Errors: A Play Filled with Them
I’ve come to the last Shakespeare comedy I’ll read for a while. Depending on how you count them, I have about three more comedies to do later. But for now, The Comedy of Errors is a good place to take a break from comedy as it is first and foremost funny—relatively superficial, farcical and “slapstickish.” It was one of Shakespeare’s earliest and most conventional plays, and his shortest. It has only one story line and follows it through confusion, mistaken identities, misunderstandings to a happy, love-filled, obvious-from-the-beginning end. It’s just a simple, fun play.
I believe it’s the sole Shakespeare play I’ve read so far that mentioned football (soccer) when Dromio of Ephesus comments, “Am I so round with you, as you with me, that like a football you do spurn me thus? You spurn me hence, and he will spurn me hither: If I last in this service you must case me in leather.” I didn’t know football was that old, and while modern football may only date to the 1800s, ancient forms predate Shakespeare by more than a millennium.
There were some bothersome aspects of the play: abusive laws, slavery, constant beatings, a mistreated wife and an unfaithful husband, but don’t mind those: This is comedy.
The words that came to my mind as I read the play were inspired by the story that frames the play: constancy, perseverance, and loyalty.
Quotes from The Comedy of Errors that appealed to me
Adriana: A wretched soul, bruis’d with adversity, we bid be quiet when we hear it cry; but were we burden’d with like weight of pain, as much, or more, we should ourselves complain….
Luciana: Self-harming jealousy!–fie, beat it hence. …How many fond fools serve mad jealousy!
Dromio of Syracuse: …Every why hath a wherefore…. Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season, when in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason?
Balthazar: …Slander lives upon succession, for ever hous’d where it once gets possession.
Next Up (if you’re reading along): I’m skipping over to the histories and first up is King John.