I will fast being loose: gaming and sexual conquest in Love's Labour's Lost

Edited book (chapter)

Timbrell, Daniel. 2010. "I will fast being loose: gaming and sexual conquest in Love's Labour's Lost." Chalk, Darryl and Johnson, Laurie (ed.) Rapt in secret studies: emerging Shakespeares. Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 49-70
Chapter Title

I will fast being loose: gaming and sexual conquest in Love's Labour's Lost

Book Chapter CategoryEdited book (chapter)
ERA Publisher ID1417
Book TitleRapt in secret studies: emerging Shakespeares
AuthorTimbrell, Daniel
EditorsChalk, Darryl and Johnson, Laurie
Page Range49-70
Chapter Number3
Number of Pages22
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Place of PublicationNewcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom

Among the numerous meanings ascribed in early modern England to 'rapt', one obsolete definition is that of a rape. Analogous to the common explanation of someone being 'carried or removed from one situation ... to another' (OED 6a) or 'transported with some emotion' (3), a 'rapt' woman had been 'carried away by force'(5) to be 'ravished' (2b). Such a definition not only conceptualises rape as conquest (the woman will be carried or transported against her will to become subject to the power of he who has 'conquered' her), it highlights the wide-ranging applicability of 'conquest' as a metaphor for numerous practices within
Renaissance society that involved concepts of dominance and submission, alongside an all-consuming desire to stand victorious over a fallen opponent. Competitive gameplay echoes markedly equivalent concepts, not simply in its focus upon victory and the subsequent requirement to label its practitioners as either triumphant or defeated, but in the violence implied through such imagery. The parallel is of especial interest when considering the gaming references in Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost (hereafter abbreviated to LLL), particularly in regards to the old cheating trick 'Fast-and-Loose'.

The contention of this chapter is that the games and gaming references in LLL provide a means by which to examine both the importance that the characters attach to sexual conquest and, furthermore, the culturally appropriate way in which such triumphs are to be obtained. In particular, the primary focus of this essay will be upon the obsolete cheating trick 'Fast-and-Loose', and the critical role it assumes within a play that is suffused with metaphorical sexual violence and conquest. Indeed, this pastime mirrors the actions and motivations of the characters to the degree
that the play itself may be analogised as one giant game of 'Fast-and-Loose', in which the characters must either dominate their opponents or be dominated by them; an atmosphere that additionally serves to warrant an analysis of both the language of archery and the act of hunting as they appear throughout the play. The potential for the Renaissance male to achieve sexual conquest, through seduction and/or marriage, and therefore be considered a truly masculine male was directly proportional to his capacity for aggressive sexuality. Furthermore, such a skill was directly related to his appetite for conquest in general, including (as previously mentioned) competitive gaming. By comparison, the failure of the aristocratic men in LLL to succeed at the metaphorical game of 'Fast-and-Loose' being played around them is emblematic of an essential lack of proper masculinity. Through pursuing an academe that must necessarily eschew hospitality to the Princess of France, and swearing oaths that are impossible to logically keep, the King of Navarre and his men display both their foolishness and their deficiencies in masculine status-an impression subsequently reinforced over the length of the play. Vacillating between frustration at the strictures of their oaths and unsuccessful attempts to evade the consequences of them, the men quite simply appear to take leave of their senses. Rather than conquering and dominating the women, their lack of masculinity leaves them as easy prey to be conquered and, consequently, become 'rapt' in the Princess and her ladies - an outcome revealed by the play's ending. Upon the news of the death of the King of France, the Princess and her ladies plan to return home immediately, but not before informing the male characters that any potential marriages will be delayed for at least a year. A more positive outcome for such men would be impossible. Such an analysis is a continuation of the previous critical history on LLL, where initial opinions of the play as a lesser effort by a playwright still trying to find his voice have slowly morphed to admiration for its facility with language, as well as numerous attempts to explain an ending that is viewed more as interruption than conclusion.

KeywordsLove's Labour Lost; Fast-and-Loose
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020470504. British and Irish literature
360403. Drama, theatre and performance studies
470411. Sociolinguistics
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Byline AffiliationsSchool of Humanities and Communication
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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When I am in game, I am furious: gaming and sexual conquest in early modern English drama
Timbrell, Daniel. 2010. When I am in game, I am furious: gaming and sexual conquest in early modern English drama. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.