Battle of the Sexes

As far as the text of Love’s Labour’s Lost is concerned, the only real interest I had in it was the commentary it provided on the relationship between the sexes. Rather than the traditionally idealized form of a submissive and fiercely loyal woman portrayed in such works as Odysseus and the Castle of Otranto, Shakespeare allows the women to use biting wit to combat their pursuers. Despite their attraction to the young men of the play, the women never passively accept the ideas and propositions the men put forth. When they are told that they will be staying in a field so that the men can keep their contract, the women immediately argue the irrationality of the contract and the rude inhospitable impertinence it is causing them to inflict. Even when the men pronounce their love, the women point out the superficial and playful manner in which they have gone about the courtship and challenge the depth of the love that they claim.

While the men are constantly attempting to do what is right, in having the ideal study program and the ideal courtship of the women– Shakespeare exaggerates the situations to show some of the inherent problems in the accepted norms. In fact, he uses the women to this very end. It is through their visit to the court that the impractical promise made by these men is revealed, though pointed out previously by Berowne. And once again the women who resist the men because of the artificial nature of the relationship that has bloomed between them.

The real question is, if this is a battle of the sexes, who won? Well, the men do gain their object, in convincing the women that their love is true and they really wish to marry them. However, their efforts are temporarily thwarted by the death of the king of France. This being said, most people who read or see the play, depending on the choices of the director, will see the women as the victors. They repeatedly win the battle of wits, and their promises are loose and contingent on certain conditions that will better the men and give them the type of education they were seeking at the beginning. In this we see the women gaining their own ends, and the men bending to their will.

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