Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Terri Bourus, and Gabriel Egan (eds), The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition

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Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent for both kinds for the stage: for comedy, witness his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Loves Labors Lost, his Loves Labors Won, his Midsummers Nights Dream, and his Merchant of Venice; for tragedy, his Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, King John, Titus Andronicus and his Romeo and Juliet.

Francis Meres, 1598

  • loves labor lost
  • loves labor won

From a provincial English bookseller's handwritten inventory of sixteen 'enterludes and tragedies', August 1603

Simply, we are now assured that in August, 1603, there was in print a play called Love's Labor's Won

T. W. Baldwin, 1957 (on his discovery and publication of the 1603 manuscript)

It is also possible that, like most of the early editions of Shakespeare's plays, the lost edition of Love's Labour's Won did not name him on the title-page, and this omission might go some way to explaining the failure of the edition to survive, or (if it does) to be noticed.

Stanley Wells, 1986

I believe the case for the earlier existence of a now lost play is not as strong as Baldwin and the Oxford editors have it. … 'Love's Labors Won' may thus have been a popular title for Much Ado about Nothing

Lukas Erne, 2003

It has been estimated that, in the lifetime of the commercial playhouses, roughly 1567 to 1642, around 3000 different plays must have been written and staged in them … The latest and most authoritative count puts the number of surviving plays at 543 …

David McInnis and Matthew Steggle, 2014

the number of extant [printed] books for 1583 is 240 and the number for 1668, notwithstanding the effects of the [Great Fire of London in 1666], is 634. The number of presses, that is, went up by just over a half, but that of [extant printed] titles by two and a half times—an increase, not I suggest in rates of production, but of survival.

D. F. McKenzie, 2002

The first quarto of 1 Henry IV survives in only a single fragment, as does the first quarto of The Passionate Pilgrim; we possess only a single copy of the first printings of Richard Duke of York (i.e., 3 Henry VI), Titus Andronicus, and Venus and Adonis. The '1597' edition of Loves Labours Lost has not survived at all. Shakespeare had not yet become a cultural icon. Most quarto playbooks, like other pamphlets, were sold unbound, the papers simply stitched together. Such texts are disproportionately subject to destruction and loss.

Terri Bourus, 2014

'Our failure to take account of such unknowns distorts our judgment of what we do know, just as dark matter in the universe affects visible matter. Daniel Kahneman calls this cognitive bias 'What You See Is All There Is' (or 'WYSIATI'). This bias bears an obvious relation to the problem of lost texts. … Rather than admit that anything by Shakespeare has been lost, most Shakespearians apparently prefer to believe that Love's Labour's Won is an alternative title for some other, extant play. But even those who swear allegiance to this face-saving conjecture must still accept that the printed edition of the play, consisting probably of 500 copies, is lost. … A lost play by Shakespeare is just one drop in a long, deep, widening river of loss.

Gary Taylor, 2013

But for the most part, a play's 'lostness' is not, by definition, an inherent characteristic or even a necessarily irrecoverable situation. Most lost plays are lost not in that they are not extant, but in that they are not known to be extant … we should be putting our efforts not only into reconstructing lost plays, but also into the parallel project of finding them. … In the places you expect, and in the places you don't, there are bound to be more of them out there, somewhere. Now let's go and find them.

Martin Wiggins, 2014

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