Love’s Labor

Who loves “Love’s Labour’s Lost?” The young king and three of his courtiers vow to fast and study for three years, renouncing so much as the sight of a woman.

But then the princess of a nearby country arrives as an ambassador, along with three ladies. Uh oh.

One of the knights-votary plies his tongue with particular eloquence. This Berowne has doubted the prudence of their vow to begin with:

Necessity will make us all forsworn
Three thousand times within this three years’ space;
For every man with his affects is born,
Not by might master’d but by special grace.

But Berowne likewise despises lovers. He styles himself the consummate scoffer. Until Rosaline arrives (with the princess). Then Berowne steals away and muses to himself:

And I, forsooth, in love! I, that have been love’s whip;
A very beadle to a humorous sigh;
A critic, nay, a night-watch constable;
A domineering pedant o’er the boy;
Than whom no mortal so magnificent!
This whimpled, whining, purblind, wayward boy;
This senior-junior, giant-dwarf, Dan Cupid;
Regent of love-rhymes, lord of folded arms,
The anointed sovereign of sighs and groans,
Liege of all loiterers and malcontents,
Dread prince of plackets, king of codpieces,
Sole imperator and great general
Of trotting ‘paritors:–O my little heart:–
And I to be a corporal of his field,
And wear his colours like a tumbler’s hoop!

Has comedy ever equaled the subsequent scene?

First Berowne walks on-stage to soliloquize about his lovely lady, only to hide himself in the bushes in order to overhear one of the other knights do the same—who then hides himself in the bushes to overhear the king soliloquize about the princess—who then hides his royal self because the final knight steps on-stage to soliloquize his lady.

The king emerges to accuse him. Then the other knight emerges to accuse the king. Finally Berowne emerges and calls them all on the carpet. But he admits that he, too, has left their vow in a shambles.

The others then beg Berowne to give a speech justifying their vow-breaking on some legitimate grounds.

He proceeds to elegize St. Cupid. It might be deemed inappropriate for a priest to post the entirety of the speech on his weblog. A few lines:

O, we have made a vow to study, lords,
And in that vow we have forsworn our books.
For when would you, my liege, or you, or you,
In leaden contemplation have found out
Such fiery numbers as the prompting eyes
Of beauty’s tutors have enrich’d you with?
…love, first learned in a lady’s eyes,
Lives not alone immured in the brain;
But, with the motion of all elements,
Courses as swift as thought in every power,
And gives to every power a double power,
Above their functions and their offices.

Is he right here? Or:

If any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema. (Solemn teaching of the Church)


No, really. Berowne has it right. And of course the Council of Trent does, too.

Christ came to restore the beauty of marriage, which had fallen into the trenches of polygamy and divorce. The Lord made the best wine flow at a wedding. He came as the Bridegroom, and He made marriage (including sex) a sacrament of His holy love.

Nonetheless, He never married a woman. He declared that in the Kingdom of heaven, they neither marry nor are given in marriage.

Having sex and making babies (while married): beautiful. Not having sex, for the love of God: even more beautiful.

Responsible married life involves both having sex and not having sex, for the love of God. Love involves having sex sometimes, for some people. Love always involves not having sex, at least sometimes. The natural way of regulating birth works perfectly well, provided both parties know how to pass the time in other ways, when necessary. Did the ladies marry the knights at the end of “Love’s Labour’s Lost?” No. The ladies insisted that the knights keep at least one year of their vow first.

What’s my point? I promised I would return to the subject of the immorality of the disputed elements of the federal health-care mandate. My point: Having sex makes for good health—under the right circumstances. Not having sex makes for good health under a lot more circumstances.

How about a federal mandate for training in chastity, self-control, learning how to live a higher, more intellectual and spiritual kind of life?

Oh, yeah. We don’t need a federal mandate. We already have a divine mandate for that. Happy Valentine’s Day!

2 thoughts on “Love’s Labor

  1. Father Mark,

    Please, no more Federal mandates. Given enough time mankind can mess up even the best of natural creation, studied plans and institutions. The Federal Government does the same; it just takes them much less time.

    One of the lists of advice out on the internet right now, cautions to wait at least a half-year after engagement to marry. That ignores Lord Chesterfield’s advice to a young man contemplating marriage, “Don’t!” But, the ladies had it right; a man who can wait a year for the right woman is probably a man worth waiting for.



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