Comedy of Errors — Acts I, II, III
Editor’s Note (That’s me. I’m the writer, editor, producer, director, and sole responsible party of the following atrocity): I done messed this one up pretty bad. I read the entire play without knowing that two of the characters were actually four characters. Read all about it here in last week’s bloggy. Then, please enjoy laughing at my own, egregious comedy of errors.
For a comedy, it sure starts out inside a barrel of overly zealous monkeys!
This soggy dude named Aegon comes waltzing up to Duke Solinus and tells a harrowing story of how his ship was wrecked and his sons were killed in the disaster. At first it sounded like his wife had just given birth to twin boys and then a few hours later, some other woman gave birth to two boys as well. So I thought we were in for a romping good time with a mistaken identity show. But I must have read that wrong because the whole scene was filled with woe and sadness and I’m pretty sure Aegon’s sons are dead. Hilarious! Am I right?
Duke Solinus is moved by Aegon’s terrible tale and tells him that though it is not his people’s custom to do so, he will welcome Aegon into their town to enjoy himself for the remainder of the day. Swell. I must have most (if not all) of this wrong.
Antipholus of Syracuse is owed 1,000 marks by Dromio of Ephesus and they have a spat over it. How much is 1,000 marks, you ask? Approximately 4,240 conch shells.
I think Dromio calls Antipholus’ wife a whore. It just got saucy! Antipholus makes as if to beat Dromio but when he does not lower his fisticuffs, Dromio flees on his heels. Good show, Antipholus!
Antipholus speaks a quick soliloquy to himself about how the city is full of cheaters, scoundrels, thieves, and knaves. He decided to go find himself an honest banker. Good luck with that one, bro.
Adriana is a new character! She’s 100 percent Antipholus’ wife. That is self-evident in her first line:
Neither my husband nor the slave returned.
Based on my superior ability to pick up on context clues, I noted from the setting that we are in Antipholus’ home. Hence, the godlike deduction that Adriana is his missus. Boom nailed it. Is his slave the same Dromio who was playfully arguing with him at the end of Act I and claiming his wife a whore? Do tell, rest of play!
Also, she is discussing matters of her husband’s lateness with a woman named Luciana who may be her friend or a slave herself? Or literally any other class of person. Let’s find out.
A few lines down, Luciana calls Adriana her sister. I wonder what that could mean? Perhaps it is code for “pirate queen?”
I kid. Mostly.
Luciana is passionate in her ideas that man rules over woman, just as he rules over all the beasts and animals (which I believe are usually the same thing.) It is an archaic way of thinking, to be sure. But let’s not forget, this was 60,000 years ago, back when men were kings and ruled over every dominion. How dare any woman question a man’s whereabouts? He will return to his home when he is good and ready, and anything he is outside of his home is his business alone. This is Luciana’s standing.
You go girl?
Dromio returns and reports that Antipholus is still out and about, but to his whereabouts, he knows not. He does report that his master beat him though. So there’s that. Oh and he also gives word that Antipholus is “horn-mad” which I can only imagine means horny. Maybe you should not have disclosed that to his wife, you sop!
Wait, no I’m wrong. Horn-Mad means crazed as is further explained in the text. Not horny after all. My bad. Forget I ever mentioned it.
But for reals and for true, Dromio believes Antipholus has gone “horn-mad” because his master was going on about how Dromio owes him a thousand marks, which of course Dromio explains is absurd. Adriana sends Dromio to go and fetch her husband. The slave relents but has no choice in the matter and goes off to do her bidding.
The scene ends with Adriana decrying her lost beauty or some unknown factor that would keep Antipholus from loving her. It’s a powerful, affecting speech she gives and the sadness of it is not lost on this reader nor Luciana. At the end, Adriana’s sister comments:
How many fond fools serve mad jealousy!
Funny. Just when I thought I was getting a firmer grasp on the material, the play gets weirder. Dromio asks Antipholus repeatedly why his master beat him on the head. As far as I can tell, Antipholus never gives any satisfying answer. He does mention the thousand marks again but it seems like an unimportant matter and one that even now, Antipholus himself may be realizing is a non-thing. Peculiar.
The oddities pile on when the two men go at lengths to discuss the nature of why some men shave their hair bald. There’s a lot of fun wordplay in there and perhaps even some life lessons and good sentiments? But I won’t go into it here because I want to get further into the story. But don’t gloss over the balding! It’s good stuff.
Enter Adriana and Luciana.
Can I just interject here and say I love that this play only has four main characters?! So far anyway. It makes things much easier to groove to.
Ahh! I spoke too soon! The rest of Act II plays out in truly unpredictable fashion! Antipholus must be off his rocker because he recognizes his wife, Adriana, not. How come?? What’s going on? I don’t know but his slave isn’t helping matters at all. Dromio flat out denies that he himself has ever seen the lady Adriana and knows not what she speaks of when she claims she sent him to go and fetch her husband for dinner. What madness is this, Dromio? Are you defending your crazy master who beats you? To what end? And then why is Luciana mostly cool with it all? At first she calls Dromio a jerk (not in so many words, of course) for denying the truth, but then she proceeds to set the table for dinner and act like everything is hunky dory. Is it?? I don’t know, but I’m truly engaged and fascinated now.
Goodbye, fascination. Hello, perplexity!
For the majority of Scene i, Antipholus is banging on the door of his own home. From within, Dromio mocks him by not letting him inside. He still holds a sour feeling for his master since his beating. Right so.
The best part about this scene is the rhythmic rhyming structure. To read it is akin to the experience of a modern day rock opera, perhaps. Dueling voices from opposite sides of a door surely make for an entertaining staging.
There are new characters introduced in this scene but I care for them not. If they pop up later I’m sure I will regret putting them off now. Such is life.
The big question I have still remains: Did I get the first two Acts entirely wrong? There was madness afoot, was there not? I’m still sticking by my “Antipholus is straight up kooky dooks” theory.
Luciana starts in on Antipholus telling him if he wants to wed her sister (Adriana), he must be honest and honorable. So I guess they aren’t married, which kind of makes Act I a little clearer.
Hold that thought! Antipholus answers her saying Luciana is “no wife of mine” which is an odd reply to Luciana’s plea. She calls him out asking “What, are you mad?” So good, we’re back to this again.
What the deuce? He’s telling Luciana he loves her and she’s telling him to cut the crap and love her sister as he should.
She leaves and Dromio enters and he’s loopy. Antipholus greets him and Dromio says “Do you know me, sir?” He’s punch drunk in love, himself. Antipholus peels the name of the woman out of him. It is Nell, a kitchen wench. Dromio has a very endearing back and forth with Antipholus about how his love embodies all the countries of the world in her body. Antipholus asks, “Where Ireland? Where France? Where Spain?” etc. and he answers body parts where those countries are located. She is a large woman it seems, but the discourse and Dromio’s answers are more flattering in their depth.
Next, a guy named Angelo enters and I’m certain we’ve seen him before, though Antipholus doesn’t remember him. Angelo brings our hero (?) a chain and says it is for he and his wife, something Antipholus asked for. News to him. And me.
This play is bonkity bonkers, yo. We’ll finish this up next time.