Essay on The Character of Moth in Love's Labor's Lost

Essay on The Character of Moth in Love's Labor's Lost

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The Character of Moth in Love's Labor's Lost    


Like much of Love's Labor's Lost, the young character Moth is full of paradox. When Shakespeare has little Moth play great Hercules in the "Nine Worthies," the playwright offers humor in contrasting the physiques of the actor with his role, or as Armado puts it, Moth "is not quantity enough" (5.2.130) to play the Greek god. However, Shakespeare may also be using this contradiction to compare physical strength with mental. Although physical ability doesn't carry significance in Love's Labor's Lost, mental ability does, and Moth (mentally superior to his contemporaries) proves himself worthy of a high status. Using Moth as a Herculean figure is one of the most obvious paradoxes in the play, but there are others. Moth relies on rhetoric and integrity to show how true intellect comes from understanding people and not through scholarly displays.

       Moth, for the most part, gets the better of his fellow characters, especially the educated ones. In the initial conversation between Moth and his boss, Armado, the page's first reply to Armado's question shows common sense. Moth responds that a "great sign" (1.2.3) of melancholy is sadness. This statement, too simple for Armado to understand, both mocks and uses rhetoric. Moth defines a sad face as a great sign, implying that the greatness of the sign lies in its obviousness. By claiming that something as common as a sad face is "great," Moth treats rhetoric like a joke by giving an overly simplistic answer to a difficult and eloquent question. But at the same time, Moth uses rhetoric by shifting the definitions of words to make his point. Because a sad face is so visible, it is great in its degree. Like any rhetorician, Moth h...


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... is more. Moth, with integrity intact, passes through the "Nine Worthies" unscathed. The same can also be said for his role in Love's Labor's Lost.

       Moth successfully gets though the play without looking like a fool. He does this by relying on two things: integrity and common sense. Moth has learned to balance these two qualities, not through studying books, but through social interaction. Shakespeare uses Moth as an example of how true intellect works. True intellect is not the ability to speak Latin or write stylized poetry, but as Moth states, true intellect "is the way to make an offense gracious" (5.1.140). And whenever Moth deals with offensive characters, he always maintains his grace.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Love's Labor's Lost. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 208-46.

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