The title The Comedy of Errors pretty much sums up its play. Titus, the Henry’s (to a much lesser extent, but we’ve discussed those before), and Richard all make sense as monikers. The Taming of the Shrew is about, well, the taming of a shrew.
But what do we make of Love’s Labor’s Lost?
I feel we may be venturing into Bob Dylan territory (or worse yet, the Led Zeppelin zone)
If both apostrophes are possessive, then the title seems incomplete: Love’s labor’s lost… what? The Ark of the Covenant? The lost ___fill in the blank___ of the labor of love. The end of the title is missing, just as the play ends abruptly. Are we missing the ending of the title, just as we are missing the ending of the play? Is that the point?
if news of the French King’s death didn’t come, could the men have finally won the women’s hearts? I’m sure the men believe so, but I’m not sure I buy it…
What if both apostrophes are possessives, and the last word is not “lost” but “loss”? Love’s Labor’s Loss. That could work: all of that labor of love is a loss. The men lose their chance at love, cheated by death.
If the first apostrophe is possessive, but the second is a contraction, then we have: Love’s labor IS lost. That most definitely works. It’s subtly different than “loss”… it’s not a defeat so much as something that has been lost: a chance at love, a father, perhaps.
If the first apostrophe is a contraction, but the second is a possessive, we’re back to that first ___fill in the blank___ problem: Love is Labor’s Lost… what?
Both apostrophes contractions? On the surface, it doesn’t make much sense: Love is labor is lost. It’s a rather depressing and pessimistic philosophy–love is labor and labor (in this case) is lost. Of course, with the ending of this play, that might actually work.
What if the second apostrophe is a typo, and there isn’t supposed to be any punctuation? Love’s lost labors. Huh? The labors aren’t lost… they’re there… they’re just not effective. Then again, THAT name of the play appears in a poem by Theognis: “To do good to one’s enemies is love’s labors lost.” Of course, the punctuation is different, but that whole concept of doing good to one’s enemies is interesting… although, then we’re left to wonder who the enemy is… of whom?
Now I’m lost… no, that’s not true: I’m Positively (on) Fourth Street…