Discover when Love's Labour's Lost was written and the sources Shakespeare may have used.
Love's Labour's Lost was written before 1598 – the first Quarto edition of that year refers to the play being 'presented before her Highness [Queen Elizabeth] this last Christmas'. A poem by Robert Tofte in 1598 also refers to a performance seen in a theatre. Stylistically similar to A Midsummer Night's Dream and other lyrical plays, most scholars date the composition to 1595-96.
Unusually, Love's Labour's Lost seems to have no principal literary source, though draws in many aspects of literary culture of the early 1590s. The idea of four courtiers retreating from everyday life to engage in academic reflection may have been inspired by Pierre de la Primaudaye's The French Academy (English translation in 1586). The pageants within the play – the Muscovites, the Nine Worthies, the Owl and the Cuckoo – all derive from the tradition of royal entertainments and progresses of the time.