Pascale Drouet, Love’s Labour’s Lost
DROUET, PASCALE. — Love’s Labour’s Lost. Paris : Atlande, 2014. 254 pp. ISBN 978-2350302768.
1With its concise historical contextualizing and its pertinent approaches to analysis, Pascale Drouet’s recent publication provides the oft-overlooked play the critical acknowledgment it greatly deserves. It is especially designed for francophone students of Shakespeare, bringing together some of the most artfully-couched and enlightening insights from other prominent critical works, continental and other.
2In “Repères,” the author makes use of those biographical and historical elements that shed light on specific aspects of the play, from the rustics of the secondary intrigue to the country school’s pedant in the character of Holofernes (17). Of topical interest as well, vestiges of the recent outbreak of plague are highlighted, as is Shakespeare’s responsive celebration of life (20) through the content of the play. Importantly, the author reminds the reader of the position of this play with regard to two main considerations: first, in the development of the dramatist’s two-audience approach (23), and second, the long-held debate regarding generic distinctions with other plays in the canon that bear similar secondary plots (27-28). In tandem with considerations of genre, the author underscores the fact that the play functions to bedazzle and offend (“éblouir et blesser”) through its rich deployment of conceits, as complex verbal gests armed, most frequently, with sharp mockery. The deliberate and self-conscious nature of the conceit within the play, as Drouet points out, seems evident in its insistent use of the word: “conceit’s expositor,” “a good lustre of conceit in a tuft of earth,” “their conceits have wings,” and “cut me to pieces with thy keen conceit” (2.1.72, 4.2.85-86, 5.2.260-61, 5.2.399 [Arden 1998]). An in-depth discussion of a comedy begun as “festive,” with all that the word entails, one that ends abruptly without the pendant marriage, concludes the section on genre (31-37). Finally, the author’s review of sources and cultural influences provides a new reader to the play an under-standing of its initial success. Inspirations drawn from the (at the time) heretical School of Night and the prestigious Académie Française as well as England’s tenuous ties to Henri IV and his waning Protestantism are clarified, as are the literary influence of Lyly and growing dramatic interest in commedia dell’arte stock characters (45).
3“Analyses” explores the finer points of significant approaches to the play. First, we find the battle(s) of the sexes, where melancholic masculine anxiety is literally overrun by disruptive feminine discourse; importantly, the weakened state of the former is clearly perceptible in the all-important relaying of information (women are the first and best informed) as well as in the abundant verbal jousting that rhythms the play (66-67). Revealing Navarre’s masculine court as frustrated and spurned, where they intended intellectual delight and control over desire, the author notes the radical reversals that upset masculine imposition which must adapt swiftly to the feminine: hence, a complex form of the stock comic scenario of “l’arroseur arrosé” (78). Second, the author undertakes a discussion of the multifaceted nature of language, more specifically copia, along with doublets and parataxis. As Drouet demonstrates in the second section, copia and its pendant forms separate those characters practiced in eloquence from the loquacitas. It distinguishes as well the low- from the high-comedy characters, as the use degenerates into burlesque among the rustics after passing through the pedantic. The romantic qualities of the play bring the author to pursue the stages of the Petrarchan dilemma as well: affect, affliction, and more compelling in Elizabethan England, infection. The uprooting of meaning through the playwright’s predilection for deceptive devices – paronomasia, antanaclasis, extended metaphors, antimetabole, malapropism – is shown by the author as being systematized in this play, revealing the underlying mechanisms that solidify for the spectator the connections between the different levels of intrigue and the condition of the actor himself (121). Third, and related structurally to the second, the role of mise en abyme comes forward in the interpretation, as the play self-consciously considers its own spaces, or one could say its “place,” that is, space “placed” within a different space, so to speak. Through the author’s analysis, the highly theatrical masque of Act V marks the highest point in this plunging mirror, where the masque set in Shakespeare’s play is one of theater itself (that of a so-called Muscovite theater), is staged by Navarre’s court, and played by a group of English actors (132-133). “The Nine Worthies” is, of course, the formal play within the play, yet the author focuses on its role as counterpoint to collapse the house of cards constructed by Navarre and his court in their masque (153). Finally, the nature vs. anti-nature dichotomy concludes the section on analysis, wherein the author returns the reader to the play’s philosophical beginnings: the repressing of nature invites a counter-movement of equal force, and as anti-nature deprives nature, nature will deprive anti-nature of its desired end. Described as “nonsensical” and “excessive” (157), Navarre’s aspirations of monasticism cannot be self-imposed, yet will nonetheless be enforced by the “Jack hath not Jill” close of the play. Time, which Navarre had intended to warp, now subverts his own enterprises to reverse the clock (163), while the deus ex machina in the form of Marcadé’s news forces a comparison between the immaturity of Navarre’s court and the sensible future court of the fictive Princess of France, a court the author points out as being quite like Elizabeth’s. In closing, Drouet also underscores the “or what you will” humor over Jaquenetta’s unborn child with regard to the succession anxiety of the ageing Elizabeth’s reign (172). An overview of the play’s stage history closes the work, opening a window onto modern interpretation in praxis.
4Drouet’s work is, in fine, an excellent student resource gathering some of the most influential recent criticism of the play. Yet rather than simply reproducing high points of others’ works, the author’s organization and commentary together bring her distinct, well-rounded view to the revisiting of each of these touchstones.
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Andrea F. Trocha-Van Nort, « Pascale Drouet, Love’s Labour’s Lost », XVII-XVIII, 72 | 2015, 316-319.
Andrea F. Trocha-Van Nort, « Pascale Drouet, Love’s Labour’s Lost », XVII-XVIII [En ligne], 72 | 2015, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2016, consulté le 23 janvier 2017. URL : http://1718.revues.org/294Haut de page
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