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Love's Labour's Won

File:Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury Francis Meres Love labours won excerpt 1598.jpg
The only known published reference to Love's Labour's Won in Palladis Tamia

Love's Labour's Won is a play written by William Shakespeare before 1598. The play appears to have been published by 1603, but no copies are known to have survived. One theory holds that it is a lost work, possibly a sequel to Love's Labour's Lost. Another theory is that the title is an alternative name for a known Shakespeare play.

Theories and evidence

The first mention of the play occurs in Francis Meres Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury (1598) in which he lists a dozen Shakespeare plays. His list of Shakespearean comedies reads:

"for Comedy, witnes his Ge[n]tleme[n] of Verona, his [Comedy of] Errors, his Loue labors lost, his Loue labours wonne, his Midsummers night dreame, & his Merchant of Venice".

Shakespeare scholars have several theories about the play.

Sequel to Love's Labour's Lost

One theory is that Love's Labour's Won may be a lost sequel to Love's Labour's Lost, depicting the further adventures of the King of Navarre, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumain, whose marriages were delayed at the end of Love's Labour's Lost.[1] In the final moments of Love's Labour's Lost the weddings that customarily close Shakespeare's comedies are unexpectedly deferred for a year without any obvious plot purpose, which would allow for a sequel.[2][3] Critic Cedric Watts suggests that the rough outline of the plot can be guessed:

It seems to me that we can reasonably foresee the plot of Love's Labour's Won. After the year of waiting, the King and lords would meet again and compare experiences; each would, in various ways, have failed to be as diligently faithful and austere as he had been enjoined by his lady to be. (You can tell that from the way they behave in Love's Labour's Lost.) Each would, again, seek to conceal failings and to impress the ladies; the ladies would, once again, outwit the men; but, after comic complications, all would be forgiven, and the long-deferred wedding celebrations would provide the culmination of the play. Jack would, after all, have Jill. The same rustic characters would enliven the action, and the nuptials might be accompanied by their farcical play-within-the-play, on the lines of that in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and perhaps by further concluding songs by the rustics.[2]

Alternative name for existing play

File:LLW on Hunt's play list.jpg
Partial list of plays from Christopher Hunt's inventory. From top: marchant of vennis, taming of a shrew, knak to know a knave, knak to know an honest man, loves labor lost, loves labor won.

Another theory is that Love's Labour's Won was an alternative name for an existing play. This would explain why it was not printed under that name in the First Folio of Shakespeare's complete dramatic works in 1623, for which the sequel theory has no obvious explanation.

A longtime theory held that Love's Labour's Won was an alternative name for The Taming of the Shrew, which had been written several years earlier and is noticeably missing from Meres' list. But in 1953, Solomon Pottesman, a London-based antiquarian book dealer and collector, discovered the August 1603 book list of the stationer Christopher Hunt, which lists as printed in quarto:

"marchant of vennis, taming of a shrew, …loves labor lost, loves labor won."

The find provided evidence that the play might be a unique work that had been published but lost and not an early title of The Taming of the Shrew.[4]

Yet another possibility is that the name is an alternative title for another Shakespearean comedy not listed by Meres or Hunt.[5] Much Ado About Nothing, commonly believed to be written around 1598,[6] is often suggested. For example, Henry Woudhuysen's Arden edition (third series) of Love's Labour's Lost lists a number of striking similarities between the two plays. Much Ado about Nothing is also listed under another alternative title, Benedick and Beatrice, in several book sellers' catalogues.

Leslie Hotson speculated that Love's Labour's Won was the former title of Troilus and Cressida, pointing out that Troilus and Cressida did not appear in Palladis Tamia, a view that has been criticised by Kenneth Palmer for requiring a "forced interpretation of the play". In addition, Troilus and Cressida is generally considered to have been written around 1602.[7]

David Grote argues that it was another name for As You Like It. He suggests that titles for comedies were often generic - several plays could be called "As You Like It" or "All's Well that Ends Well", for example, and that names were not fixed until repeated publication. He suggests that As You Like It began as a sequel to Love's Labour's Lost, but was later revised when Robert Armin replaced William Kempe as the principal comic actor in Shakespeare's theatre company the Lord Chamberlain's Men.[8]

Use of title

In their 2014 season commemorating the centenary of the commencement of World War I hostilities, the Royal Shakespeare Company co-opted the title in performing Much Ado about Nothing under the name Love's Labour's Won (also known as Much Ado about Nothing). It was staged as a companion piece to Love's Labour's Lost. The pair of plays bookended the period of the war. Love's Labour's Lost was set at the beginning of the war in 1914, with Love Labour's Won set at its end in 1918, with the male characters returning home after the final victory.[9]

In other culture

It was featured as a plot device in the 1948 novel Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin, in which the discovery of a copy of the play triggers a series of murders. The writing of the play is a major plot point in the 2007 Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code", in which lines from the play, when spoken, will liberate an alien species from confinement. In the end, all copies of the play are sucked into a vortex.


  1. ^ Berryman, John (2001), Shakespeare: essays, letters and other writings, Tauris Parke Paperbacks, p. lii .
  2. ^ a b Watts, Cedric, "Shakespeare's feminist play?" in Sutherland, John & Watts, Cedric, Henry V, War Criminal? And Other Shakespeare Puzzles, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2000, p.178.
  3. ^ Paul A. Olson, Beyond a Common Joy: An Introduction to Shakespearean Comedy, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE., 2008, p.56.
  4. ^ Baldwin, T. W. Shakespere’s Love’s Labor’s Won. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1957.
  5. ^ "Love's Labours Won". Shakesper. 2005. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  6. ^ Textual notes to Much Ado about Nothing in The Norton Shakespeare (W. W. Norton & Co, 1997 ISBN 0-393-97087-6) p. 1387
  7. ^ Palmer, Kenneth (1982). "Introduction". Troilus and Cressida. Second (Arden Shakespeare ed.). London: Methuen. p. 18. ISBN 0-416-17790-5. 
  8. ^ David Grote, The Best Actors in the World: Shakespeare and His Acting Company, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT., 2002, p.60.
  9. ^ "Love's Labours Won". What's On. RSC. October 2014 – March 2015. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 


  • Baldwin, T.W. Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Won: New Evidence from the Account Books of an Elizabethan Bookseller. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1957.