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Sites about The Comedy of Errors

by William Shakespeare

Critical sites about The Comedy of Errors

The Comedy of Errors
“The shortest and most unified of all Shakespeare’s plays, The Comedy of Errors is regarded by many scholars as his very first, which I tend to doubt. It shows such skill, indeed mastery–in action, incipient character, and stagecraft–that it far outshines the three Henry VI plays and the rather lame comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona. It is true that in comedy Shakespeare was free to be himself from the start, whereas the shadow of Marlowe darkens the early histories (Richard III included) and Titus Andronicus. Yet, even granted Shakespeare’s comic genius, The Comedy of Errors does not read or play like apprentice work. It is a remarkably sophisticated elaboration of (and improvement upon) Plautus, the Roman comic dramatist whom most of our playgoers know through the musical adaptation A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Contains: Character Analysis
Author: Harold Bloom
From: Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human Chapter 1; Riverhead Books: 1998
The Madness of Syracusan Antipholus
“In The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare uses the possibility that Syracusan Antipholus is genuinely threatened by madness, and therefore death, to manipulate the audience’s anxieties. The character’s status as a wanderer newly disembarked from a ship draws on strong cultural associations between water, wandering, and insanity. Syracusan Antipholus himself makes these associations in several speeches. Unlike the parallel character in Plautus’s Menaechmi, Syracusan Antipholus fears that he is wandering mentally as well as physically. The character’s supernatural and natural explanations for his disturbed mental state draw on contemporary psychological ideas. One of these ideas lies behind the question he asks after a confusing encounter with Adriana: “What error drives our eyes and ears amiss?” On one level, the question suggests a possibility not thought of by other characters in the play: mistaken identity is responsible for their confusion. On another level, Syracusan Antipholus’s question suggests an actual disordering of the senses. Shakespeare here plays on ‘error’ as ‘fury’ or ‘extravagance of passion.’ In Elizabethan physical psychology, extreme passion–an upsurge from the lower regions of the psyche–destroys the higher faculties, producing “horrible and fearful apparitions.” If not corrected, this upsurge leads to madness and death. The Comedy of Errors thus touches on a genuine anxiety for the Elizabethan audience. This anxiety darkens the play’s entertaining confusions much as Egeon’s possible execution provides a dark frame for this generally light-hearted comedy.”
Contains: Character Analysis
Author: Robert Viking O’Brien
From: Early Modern Literary Studies 2.1 (1996): 3.1-26

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Last Updated Apr 29, 2013