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Spring and Winter in Love's Labor's Lost: An Iconographie Reconstruction Frederick Kiefer ? The concluding speeches of Love's Labor's Lost present a puzzle, for neither the 1598 Quarto nor the 1623 Folio indicates speech prefixes for the songs of Spring and Winter. And since we do not know the identity of the speakers, or singers, we also do not know what the actors looked like. Were they represented on Shakespeare's stage as male or female? Young or old? How were they costumed? And what hand props may they have brought onto stage? Modem editors have for the most part sidestepped these questions, though some have conjectured the singers' identities. John Kerrigan, noting Armado's query—"will you hear the dialogue that the two learned men have compiled in praise of the owl and the cuckoo?" (V.ii.885-87)'—identifies the singers as "Holofernes and Nathaniel. No doubt the pair take the parts of the owl and the cuckoo in the dialogue which follows."2 G. R. Hibbard is only a little less certain: "Since no entry is provided for either Spring or Winter, these parts may have been represented by Sir Nathaniel and Holofernes."3 These views are perfectly plausible. It is not illogical to suppose that the makers of the songs should give them voice. The songs are so brief, moreover , that they hardly warrant the introduction of actors who are not already in the cast. Productions of Shakespeare's comedy, however, rarely follow the suggestions of editors. As Hibbard notes, "Most directors have preferred to hand these lyrics over to the rustics, but there have been occasions when the entire cast has joined in."4 The recent performance history of Love's Labor's Lost reveals an almost bewildering variety in the presentation of the songs. In 91 92Spring and Winter in Love's Labor's Lost John Barton's Royal Shakespeare Company production of 1965, villagers recited—rather than sang—in front of wicker figures representing a cuckoo and an owl. David Jones, directing the RSC production of 1973, gave Spring's song to Nathaniel, while an unnamed villager sang Winter's. In John Barton's 1978 production for the RSC, Nathaniel, his head adorned with a green laurel wreath, held a glove puppet of a cuckoo during the song, while Holofernes, wearing a brown and red wreath, held the glove puppet of an owl. In Barry Kyle's 1984 staging for the RSC, Spring was represented by Jaquenetta, Winter by other villagers . And in the BBC production, directed by Elijah Moshinsky and telecast in 1985, a woman dressed in yellow sang Spring's song, while another woman, in gray, sang Winter's. We can never know, of course, how closely any of these stagings resembles Shakespeare's unless a sketch akin to Henry Peacham's rendering of Titus Andronicus in performance were to come to light. Nevertheless, in the belief that conjecture may prove fruitful, I should like to suggest that Shakespeare was inspired by the representation of the seasons in the pictorial arts of his time. Popular subjects, the seasons were depicted in paintings , tapestries, woodcuts, etchings, and engravings. The last three categories are the most useful for my purposes, for many more people had an opportunity to see prints than ever had a chance to view a particular painting or tapestry. Since woodcuts, etchings, and engravings were relatively easy to produce, convenient to transport, and inexpensive to purchase, they were both plentiful and widely dispersed in Renaissance Europe.5 Prints of the seasons, which typically appeared as sets of four, allow us to see how Shakespeare's contemporaries commonly envisioned Spring and Winter. II Perhaps the most iconographically interesting pictures of the seasons are those depicting a triumphal chariot, or wagon. Typically , a personification of the season rides in the wagon, surrounded by other symbolic figures. For example, the Dutch Monogrammist AP, who worked about 1536-37, presents Spring as a woman standing atop a wagon and holding a basket of flowers (fig. 1). Around the wagon appear mostly classical figures, including Apollo, the Nine Muses, Orpheus, Pan, and Dionysus. And participants hold aloft banners with symbols of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 91-107
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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