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MonkeyNotes-The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
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THEMES

Major Themes

The dominant theme in The Comedy of Errors is appearance vs. reality. When the two Antipholus and the two Dromios wind up in the same town, what appears to be true is usually false. The mistaken identities produce a comedy of errors.

Since identity is equated with individuality or being, the loss of identity is the loss of self. Shakespeare picks up on the thread of individuality and exploits it so as to display the consequences of the inversion of identity. Shakespeare also explores the humanist postulate of man being the arbiter of his own individuality. While Shakespeare is a humanist in many ways, he does not see man as totally in control of his destiny. In The Comedy of Errors, fate (also known as accident or chance) plays a key role. In fact, all the events in the play, (and even the events that have occurred before the action of the play commences) are a result of chance occurrences. They point to histories and identities, individual and social, being decided by forces larger than individuals and beyond complete understanding.

In spite of the importance of fate to the play, Shakespeare's vision of the cosmos in The Comedy of Errors is not bleak at all. The developments in the play lead to a resolution which points to a deeply held underlying conviction of a favorable sense of order to the universe, reflected in the final restoration of social order. Parallel to this, of course, is the idea that individuals cannot be presumptuous enough to suppose to fully know what this order is or how it is determined.


Minor Themes

Love as it should be and love as it must not be have always been Shakespeare's preoccupations. Here, through a technique of contrast, Shakespeare highlights the essence of true love; as he shows up the jealousies, suspicions and possessiveness of Adriana's love for her husband, which is paralleled in her kitchen maid's love for her husband. This is contrasted with the half-crazed confession of love that Antipholus of Syracuse makes to Luciana. All of these love affairs are drawn against the enduring love of Egeon and Emilia.

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MOOD

The mood of the play varies. The opening scene seems gloomy and heavy and could very easily be the beginning of a tragedy. However, the mood changes in the very next scene, continuing in the same vein until the last act. Chaos is portrayed in the middle scenes of the play, and that chaos leads to a mood that is almost electrically charged with tension. The last act sees dissolution of the tension, and the play ends on a note of merriment and light- heartedness.

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