Shakespeare, Elizabeth and Ivan

The Role of English-Russian Relations in Love’s Labours Lost

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About the Book

Shakespeare’s comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost has perplexed scholars and theatergoers for over 400 years due to its linguistic complexity, obscure topical allusions and decidedly non-comedic ending. According to traditional interpretations, it is Shakespeare’s “French” play, based on events and characters from the French Wars of Religion.
This work argues that the play’s French surface conceals a Russian core. It outlines an interpretation of Love’s Labour’s Lost rooted in diplomatic and trade relations between Russia and Elizabethan England during the dramatic decades following England’s discovery of a northern trade route to Muscovy in 1553. Drawing on original research of 16th-century sources in English, Latin and French, the text also surveys Russian sources previously unavailable in translation. This analysis provides new explanations for some of the play’s previously most enigmatic elements, such as its unconventional ending, the significance of its secondary characters, linguistic anomalies and the Masque of the Muscovites itself.

About the Author(s)

Rima Greenhill is a senior lecturer in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Stanford University.

Bibliographic Details

Rima Greenhill
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Bibliographic Info: ca. 25 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8482-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4800-2
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Greenhill has rediscovered a remarkable and consequential original context for one of Shakespeare’s most enigmatic and difficult plays.”—Roger Stritmatter, professor of humanities, Coppin State University

• “Love’s Labours Lost is filled with puzzles and lost in-jokes, until now, with the author having discovered the key: insider Elizabethan court knowledge within the further context of 16th-century Anglo-Russian diplomatic relations. The author’s comprehension of the entire history of the scholarship, criticism, and theater history concerning the play, and of Russian history and language, is detailed and thorough. This work thus solves a 400-year-old problem.”—Michael Delahoyde, professor of English, Washington State University