There is nothing in which people more betray their character, Goethe observed, than in what they laugh at. The conclusion of Shakespeares Loves Labours Lost stages a delightfully selfreflexive deferral of the comic pleasures and resolutions proper to a comedy of courtship. Instead of festive nuptials, the ladies impose a year of lenten austerity to purge their suitors of a surfeit of wit. To be cured of his excessive jesting Biron is ordered to jest a twelvemonth in a hospital (too long for a play, he complains) and move wild laughter in the throat of death. It cannot be he remonstrates. Mirth cannot move a soul in agony.