restricted access “Concolinel”: Moth’s Lost Song Recovered?

In Love’s Labor’s Lost, Moth’s nonsensical reply to Don Armado’s direction to “Warble” is a single word: “Concolinel.” Since the scene (Act 3, scene 1) begins with the word “Song,” Moth’s response seems to stand for a vocal piece of some sort, but what exactly is not clear. Identical in both quarto (1598) and First Folio editions of the play, the “Concolinel” puzzle has confounded commentators for centuries, and interpretations for the word Concolinel have been suggested in various languages, including Italian, French, and Gaelic. This article proposes that “Concolinel” is a mistranscription of “Qvand Colinet,” a popular French song first anthologized in 1602. The close coincidence of the publication dates of the French chanson and the quarto of Love’s Labor’s Lost, the aptness for the situation in the play, and certain textual associations help to confirm the connection. Moreover, clues to the song’s original tune lead to a period melody that sets the lyric quite satisfactorily and that may have provided the original setting.