William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labor’s Lost”: A Retelling in Prose

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This is an easy-to-read retelling of William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labor’s Lost.” People who read this version first will find the original play much easier to read and understand. It is available here”

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An excerpt:

Biron asked Boyet, “What’s the name of the woman wearing the cap?”

“Rosaline, by good hap,” Boyet replied. “Rosaline, it so happens.”

“Is she wedded or no?”

“She is wedded to her will, sir, or something like that.”

One meaning of the word “will” was “sexual desire.”

What does “something like that” mean? Biron will find out that Rosaline is single, and so, if Boyet’s insinuation is correct, she is a single woman who pursues satisfying her sexual desires.

“You are welcome, sir,” Biron said. “Adieu.”

Biron’s tone was angry because he was not getting a serious answer to his question. Some welcomes are ill. He also did not want to hear that a woman he had fallen in love with was wanton. When he said that Boyet was welcome, he may have been punning: Boyet was well cum — had cum well — as a result of spending time with Rosaline. Personal experience would be one way for Boyet to know that Rosaline was wedded to her will, or something like that.

“Farewell to me, sir, and welcome to you,” Boyet replied.

“Welcome to you” meant “You are welcome to go.” A proverb of the time stated, “Welcome when you go.” Again, some welcomes are ill.

Boyet may have meant this: “I will fare well when you go, and be assured that the next time I welcome you, I will again have well cum.”

Some people can say, “Welcome,” and make it sound nasty. Boyet was one such person.

Biron exited.

Maria said, “That last man to leave is Biron, the merry madcap lord. You can’t speak to him without hearing a jest — not a word with him but a jest.”

“And every jest is only a word,” Boyet said.

The Princess said, “It was well done of you to take him at his word — you gave him word for word. He likes to engage in argumentative exchanges of words, and you did that.”

It is true that Biron liked to engage in wordplay, sometimes malicious, but his questions to Boyet were serious. Boyet, however, was a ladies’ man, and he saw in Biron a threat. Here was a case of two men — Biron and Boyet — disliking each other almost at first sight.

“I was as willing to grapple as he was to board,” Boyet said.

Boyet was referring to warfare. Two ships would sometimes use grappling hooks to get the ships next to each other so that a ship could be boarded and the sailors fight face to face.

If Biron wanted to board something, that something would be Rosaline’s body, but Boyet was willing to grapple with him to keep that from happening, possibly because he wanted to board her — and all the other ladies present.

Note that Rosaline was quiet. Did she not hear Boyet and Biron talking, or was she embarrassed and pretending that she had not heard their conversation?

Maria said, “You were two hot sheeps, indeed.”

Biron and Boyet had fought like two angry rams butting horns to see which ram would be able to mate.

Much of the two men’s dislike for each other showed in their body language, but some showed in the tone of their words to each other.

“Why not use the word ‘ships’ instead of ‘sheeps’?” Boyet asked. “We are no sheep, you sweet lamb, unless we feed on your lips.”

“You sheep, and I pastor,” Maria said. “Shall that finish the jest?”

“So long as you grant pasture for me,” Boyet said, moving to kiss her.

Maria stopped the kiss and said, “Not so, gentle beast. My lips are no common, though several they be.”

She was punning. A common is pastureland held in common; any citizen can use it. Pastureland that is referred to as several, however, is privately owned. It is severed — separate — from common land. Maria was saying that her lips were privately owned, by herself, and they were several — more than one.

“Your lips belong to whom?” Boyet asked.

“To my fortunes and me,” Maria said.

“Good wits will be jangling, aka squabbling,” the Princess said, “but, gentlefolk, agree that this civil war of wits would be much better used on the King of Navarre and his fellow book-men; for here such verbal wrangling is misapplied.”

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