Article Title

"Folly, in wisdom hatch'd": The Exemplary Comedy of Love's Labour's Lost


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Love's Labour's Lost is a comic exploitation of the imaginative energy which creates exemplary images, a theatrical anatomy of the manipulations to which paradigms of thought and action are subjected under the pressure of living in a physical, temporal, and social world. Simple dichotomies are often used to summarize the argument and resolution of Love's Labour's Lost: play/seriousness, study/love, fancy/achievement, art/nature, writing/speech.1 The first terms are characterized as the inadequate values of a fantasy-world created within the play by the King and his companions; the second terms are characterized as the authorially approved values embodied in the Princess and her entourage, who invade the "curious-knotted garden" of Navarre armed with the Reality Principle. Such convenient binary oppositions are belied by Shakespeare's consistent refusal to be homiletic in his plays. Love's Labour's Lost explores the dynamics existing between the fundamental movements into and out of the self: private and public, contemplative and active, withdrawn and engaged. Each movement may be either positively or negatively realized - inwardness as self-discovery or narcissism; sociability as communion or a mob - and may thus exist in either antithetical or complementary relationship to the other. Shakespeare analyzes the interplay of the imaginative form of his play. He turns to his advantage the morally ambivalent uses of Renaissance playworlds - their power to shape the wisdom of analysis or the folly of escape - by creating a playworld in which to explore that very ambivalence.

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