,

    That war against your own affections

    And the huge army of the world’s desires—

    Our late edict shall strongly stand in force:

    Navarre shall be the wonder...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Transformations
    (pp. 132-166)

    The characters inLove’s Labour’s Lost,as we have seen, differ in their choice of prose styles, their attitudes toward language and theatrical representation, and their preferences in poetry. Virtually all these differences arise from variations in the characters’ imaginations, for even though the poets, lovers, and lunatics of this play are of imagination all compact, there are still important distinctions to be made among them. InA Midsummer Night’s Dream,Theseus elaborates upon the ways in which imagination operates in each of the three types, and somewhat disparagingly reveals how the distortions in each stem from warped perceptions:


  10. CHAPTER FIVE Living Art
    (pp. 167-204)

    The structural movement ofLove’s Labour’s Losttakes an expansive form. The play seems to proceed from the inner ring of concentric circles to the outer, from the less to the more inclusive, from “artifice” and “illusion” to “reality·” The play begins in Navarre’s mind, as he details in his opening speech a plan for defeating time with a “little academe.” The constricted world of the academe is forcibly widened, however, by the arrival of the women, and the setting moves to the park, away from the court itself. The introduction of the various low comic characters contributes to a...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Hiems and Ver
    (pp. 205-226)

    The final songs contain everything in the play. Though they are presented almost as an afterthought,Love’s Labour’s Lostis incomplete, and unimaginable, without them. They receive almost unanimous praise, even (or especially) from critics who dislike the rest of the play. The songs represent a magic moment inLove’s Labour’s Lost,a moment which seems of a different quality and order from what has come before it.

    And yet the songs explicate what has preceded them and are themselves best explicated by it. The first chapter showed that in the range of stylistic parodies encountered in the play there...

  12. Appendix A The Nine Worthies
    (pp. 229-235)
  13. Appendix B Hercules
    (pp. 236-242)
  14. List of Works Cited
    (pp. 243-251)
  15. Related Works
    (pp. 252-254)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 255-272)
  17. Index
    (pp. 273-280)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-281)