Love's Labours Lost: Theme Analysis
Love's Labor's Lost is Shakespeare's attempt at showing his characters do not always achieve their ends. The play focuses on its character's flaws instead of their virtues. First, the men of the play try to make sacrifices in order to better their minds and their studies. In attempts to take away distractions, such as food, sleep, and women, the King believes that the level of study will improve. However, in the play, the only knowledge that the characters gain is that in taking away life's natural distractions, they focus on what they cannot have. Shakespeare shows this when the men spend their time extracting information about their respective women, writing poetry to them, sending them gifts, and hiding these attempts from their comrades. By making virtual monks of at first unwilling men, the king of the play has unrealistic expectations of his comrades and himself. These strictures, also, are not only forced upon by men of intelligence, but by average men of the king's household. The king imprisons the Clown, Costard, for his activities with the peasant girl Jaquenetta when there is no logical reason for him to uphold the deprivation.
Love's Labor's Lost also shows the audience the values of keeping an oath. The women of the play, in attempts to show the men what fools they have been, teach them this lesson. At first insulted by the fact the king would not allow the ladies entrance into the castle, when the men begin to secretly court them, the women are disappointed in their lack of honor. They try to confuse them and show them what idiots they have been first in making the rules, then in breaking them. Afraid that the men will forget their love for them as they forgot their oath, the women decide to make the men wait a year for marriage to them.
The "Lost" in the title accurately describes the fact that the men gained nothing through their oath both to their king, and to the women to whom they professed their love. It shows that no matter how hard one tries, keeping promises is often more important and more respect gaining than expressions of love.