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Love’s Labour’s Lost is one of William Shakespeare’s early comedies, believed to have been written in the mid-1590s for a performance at the Inns of Court before Queen Elizabeth. It follows the King of Navarre and his three companions as they attempt to foreswear the company of women for three years of study and fasting, and their subsequent infatuation with the Princess of Aquitaine and her ladies.
91 pages with a reading time of ~1.50 hours (22813 words), and first published in 1596. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2016.
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The king of Navarre’s park.
[Enter FERDINAND king of Navarre, BIRON, LONGAVILLE and DUMAIN]
Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives, Live register’d upon our brazen tombs And then grace us in the disgrace of death; When, spite of cormorant devouring Time, The endeavor of this present breath may buy That honour which shall bate his scythe’s keen edge And make us heirs of all eternity. Therefore, brave conquerors,–for so you are, That war against your own affections And the huge army of the world’s desires,– Our late edict shall strongly stand in force: Navarre shall be the wonder of the world; Our court shall be a little Academe, Still and contemplative in living art. You three, Biron, Dumain, and Longaville, Have sworn for three years’ term to live with me My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes That are recorded in this schedule here: Your oaths are pass’d; and now subscribe your names, That his own hand may strike his honour down That violates the smallest branch herein: If you are arm’d to do as sworn to do, Subscribe to your deep oaths, and keep it too.
I am resolved; ‘tis but a three years’ fast: The mind shall banquet, though the body pine: Fat paunches have lean pates, and dainty bits Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits.
My loving lord, Dumain is mortified: The grosser manner of these world’s delights He throws upon the gross world’s baser slaves: To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die; With all these living in philosophy.
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!
Your oath is pass’d to pass away from these.
Let me say no, my liege, an if you please: I only swore to study with your grace And stay here in your court for three years’ space.
You swore to that, Biron, and to the rest.
By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest. What is the end of study? let me know.
Why, that to know, which else we should not know.
Things hid and barr’d, you mean, from common sense?
Ay, that is study’s godlike recompense.
Come on, then; I will swear to study so, To know the thing I am forbid to know: As thus,–to study where I well may dine, When I to feast expressly am forbid; Or study where to meet some mistress fine, When mistresses from common sense are hid; Or, having sworn too hard a keeping oath, Study to break it and not break my troth. If study’s gain be thus and this be so, Study knows that which yet it doth not know: Swear me to this, and I will ne’er say no.
These be the stops that hinder study quite And train our intellects to vain delight.
Why, all delights are vain; but that most vain, Which with pain purchased doth inherit pain: As, painfully to pore upon a book To seek the light of truth; while truth the while Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look: Light seeking light doth light of light beguile: So, ere you find where light in darkness lies, Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes. Study me how to please the eye indeed By fixing it upon a fairer eye, Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed And give him light that it was blinded by. Study is like the heaven’s glorious sun That will not be deep-search’d with saucy looks: Small have continual plodders ever won Save base authority from others’ books These earthly godfathers of heaven’s lights That give a name to every fixed star Have no more profit of their shining nights Than those that walk and wot not what they are. Too much to know is to know nought but fame; And every godfather can give a name.