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Act II, Scene 1
The first scene of Act II opens in medias res (in the middle of the action) with Adriana and Luciana in the middle of an ongoing conversation. Adriana is fretting because her husband Antipholus has not returned. Neither has the slave that she has sent to find him. Luciana, in turn, tries to pacify her sister by suggesting various possibilities that could be delaying Antipholus.
The conversation then turns to a discussion about the rights and duties of men and women. As each sister presents her argument, it turns into a discourse on love. Just then, Dromio of Ephesus enters in a state of bewilderment. On being asked whether his master has been summoned, Dromio tells, in an exaggerated manner, about Antipholus' incomprehensible behavior. He reports that Antipholus claims to have no house and no wife in Ephesus, words that truly anger Adriana.
Dromio departs, and Adriana resumes her complaining; Luciana warns her about the imprudence of "self-harming jealousy." Luciana also declares that "a man is master of his liberty". Adriana questions the fairness of that by asking, "Why should their liberty than ours be more?" Luciana then reminds her sister that men are also masters of their wives, the conventional idea about marriage in earlier times. Adriana scoffs at her ideas since she is not even married.
Like the previous scene, this one also opens with a mood of tension. Adriana is very upset that her husband has not come home for dinner. She discusses the situation with her sister Luciana, and they argue about the proper male role. The scene receives comic relief with the entry of Ephesian Dromio, who has just come from his strange encounter with Antipholus. The dialogue that ensues between Adriana and the attendant is humorous for the audience and the reader, for they understand the mistaken identity; Adriana, however, is only agitated more by the servant's report.
The humor is heightened by Dromio's exaggeration and natural wit; he deliberately misunderstands words and turns them into puns. The affect of his conversation is to add further confusion to the play.
The question of harmony, or the lack of it, is a recurring theme in all of Shakespeare's comedies. In The Comedy of Errors, men and women, husband and wives, masters and slaves are all seen in images of disharmony. Antipholus is distrusting of his attendant and cuffs him about the head (even though it is the wrong Dromio). Adriana is perturbed with the absence of her husband and openly complains to her sister about the liberties that men take. As the play progresses and the mistaken identities causes further confusion, the disharmony amongst characters grows more intense until the climax occurs.