Eric Sheffer-Stevens


Love's Labour's Lost

The King of Navarre and his three companions swear a very public oath to study together and to renounce women for three years. Their honour is immediately put to the test by the arrival of the Princess of France and her three lovely companions. It's love at first sight for all concerned followed by the men's highly entertaining but hopeless efforts to disguise their feelings.



Berowne (Biron) is one of the gentlemen in the court of the King of Navarre. Berowne is the witty exponent of the play's two main points: that love is superior to the pursuit of knowledge; and that pretensions, especially verbal ones, cannot be successful. When the King demands that his courtiers follow a three-year ascetic regimen dedicated to scholarship, Berowne argues that this is unhealthy and doomed to failure, because young men will naturally succumb to love. Berowne's common sense is opposed to the affectation of scholarly devotion, and his awareness of real emotion counters the fakery of academic rhetoric.


Unlike the other lovers in Love's Labour's Lost, who function simply as vehicles for the conventional proposition that the emotions should take precedence over the intellect, Berowne is a humanly believable character, as well as a funny one. The gentleman mocks himself in a humorous soliloquy at the end of 3.1, confessing that he has fallen under the sway of 'this signer junior, giant-dwarf, dan Cupid' (3.1.175). He is delighted to find that the King and the other courtiers, Dumaine and Longaville, are similarly smitten, in the comic high point of the play, a stock eavesdropping scene repeated three times to a height of absurdity (4.3). Berowne proclaims a manifesto in favor of love, using his wit and warmth in a speech that contains perhaps the best verse in the play (4.3.285-361).


The gentlemen attempt to court the ladies with a masquerade and high-flown sentiments, and they are mocked by the women they would woo. Berowne realises that their pretensions have failed them, and he eloquently advances the play's campaign against foolish rhetoric, rejecting: 'Taffeta phrases, silken terms precise, / Three-pii'd hyperboles, spruce affection, /Figures pedantical . . . / Henceforth my wooing mind shall be express'd / In russet yeas and honest kersey noes. . . .' (5.2.406-413).


During the pageant in the same scene, Berowne is merciless in his heckling, perhaps evidencing the essential immaturity of the gentlemen. As a result of his wounding wit, ROSALINE, at the play's denouement, requires that Berowne must spend a year visiting the sick in hospitals before she will accept him. Berowne, no cardboard character as are his fellows and the King, has human faults that must be corrected, even though he is also the chief exponent of the honest emotional life promoted by the play.


Berowne's name, pronounced 'B'roon', is taken from that of a contemporary French Protestant general, the Due de Biron, who was a principal adviser to the historical King of Navarre.



SCENE I. The king of Navarre's park.


BIRON (Berowne)


I can but say their protestation over;

So much, dear liege, I have already sworn,

That is, to live and study here three years.

But there are other strict observances;

As, not to see a woman in that term,

Which I hope well is not enrolled there;

And one day in a week to touch no food

And but one meal on every day beside,

The which I hope is not enrolled there;

And then, to sleep but three hours in the night,

And not be seen to wink of all the day--

When I was wont to think no harm all night

And make a dark night too of half the day--

Which I hope well is not enrolled there:

O, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep,

Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep!




Love's Labour's Lost


Character: Berowne

Playwright: William Shakespeare

Director: Edmond Williams

Theater Company: Alabama Shakespeare Festival





































































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