Love's Labour's Won

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Partial list of plays from Christopher Hunt's inventory. From top: marchant of vennis, taming of a shrew, knak to know a knave, knak to know an honest man, loves labor lost, loves labor won.

Love's Labour's Won is a play written by William Shakespeare before 1598. The play appears to have been published by 1603, but no copies are known to have survived. One theory holds that it is a lost work, possibly a sequel to Love's Labour's Lost. Another theory is that the title is an alternative name for a known Shakespeare play.

Theories and evidence[edit]

The first mention of the play occurs in Francis Meres Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury (1598) in which he lists a dozen Shakespeare plays. His list of Shakespearean comedies reads:

"for Comedy, witness his Ge[n]tleme[n] of Verona, his [Comedy of] Errors, his Love's labors lost, his Love's labours wonne, his Midsummers night dreame, & his Merchant of Venice".

Shakespeare scholars have several theories about the play. The first is that Love's Labour's Won may be a lost sequel to Love's Labour's Lost, depicting the further adventures of the King of Navarre, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumain, whose marriages were delayed at the end of Love's Labour's Lost.[1] In the final moments of Love's Labour's Lost the weddings that customarily close Shakespeare's comedies are unexpectedly deferred for a year without any obvious plot purpose, which would allow for a sequel.

Another longtime theory held that Love's Labour's Won was an alternative name for The Taming of the Shrew, which had been written several years earlier and is noticeably missing from Meres' list. But in 1953, Solomon Pottesman, a London-based antiquarian book dealer and collector, discovered the August 1603 book list of the stationer Christopher Hunt, which lists as printed in quarto:

"marchant of vennis, taming of a shrew, …loves labor lost, loves labor won."

The find provided evidence that the play might be a unique work that had been published but lost and not an early title of The Taming of the Shrew.[2]

Yet another possibility is that the name is an alternative title for another Shakespearean comedy not listed by Meres or Hunt.[3] Much Ado About Nothing, commonly believed to be written around 1598,[4] is often suggested. For example, Henry Woudhuysen's Arden edition (third series) of Love's Labour's Lost lists a number of striking similarities between the two plays. Much Ado about Nothing is also listed under another alternative title, Bendick and Beatrice, in several book sellers' catalogues.

Leslie Hotson speculated that Love's Labour's Won was the former title of Troilus and Cressida, pointing out that Troilus and Cressida did not appear in Palladis Tamia, a view that has been criticised by Kenneth Palmer for requiring a "forced interpretation of the play". In addition, Troilus and Cressida is generally considered to have been written around 1602.[5]

Use of title[edit]

In their season commemorating the centenary of the commencement of World War I hostilities, the Royal Shakespeare Company co-opted the title in performing Love's Labour's Won (also known as Much Ado about Nothing), staged as a companion piece to Love's Labour's Lost, the pair of plays bookending the period of the War.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

The writing of the play is a major plot point in the Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code".

It is also featured as a plot device in Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin.


  1. ^ Berryman, John (2001), Shakespeare: essays, letters and other writings, Tauris Parke Paperbacks, p. lii .
  2. ^ Baldwin, T. W. Shakespere’s Love’s Labor’s Won. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1957.
  3. ^ "Love's Labours Won". Shakesper. 2005. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  4. ^ Textual notes to Much Ado about Nothing in The Norton Shakespeare (W. W. Norton & Co, 1997 ISBN 0-393-97087-6) p. 1387
  5. ^ Palmer, Kenneth (1982). "Introduction". Troilus and Cressida. Second (Arden Shakespeare ed.). London: Methuen. p. 18. ISBN 0-416-17790-5. 
  6. ^ "Love's Labours Won". What's On. RSC. October 2014 – March 2015. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 


  • Baldwin, T.W. Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Won: New Evidence from the Account Books of an Elizabethan Bookseller. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1957.