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MonkeyNotes-The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
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Act I, Scene 2

On the same day, another inhabitant of Syracuse arrives in Ephesus. He is Antipholus, the twin son who has lived with Egeon until age eighteen; along with him is Dromio, his attendant. Upon his arrival, Antipholus is informed of the danger of revealing his native place; therefore, he poses as a merchant from Epidamnum. He then tells Dromio to take his money to the Centaur, the inn where he plans to lodge, and tells him to remain there until dinnertime.

Immediately after Dromio of Syracuse departs, Ephesian Dromio enters. It is from this point in the play that the confusion begins. Dromio of Ephesus mistakes the Syracusean Antipholus for his master, while Antipholus mistakes this Dromio to be his own attendant. Dromio pleads with Antipholus to come home to his awaiting mistress for dinner, and Antipholus asks Dromio what he has done with the money entrusted to him. Dromio claims to know nothing about the money and insists that his master come home to dinner. Antipholus, believing his attendant to be jesting, loses patience with him. As a result, he beats him and chases him away.


Notes

The opening lines of this scene continue the mood of tension and gloom set in the first scene. Antipholus of Syracuse is despondent about not finding his mother and brother. His tense mood is heightened upon his arrival in Ephesus. He is immediately warned to conceal his identity, ironic advice for a man whose identity will be in question throughout the entire play. But the audience (and reader) is reminded again of the animosity between the cities of Ephesus and Syracuse. During the course of the scene, the gloomy mood is dispelled and replaced with the humor found in the conversation between Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus. Both men think they are talking to someone else, Dromio to his real master and Antipholus to his own attendant.

This scene also adds the element of irony. Antipholus states that "I will go lose myself, and wander up and down to view the city." The word "lose" in this context carries several meanings. "Lose" denotes a sense of "losing one's wits," which happens in the play when the characters lose their identities and feel they are going crazy. "Lose" also implies a carefree sort of evening, which is totally the opposite of what actually happens in the next few hours.

Antipholus of Syracuse reveals his identity by confessing his motive for the journey; he is seeking his mother and brother from whom he has long been separated. At the same time, he is seeking his own identity. Ironically, Ephesus provides him with a confusion of identity; he is repeatedly mistaken for his brother, and only at the end of the play is his own identity restored to him.

Apart from having lost his identity, Antipholus of Syracuse also seems to have lost his financial security. He is worried about the safety of his money and sends his attendant Dromio off to the inn to deposit his funds for safekeeping. When the Ephesian Dromio enters, Antipholus questions him about the cash and is quite perturbed that the attendant "pretends" to know nothing about it. It is certain that his servant has stolen his money. He thinks the town of Ephesus is responsible for the strange happenings. He has heard that it is a city filled with dishonesty and intrigues and envisions "dart-working sorcerers that change the mind, soul-killing witches that deform the body, disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks, and many such-like liberties of sin."

To the Elizabethan audience, such an association of magic with Ephesus would have been common and acceptable. The comedy arises out of the fact that, contrary to what Antipholus believes, it is not witchcraft or magic that is responsible for the loss of his money. The real conflict is the confusion arising out of mistaken identity.

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MonkeyNotes-The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

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