Notes on Love's Labour's Lost
Love's Labour's Lost is a play of witty banter and little plot, written during the early part of Shakespeare's literary career, when his focus was on fancy conceits and the playful nature of love. There is no known source for the play. Like The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream, Love's Labour's Lost seems to be entirely a product of Shakespeare's own imagination.
The characters in Love's Labour's Lost are not as fully developed as Shakespeare's later creations, and the play contains many allusions and puns that confound modern readers; thus, although certain passages from the play are among Shakespeare's most beloved, it has been one of Shakespeare's least-produced comedies. The eighteenth-century critic Lewis Theobald, one of the first and most important editors of Shakespeare's works, actually expressed relief to be done with the whole ordeal of editing Love's Labour's Lost:
I have now done with this play, which in the main may be call'd a very bad one: and I have found it so very troublesome in the corruptions, that, I think, I may conclude with the old religious editors, Deo gratias! (The works of Shakespeare: in seven volumes. (1733))