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MonkeyNotes-The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
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Themes

The main theme of The Comedy of Errors is the issue of appearance versus reality, revolving around the situation of mistaken identities. While Shakespeare's work is too rich and complex to be reduced to any single idea, most of the action in this play results from the idea of mistaken identity. Shakespeare is certainly issuing caution about quick judgments based upon appearance alone. If any of the characters had made the effort to find the reality underneath the appearance, the confusion and disorder of the play would have been prevented.


In Shakespeare's time, the idea of 'man' was one that saw him as contiguous (unified) with nature, but at the highest development. Man's innate superiority was validated on the basis of several arguments, including him being the chief of God's creations, the only animal with the ability to think, and the only form of being with a moral sense. Man's identity, therefore, was assumed to be fixed. It is this notion that The Comedy of Errors challenges. Shakespeare shows how identity is almost entirely socially determined and based on context. When taken out of context, the Antipholus twins are like fish out of water. They display anxiety, frustration, and anger when the other characters refuse to believe their identity or reach mistaken conclusions about them. But the reality is that their identity is not fixed, and people assume their identity by how they appear.

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MonkeyNotes-The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

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