‘A Romantic Musical Comedy’ for the Fin-de-Siecle: Branagh’s ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’

Penny Gay


Kenneth Branagh is seen as the maker and star of such popular and relatively straightforward period-set Shakespeare films as Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet. But the general public did not flock to see Love’s Labour’s Lost, a Shakespeare play that many had never heard of (and that also sounded somewhat eccentric), so the DVD languishes on the art-house shelves. Nonetheless, after ten years it may be time to reconsider Branagh’s film and the work it does towards his oft-stated aim of making Shakespeare’s plays available to general audiences, and its manner of achieving this through embracing a postmodern aesthetic. If it was to please neither Shakespearean nor postmodern purists, this paper argues that Love’s Labour’s Lost has much to offer not only to a less censorious audience, but also to a critical understanding of the genre of romance.

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