The Fierce Endeavor of Your Wit: Living Art in Love's Labour's Lost
Like the poet of the Sonnets, the King of Navarre dreams of creating--in his own words--"living art." He opens Love's Labour's Lost with a spoken fiat, conjuring up a giddy hallucination of immortality:
Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live regist'red upon our brazen tombs,
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
Th' endeavor of this present breath may buy That honour which shall bate his scythe's keen edge,
And make us heirs of all eternity.
Therefore, brave conquerors--for so you are
That war against your own affections
And the huge army of the world's desires--
Our late edict shall strongly stand in force:
Navarre shall be the wonder of the world;
Our court shall be a little Academe,
Still and contemplative in living art.
This sudden decree dictates a repudiation of life in order to transform it into immortal "living art." Ostensibly the scholars will withdraw from the world and the vicissitudes of emotion, into a daily regimen as rigid and imperative as the rhetorical structure of the edict itself. Mind will reign over all existence, determined to abolish all change and threats to its control by cultivating "still and contemplative" isolation. The courtiers will re-create themselves as "heirs of all eternity," destroying their old mortal selves in a "war against your own affections" and "the world's desires."