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lightful portrait drawn by Rosaline of her lover (ii. 1. 66) is substantially true to the historical Biron.
(2) The romantic embassy of the ladies of France had a historic counterpart in the journey undertaken by Catherine de' Medici (1586), accompanied by the most beautiful ladies of her court, to a rendezvous with Henry at San Bris, for the purpose of settling political points at issue.
(3) The Russian disguising (v. 2) was suggested by a mission from the Czar to Elizabeth, in 1583, with the view of obtaining one of her ladies as his consort.
(4) Armado, the 'phantasime Monarcho' (iv. 1. 101), is undoubtedly intended to recall an eccentric figure well known in London some years before under the name of the Phantastical Monarcho'; his 'epitaph,' written by Churchyard (1580), speaks of him as a compound of folly and wit, 'grave of looks and father-like of face,' who uttered 'strange talk' before strangers, sententious, not inclined to mirth, but 'well disposed' if any Prince took pleasure in any mirth he made,-'loved to hear him lie,' as the King says of Armado,—
Thy climbing mind aspir'd beyond the stars;
Thy wits would seem to see through peace and wars,
But Armado need not be in any sense a portrait of the Monarcho, any more than of John Lyly, Antonio Perez or Philip II., with whom different critics have confidently identified him. The number of these hypotheses is their best refutation. Of the other characters, Moth may perhaps owe his name to La Motte, the popular French ambassador; but to
find historic originals for the rest is a hazardous adventure. Holofernes has been gratuitously identified with the distinguished Italian scholar and translator of Montaigne, Florio; Mr. Fleay thinks he is the pamphleteer Cooper, and even sees in the whole group-Holofernes, Nathaniel, Dull, Armado, and Moth-a reflexion of the anti-martinist controversialists of 1589. Rosaline, being dark, has naturally been brought into relation with Mrs. Fytton' and the dark lady of the Sonnets; and M. J. Caro has carried the method to a climax by detecting in Navarre England, in Ferdinand Elizabeth, in the Princess the Duke of Anjou, and in the Princess's conditional promise of marriage the Duke's unconditional rejection.
(5) But however vague and conflicting the personal allusions may be, there is no question of the distinctness of the allusions to contemporary eccentricities. The play used to be described as a satire on Euphuism; critics now agree that with Euphuism in the strict sense-the Euphuism of Lyly, Greene, and Lodge-it has nothing to do, but is exclusively concerned with three or four other varieties of affected speech, viz. the pedantic Latinism and alliteration of Holofernes; the inflated 'Gongorism' of Armado; and the 'taffeta phrases, silken terms precise' of the lords and ladies. To these affectations of speech must be added the affectation of academic seclusion, to which Navarre and his bookmen make desperate recourse as a refuge from the rest. All these were exemplified in English society in 1590. Finally, these 'humours' of the educated world are set off by the rusticity of the 'pageant of the Nine Worthies,' familiar to every village green.
Shakespeare's treatment of these materials is but slightly coloured by the traditional drama. But
Holofernes and Armado belong to two standing types in the Italian Comedy of Art, already well known in England, the 'pedant' and the 'braggart,' and are in the old text regularly denoted by these
Clearly, the pith of the play lies in the pleasant exposure of these affectations of Elizabethan culture. It is a 'comedy of humours,'-Shakespeare's one experiment in the genre which a decade later Jonson made his own. Shakespeare, like Jonson after him, has his fling at the 'vainglorious knight,'' the profane jester,' 'the affected courtier'; but the animus of their satire is not altogether the same. Jonson assails these affectations with the downright scholar's scorn for shams; Shakespeare laughs at the 'lost labour' of those who, in one or other of these ways, insist (in Biron's phrase) on 'climbing over the house to unlock the little gate.' But his laughter is not all in the same key. Holofernes and Armado are purely comic figures, commended to us by no single sympathetic touch, and sent off the stage sadder, but in no degree wiser than they entered it. Armado serves for the 'quick recreation' of Navarre and his bookmen. But Shakespeare has not a whit more respect for their own projected Academy of study, fasting and seclusion, and mercilessly derides it through the lips of Biron. But when they' of mere necessity' forswear their asceticism, and the 'lost labours of love' actually begin, the satiric note becomes more equivocal. In the finest scene of the drama,—one of the finest comic scenes in all the early dramas,-where their perjury is discovered (iv. 3), the ridiculous situation of the perjured students contrasts strangely with the lyric beauty of the love-strains put into their mouths. The King's has a burlesque touch or two, but Dumain's is full of
charm, and Longaville's is hardly distinguishable in tone from the most ardent of Shakespeare's sonnets. If Shakespeare was here, as has been said, lashing the 'Petrarcan sonneteers' of his time, it was with the mild stroke that became one who was himself to be so great a master in this form of love-labour. as with the love-lyrics, so it is with the 'taffeta phrases and silken terms' which Biron likewise renounces at Rosaline's feet. They were not for him, like Holofernes' Latinisms and Armado's fire-new terms, things wholly alien and apart; they were symbols of a phase of culture and refinement through which he was himself passing, of which he recognised the limits, but had not overcome the charm. We may surely recognise something of Shakespeare himself in the curious ambiguities in the fine character of Biron, who, after renouncing his silken terms precise, leaves his sickness by degrees, and has yet a trick of the old rage'; and who is by turns a Romeo and a Mercutio in his view of love.
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST
SCENE I. The king of Navarre's park.
Enter FERDINAND, king of NAVARRE, BIRON,
King. Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register'd upon our brazen tombs,
That honour which shall bate his scythe's keen edge
And make us heirs of all eternity.
Therefore, brave conquerors,-for so you are,
3. disgrace, disfigurement.
6. bate, blunt.