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Delphine Lemonnier-Texier et Guillaume Winter, dir., Lectures de Love’s Labour’s Lost de William Shakespeare

Rennes, PU de Rennes, 2014, ISBN 978-2-7535-3489-6
Andrea F. Trocha-Van Nort
p. 319-321
Référence(s) :

LEMONNIER-TEXIER, DELPHINE et GUILLAUME WINTER, dir. — Lectures de Love’s Labour’s Lost de William Shakespeare. Rennes : PU de Rennes, 2014. 236 pp. ISBN 978-2-7535-3489-6.

Texte intégral

1Love’s Labour’s Lost, though successful on the Elizabethan stage, has found less sustained critical interest than some of the later comedies, such as Twelfth Night, As You Like It, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Nonetheless, the scope of work in Lemonnier-Texier and Winter’s collection underscores the vitality of the play from historical and religious approaches, genre studies, and language and epistemology schemes. Lectures successfully combines critical works of varying approaches into a single, accessible volume, for students and scholars alike.

2The book’s initial section on the religious and historical context provides two distinct approaches. First, in “The Theological Contexts” the religious questions of the play are explored not only in the expression of angst caused by the “self-isolated gatherings” (23), but also in the Protestant notion of “grace” (26) that the play upholds until the court is obliged to practice abstinence in the dénouement. The complex “coexistence of Protestant and Catholic elements in the play” (35), for Joan Curbet Soler, was an important factor in its continued success up to the 1630s. A second article in this section, “Holofernes, Alias Claude de Sainliens, Alias Claudius Hollyband,” discusses the character of Holofernes, his associations with French language and manners, and the English view of Henry IV’s court as increasingly licentious (40-41). The source of inspiration for the role, according to Laurent Bérec, would come directly from the person of Claude de Sainliens, a disparager of English theater and consequently foe to the dramatist.

3Comedic effects are explored in the second part, moving from affectation to children’s roles, the nature of the laughter elicited by the play, and the evolution of the soldier-lover during the final years of Elizabeth’s reign. First, “The Comedy of Melancholy in Love’s Labour’s Lost” provides an in-depth exploration of the species of melancholy – scholarly or of lovers – and how melancholy is performed. The initial form of melancholy, quickly doffed for that of the lover, reveals the self-motivated nature of Navarre’s, and his men’s, embracing of melancholy, first for fame, and then for satisfaction of desire; the repeated oaths and the breaking of them, suggests Aurélie Griffin, are reminders of “the fallen state of the world – a world in which solemn promises are doomed to be broken” (51). Performing melancholy becomes problematic, as playacting keeps one from living, while the true melancholy expressed by Katherine suffuses the play with memento mori, along with Marcadé’s appearance: “the play stages the discrepancy between appearance and essence, between a superficial melancholy and an essential one, representing the former as it tries, and ultimately fails, to conceal, the latter” (64). As such the play represents, for the author, a metadramatic statement on theater as a “guilty pleasure” (64), one that returns the spectator in the end to thoughts of mortality. In “The Resources of Pueritia: Mote’s theatre of Wit in Love’s Labour’s Lost,” Abhishek Sarkar underlines Mote’s dual role. He is first the child actor performing wit as one would expect of Lyly’s children’s roles, outsmarting and duping adults. Yet the author points to a compelling “asymmetry” in the development of his character, due to his lack of success as “actor” on the stage in “The Nine Worthies,” where his stature and wit prove insufficient to fill a role (76). Although he can perform the gibes and quips that make fools of others, his “childish bungling […] was equally stageworthy” (79). The author seems to suggest that Mote’s role functions metatheatrically, convincingly reproducing Lyly while reminding audiences of the limitations of child actors on the professional stage. The last two articles in this section, “Rire et rieurs […]” and “ ‘For Valour, is not Love a Hercules?’: l’amour et la guerre dans Love’s Labour’s Lost,” pursue the development of comedy and the ways in which laughter, first, and the eroding of the image of the warrior-lover, second, signal a breaking-off with traditional theatrical modes and a resultant reflection on other possibilities for sources of humor and ways of reading the characters.

4Language and epistemology serve as reflection points in the third part, where first, in “The Rhetoric of Colours in Love’s Labour’s Lost,” the notion of false appearances guides the demonstration, whether in the “ ‘painted rhetoric’ imposed by Petrarchanism” (120), the colours of economic exchange which confound truth and falsehood, the artificial nature of the colours of the humors, or the neo-Petrarchan colors – red and white – of beauty and virtue (124). Colour as artifice becomes an “experiment” (131) rather than a conclusion, one that the dramatist will pursue in later plays, tragic and comic. In “Linguistic Capital and Carnivalesque Languages […]” as well as in “Naming and Knowing in Love’s Labour’s Lost,” an interesting blurring of lines between language modes and naming surfaces in the play. Both articles discuss the metaliterary play as one that must be read upon its own terms: “Love’s Labour’s Lost needs to be read ‘margin and all’ (5.2.8) in (unresolvable) dialogue with its footnotes and commentaries” (150). Language develops similarly to the child that grows in Jacquanetta’s “belly,” concludes Ifig Cocoual, through miscegenation, or a parentage of different languages. This thought leads neatly into the third article of this section, “Naming and Knowing […],” where language is shown to have the Protean potential of taking form, of becoming increasingly “relational” (162), renewable, and regenerative, in essence becoming foundationally pragmatic in expressing intrinsic value (175). Finally, closing this section, “Light, the Eye, and Visual Epistemologies in Love’s Labour’s Lost” explores contemporary views on knowledge acquisition and visual cognition where the object of vision could also play a role: “the prevalence of either extramission or intromission optical theory was dependent on emotion and the affectivity of the object of vision”: although feeling enhanced reception, the presence of the object simultaneously blinded (182). Indeed, the language of the play, Neil Vallelly argues, reveals these theories as incompatible.

5The final part includes two articles discussing Branagh’s 2000 film adaptation as well as an interview with Christopher Luscombe regarding his current Royal Shakespeare Company staging at Stratford-upon-Avon of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado, the latter being the best candidate for Meres’s Love’s Labour’s Won.

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Andrea F. Trocha-Van Nort, « Delphine Lemonnier-Texier et Guillaume Winter, dir., Lectures de Love’s Labour’s Lost de William Shakespeare »XVII-XVIII, 72 | 2015, 319-321.

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Andrea F. Trocha-Van Nort, « Delphine Lemonnier-Texier et Guillaume Winter, dir., Lectures de Love’s Labour’s Lost de William Shakespeare »XVII-XVIII [En ligne], 72 | 2015, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2016, consulté le 19 juillet 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Andrea F. Trocha-Van Nort

United States Air Force Academy

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