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This article is taken from PN Review 158, Volume 30 Number 6, July - August 2004.

Plain Speaking and the Language of the Heart John Lucas


A key moment in Love's Labours Lost - perhaps the key moment - occurs with the entry, late on, of Monsieur Marcade, who brings with him news of a death. Until then, all had been play, the audience witness to a ceaseless game of words between the King of Navarre and his courtiers on one side, and, on the other, the Princess of France and her women friends. But Marcade has come to tell the gamesters of the death of the Princess's father. Navarre, who is in love with her, attempts to console her.

The extreme parts of time extremely forms
All causes to the purpose of his speed,
And often, at his very loose, decides
That which long process could not arbitrate

and on for a further eight lines during which any concern for the Princess is lost to sight as the King plunges into a thicket of increasingly self-regarding words. The more he talks the less sense he makes. And so, when he stops, the Princess tells him, `I understand you not: my griefs are double.' I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about, she means, and what's more I don't know how you can speak such nonsense at such a moment.

At which point Berowne steps forward. `Honest plain words best pierce the ear of grief,' he says, presumably to his friend as a way of making him recognise how little ...

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