"Love's Labour's Won" = Much Ado About Nothing? (warning: character/theme rambling)

I was browsing the SHAKSPER mailing list (academic Shakespeare discussion) archives, when I ran across an interesting series of posts on the purportedly “lost” Shakespeare play, Love’s Labour’s Won. The series of posts in question (scroll down or ctrl+F “Love’s Labours Won”, sans second apostrophe).

There’s a theory advanced that “Love’s Labour’s Won” is a popular title for “Much Ado About Nothing,” and the more I think about it, the more I like it.

They’re two very complementary plays, especially the primary love stories: Beatrice and Benedick have an unknown past, and Rosaline and Berowne have an unknown future.

Benedick disavows any and all romantic entanglements:

Berowne expresses a similar distaste for love, although he’s conscious of the irony as he rips into love while simultaneously expresses love for Rosaline:

and later,

Could Berowne’s experience with Rosaline have soured him on love semi-permanently? Although he expresses disdain for her (comparing her eyes to pitch balls, an image echoed by Benedick in Much Ado), it’s clear he’s very much in love with her, and she refuses to commit to him. Is the year-long waiting period the ladies demand at the end of Love’s Labour’s enough to turn Berowne into Benedick?

Both men are overly verbose, although Benedick’s rhetoric is more restrained (mature?) than Berowne’s rambling discourses.

Beatrice and Rosaline are both restrained, hiding their emotions behind wit: I don’t think we ever hear Rosaline say she loves Berowne, although she’s well aware of his love for her. In the last scene, when the other three ladies are promising to return to their lovers after the year’s up, she sets a condition for him to fulfill before she’ll commit to him. Beatrice sets conditions on her love for Benedick: he has to kill Claudio. Rosaline just wants Berowne to spend a year visiting hospitals, but it’s clear she takes it very seriously.

(If Benedick and Beatrice are the second half of the Rosaline/Berowne setup, then Berowne didn’t fulfill Rosaline’s condition, as Beatrice and Benedick aren’t together – I’m assuming that Rosaline would have committed to Berowne had he been successful. That explains Beatrice’s line: “a double heart for his single one: marry, once before he won it of me with false dice”. Berowne didn’t follow through on his commitment to Rosaline, so Beatrice is reluctant to trust Benedick again.)

There isn’t a direct correlation between the end of Love’s Labour’s and the beginning of Much Ado: Beatrice and Benedick have had a definite falling-out at some point, but Rosaline and Berowne are hanging in the literary ether. But I definitely think Beatrice is directly related to Rosaline, and Benedick is only a few steps away from Berowne. Thematically and character-wise, though, it totally works. Rosaline and Berowne go up; Beatrice and Benedick come down.

Or am I reaching?

Well-reasoned, and very plausible. And it’s nice to think that the “lost” Shakespeare play might not be lost at all.

There’s another lost play called Cardenio that Shakespeare may have co-wrote. But the fewer, the better.

:frowning: Well, that didn’t last long.

I’m a regular Shakespeare tonight, aren’t I? :smack:

We’re not sure that Shakespeare did co-write Cardenio, but it’s possible. Sorry to be a bring-down.

We don’t have much evidence on that play one way or another. There’s a couple of reports of a play by that name being performed c.1613, and an attributation to Shakespeare and Fletcher by bookseller Humphry Mosely 40 years after the fact when Mosely obtained the copyright.