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Act IV, Scene 3
This scene opens with a soliloquy by Antipholus of Syracuse, who reflects in the bizarre incidents that have been occurring. He concludes that "these are but imaginary wiles, and Lapland sorcerers inhabit here." To add confusion to his already confused state, Dromio of Syracuse arrives on the scene with the gold that Antipholus of Ephesus has sent for. When Dromio is questioned by his master about the gold, he answers in seeming riddles. Antipholus of Syracuse is completely ignorant about the arrest, the bail, the information about the departure of the Expedition, and the ship that is to sail from Ephesus. Thoroughly puzzled, Antipholus can only hazard a guess and decides that Dromio has gone crazy: "The fellow is distract, and so am I, and here we wander in illusions. Some blessed power deliver us from hence!"
Antipholus' confusion is intensified again when the courtesan enters and says, "Well met, well met, master Antipholus," and asks him to give her the promised chain, which he is wearing around his neck. His confusions have reached their peak, and he decides that she is the devil personified. He tells her, "Satan avoid, I charge thee tempt me not." He then departs with Dromio.
Astounded by his behavior, the courtesan reasons, "Now out of doubt Antipholus is mad,"and decides on a course of action. She heads towards the Phoenix to inform Adriana that her husband is insane. Since she has not received the promised gold chain, she also plans to tell Adriana a lie, that Antipholus has stolen a ring worth forty ducats. She hopes that Adriana will somehow compensate her loss, which she justifies she deserves since she is cheated out of the necklace.
Antipholus of Syracuse has had his suspicions about Ephesus since Act I. At first, he thinks there is a genial magic about that makes everyone give him a kind reception even though he is an unknown. In this scene, he decides the city is the evil seat of occult, and that sorcery and black magic have stolen his identity. When the courtesan enters to confound him further, he decides she is Satan personified and orders her to leave him alone, words that reflect Christ's commandment to the devil in the desert.
The seriousness of the mood is also conveyed through Antipholus' stubborn refusal to jest with Dromio, who is testing his master to see whether the ignorance of the arrest is actually feigned. Antipholus decides his servant has gone mad. Ironically, the courtesan also assumes that Antipholus is mad and rushes off to share this information with Adriana. When identities are confused and lost, madness is the result.
The errors up to this point have been those of genuine and honest misunderstanding. When the courtesan decides to support what she believes is true (that Antipholus is insane), with a deliberate lie (that he stole her ring), she will serve as the trigger to a violent eruption in the breakdown of normal order. Her dishonest means hint at the possibility of the devil at work in her.