The Date of "Love's Labour's Lost"
Modern Language Review
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... offers remarkably little concrete evidence for a precise fixing of the limits of its date. So recent and competent an authority as the 1V. E. D. cites it as 1588 and other competent critics have put it as late as 1596. Present-day opinion tends to settle on about 1590, solely because metrical and aesthetic considerations in general demand an early date, and this is the earliest which seems to harmonise with the one topical allusion which has been generally accepted as bearing on the date-viz. the adoption of the names of the characters from those of the leaders in the French civil wars of 1589-1593. There are, however, one or two fairly clear references or general difficulties which do not harmonise with 1590, and scholars who have accepted these have still maintained 1590 as the date of the play and alleged the disturbing evidence as due to insertions and revisions of a later date: their plea has been generally admitted, because it goes beyond all question that the play was revised. But there are two radical weaknesses in this chronological ?cheme. Firstly, as we shall see, the revision seems to have been of such a nature as to preclude our regarding it as the occasion of inserted allusions, etc. Secondly, the determining factor in this scheme is the metrical, and aesthetic evidence, and it seems to us that the particular literary quality of the play itself hardly justifies an absolute reliance on considerations of this nature; to some extent it involves a confused application of canons, valid only in qualities unconsciously representing the stage of attainment at a particular moment, to qualities deliberately and purposely varied from what is at that moment the normal: it is somewhat as if Shakespeare's metrical level at the period of Hamlet should be judged by reckoning the Player's declamation and the play within the play as the normal type. It seems, then, that the question of the date of L. L. L. needs further examination. The most unsatisfactory feature of the problem is the lack of definite and concrete evidence to act as a foundation and a check for the more or less subjective evidence, which has so far carried the