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Love's Labour's Lost
by William Shakespeare

I have been on something of a Shakespeare comedy jag over the
past months; I laughed all the way from Columbus, Ohio, to New York
a few weeks ago, reading Love's Labor's Lost. I had read As You
Like It
just before 9/11, and had a dream one night after that day
that I was in the Forest of Arden with its population of clowns and
witty young women picking cowslips. I felt entirely exalted until I
woke up with the memory of the smoke and horror of the terrorist
attack, and the sense that the comedy somehow distilled the world we
had lost. So I read it again to keep the joy of the dream alive. And
since then I have been going through the comedies whenever I need a
happiness fix. I would love to have been part of the audience
Shakespeare had in mind when he wrote Love's Labor's Lost. There
are, in effect, two teams of extravagant talkers--the King of
Navarre and his courtiers on one side, the Princess of France with
her ladies on the other. The King and his followers have just taken
an oath to forswear contact with women for three years when the
Princess comes on some diplomatic mission; the four males fall
immediately in love with the four females, for whom they are no
match in the game of zinging witticisms past one another's ears.

Shakespeare's audience had to be able to disentangle quadruple
puns as the lines flew back and forth. It is a comedy in which, as
one of the male characters remarks, "Jack does not get his Jill."
Everyone has to take a respite of a year and a day before they will
be ready to face one another again.

I met a real life Jill not long ago--Jill Davis--who has just
published a comic novel called Girl's Poker Night. Her book too
has a team of daunting women, pessimistically looking for love. Her
heroine, Ruby Capote, might well have made good material for the
Princess of France's team of ladies who use language as a blood
sport, though mostly she talks to the reader, since the males are
more or less hopeless. In the end she opts for happiness with a man
who is far from good enough for her. But--as she observes--"Happy
endings are not for cowards."

Here, for those who frown on such light reading for these heavy
times, is a word from Hegel:

"The modern world has developed a type of comedy which is truly
comical and truly poetic. The keynote is good humor, assured and
careless gaiety, despite all failure and misfortune, exuberance and
the audacity of a fundamentally happy craziness, folly, and
idiosyncrasy in general."

Great Britain grants a homeland to the homeless Jews.

Langston Hughes on the real Harlem renaissance.

Sen. Ted Kennedy has passed away at the age of 77. This 2002 Nation profile by the late Jack Newfield captures the essence of what this legend meant to the progressive movement.

Now that women have the vote, what will they do with it?

Why he won't be voting in 1956.

From 1961 to 1966, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. wrote an annual essay for The Nation on the state of civil rights and race relations in America. In 1965, he wrote about the power of demonstrations and "legislation written in the streets."

Two books on modern policing and the racial dynamics that go with it.

Patricia Highsmith was a master writer of crime and suspense.

The creation of the atom bomb is the greatest revolution ever accomplished in science--and unquestionably the most frightening.

Blogs

“Have you a city that smells worse than Akron?”

July 11, 2014

Margaret Sanger and Charlotte Perkins Gilman and John Dewey, oh my!

July 10, 2014

The politicians were happy, if nobody else.

July 1, 2014

Early warnings of an American policy in thrall to the Israeli right.

July 1, 2014

The Nation’s predictive capacities were pretty mixed.

June 28, 2014

The justices didn’t quote Christian Parenti, but they should have.

June 25, 2014

There is a model for Dick Cheney’s belief that when it comes to being greeted as liberators, second time’s a charm.

June 18, 2014

The first modern war created the modern Nation.

June 16, 2014

A dispatch from the House of Representatives, June 6, 1944.

June 6, 2014

The hateful commentary about the soldier’s return is motivated by fear of what his so-called desertion reveals.

June 5, 2014