Love's Labor's Lost

This article is about Shakespeare's play. For other uses, see Love's Labor's Lost (disambiguation).

At first glance, one of William Shakespeare's plays, the early comedy Love's Labor's Lost, simply entertains and amuses. Four young men (one of them a king) withdraw from the world for three years, taking an oath that they will have nothing to do with women. The King of Navarre soon learns, however, that the Princess of France and her ladies are about to arrive. Although he lodges them outside of his court, all four men fall in love with the ladies, abandoning their oaths and setting out to win their hands.

The laughter triggered by this story is augmented by subplots involving a braggart soldier, a clever page, illiterate servants, a parson, a schoolmaster, and a constable so dull that he is named Dull. Letters and poems are misdelivered, confessions are overheard, entertainments are presented, and language is played with, and misused, by the ignorant and learned alike.

At a deeper level, Love's Labor’s Lost also teases the mind. The men begin with the premise that women either are seductresses or goddesses. The play soon makes it clear, however, that the reality of male-female relations is different. That women are not identical to men’s images of them is a common theme in Shakespeare's plays. In Love's Labor’s Lost it receives one of its most pressing examinations.

Most scholars believe that Shakespeare wrote Love’s Labor’s Lost in 1594–95. The play was published in quarto form in 1598; an earlier printed version probably existed, though it has not survived. Shakespeare’s sources for this play have been difficult to establish with certainty.[1]

Productions at the Folger

Early editions

First Folio

LUNA: First Folio: L1v - M6v
Hamnet: STC 22273 Fo.1 no.68

Second Folio

LUNA: Second Folio: L1v - M6v
Hamnet: STC 22274 Fo.2 no.07

First Quarto

LUNA: First Quarto
Hamnet: STC 22294 copy 1

Second Quarto

LUNA: Second Quarto
Hamnet: STC 22295 Copy 2

Modern editions

Love's Labor's Lost Folger Edition.jpg

Love's Labor's Lost can be read online with Folger Digital Texts and purchased from Simon and Schuster.

Hamnet link to Folger Edition: PR2753 .M6 2003 copy 2 v.20

In popular culture


Watch the trailer for Kenneth Branagh's 1930's-style musical retelling of Shakespeare's early comedy. The film premiered in 2000.


The Folger owns roughly 10 stand-alone translations of Love's Labor's Lost in various languages (not including collected works). Cataloging of these works is ongoing as of early 2015, and many have full-level catalog records, but some works still have only partial records. Translations can be found Hamnet in by searching for "Translations"in the Genre/Form Term field, or by searching the Call Number (Left-Anchored) field for call numbers starting with PR2796 (see the list of Sh.Col. translations call numbers for specific language call numbers). Since not all translations are fully cataloged, some items may only turn up in one of these searches.

Performance materials

Other media

Image Group

Explore the curated image group for Love's Labor's Lost in the Folger digital image collection.


  1. Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 1996 Folger Shakespeare Library.