The Comedy of Errors

Questions of interest

Here are some questions to promote in-depth discussion about The Comedy of Errors. These are best explored post-study of the play.

  • Just like Romeo and Juliet, The Comedy of Errors features a feud between two groups of people. The Ephesians and the Syracusans are at odds and Egeon’s life is at risk because of the feud. What role does the feud play throughout the story?  
  • Does the threat remain palpable, or does it lessen as the story goes on? 
  • What do you think is the reason that the character of Egeon appears only in the beginning and the end of the play? 
  • What changes in the relationship between Adriana and her husband by the end of the play? What do you think they have learned about themselves an about each other? 
  • Does The Comedy of Errors seem like the work of an amateur? How does this play differ from Shakespeare’s other comedies? Does it seem like a sketch of any other play, like Twelfth Night or Pericles? What do you really think Shakespeare was trying to achieve with this work? 
  • Why does Antipholus of Syracuse seem so content to abandon his father to go looking for his mother and brother? He seems to be leaving a sure family connection to chase after a slim chance. Is his journey really about finding his lost family members, or is there something greater or graver at work? Can Antipholus of Syracuse’s self-proclaimed isolation be explained by anything beyond his lost family? Is there a sense that his isolation is over at the play’s resolution? 
  • What role do the Dromios play? They seem much abused by both Antipholuses, but they also provide camaraderie to the men. It’s curious that Egeon and Aemilia chose to separate the boys during the shipwreck, rather than keep them in their biological pairs. Does Shakespeare just do it this way to keep the plot afloat, or can it be argued that the boys’ attendants actually serve another important role in the play? 
  • Adriana and Luciana seem to provide two sides of marriage – with Adriana seemingly (even if only occasionally and unintentionally) shrewish, and Luciana playing the patron saint of patience-in-marriage. Is Luciana’s portrayal realistic? Are the women of the play fleshed out characters, or do they really only play a proxy to different discussions of what marriage means? 
  • What role does the supernatural play in The Comedy of Errors? Is it a viable explanation for all of the misunderstandings, or just a plot device to explain them away while the comedy is getting resolved? How does this prevalence of the supernatural mesh with the Christian notions in the play, like St. Paul’s vision of marriage, the Courtesan’s presence as a devil, and Antipholus of Syracuse’s Christian quest to find his inner self? How does Shakespeare deal with these anachronisms of having Christian values and modes present in the pre-Christian era? Does he deal with it, or simply gloss over it? Does this work to make the play even more incredible, or does it merely fit the fairy-tale trope of suspension of disbelief? 

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