Where is Love’s Labor’s Won?

The Bicycle Suit

The Bicycle Suit
(Photo-engraving of ink drawing)
Athenæum Club Library, London

For the Victorians, one of the guilty pleasures of viewing As You Like It was that you got to see the legs of the actress playing Rosalind, if she was wearing, as the text specifies, doublet and hose. In 1885, a commentator wrote, "It was the prospect of seeing the new Rosalind’s nether limbs that was responsible for the excited rush for seats on the part of the public." Above are the traditionally dressed Victorian maiden (right, well swathed), and her friend showing a lot of calf in her "bicycle suit." However… the Victorian Rosalind showed off not only calves, but thighs!

Anybody reading this probably knows that Love’s Labor’s Won is included in Meres’ 1598 list of Shakespeare’s plays in his book Palladis Tamia (cited in the previous article, “Where is Love’s Labor’s Lost?”) — and likewise knows that no copy of a play by that name has been found. Shakespeare scholars have suggested that Love’s Labor’s Won survives under a different name, and among those that have been proposed as the rewritten play are Much Ado About Nothing, All’s Well That Ends Well, Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew, Troilus and Cressida (!), Love’s Labor’s Lost[1] and, bringing up the rear, As You Like It.[2]

Very possibly some of the unhappy endings in Love’s Labor’s Lost might be reversed in a rewritten Love’s Labor’s Won, and some recognizable features of the former play might have survived in the latter. None of the plays in the list above displays a happy reversal of unhappy things that happen in Love’s Labor’s Lost or even any of the same elements — except one. That one (I think) is As You Like It, which happens also to be Glynne Wickham’s choice.[3] So however deluded I may be, at least I am in the company of somebody who has real credentials. Wickham wrote his article after directing a production of As You Like It, and made the following observations about that play and Love’s Labor’s Lost:

  1. Both plays have woodland settings.
  2. Both plays involve sonnets, although As You Like It has only one sonnet fragment which Orlando hangs on a tree.[4] Love’s Labor’s Lost has four examples of the sonnet form, three of which are badly mangled, because one of the theses of that play is that human beings make mistakes. See 4 on p. 2.
  3. Both plays have four sets of lovers. In As You Like It they are: Rosalind/Orlando, Celia/Oliver, Phebe/Silvius and Touchstone/Audrey. In Love’s Labor’s Lost they are: Princess/King, Rosaline/Berowne, Katharine/Dumain and Maria/Longaville. (Love’s Labor’s Lost also has a fifth pair, Armado/Jaquenetta, to be discussed.)
  4. In Love’s Labor’s Lost the four sets of lovers fail to marry, and in As You Like It all the couples get married, so their love-labors are definitely won.

Wickham might have added, but didn’t, that both plays take place in France, Love’s Labor’s Lost in Arden (Ardennes) Forest, As You Like It in Navarre which became part of France in 1589.[5]

Wickham is a scholar, and I am a snake-oil salesman, so naturally we part company on at least one point. Wickham maintains that there is no Jaquenetta/Armado counterpoint in As You Like It because the boy who had played Jaquenetta had grown up and Shakespeare couldn’t find a replacement. But I have my own snake’s reason that the Jaquenetta character doesn’t have a counterpart in Love’s Labor’s Won. Read on —[6]

Page 1 of 5 1 2 3 4 5 View All


  1. Exponents of this theory suggest that the title page indicated “Love’s Labor’s Lost, Love’s Labor’s Won,” and that the play was published in two volumes.
  1. For some of this discussion see H. R. Woudhuysen’s preface to the Arden Third Series Love’s Labor’s Lost (1998), and the thread at shaksper.net.
  1. Glynne Wickham makes his case for As You Like It in Shakespeare and the Sense of Performance (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1989).
  1. I am aware that Juliet Dusinberre refers to Orlando’s sonnet fragment as a French dizain. So it is — but Shakespeare’s audience would recognize it as an incomplete sonnet, as does Wickham, who says that Orlando writes “sonnets.” (Dusinberre, Juliet, ed. As You Like It, Arden Third Series Edition. London: Thomson Learning, 2006. 235.)
  1. There is an Arden forest in Warwickshire which would have probably been more familiar to Shakespeare’s audiences, but he has his characters speak French to show what country, friends, is this.
  1. Professor Wickham is unlikely to be troubled by my rough treatment of him. He died in 2004.

Printed from Cerise Press: http://www.cerisepress.com

Permalink URL: http://www.cerisepress.com/02/04/where-is-loves-labors-won

Page 1 of 5 was printed. Select View All pagination to print all pages.