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Comedy of Errors

Shakespeare’s Play Comedy of Errors is one of a series of his plays in which mistaken identity, hidden identity and/or confusing plot twists build until the climax of the play, when, in every case, all’s well that ends well.  In ancient Greece, Shakespeare provides two sets of identical twins; separated in infancy, wind up in the same town, unaware of the other’s existence.  It is supposed that The Comedy of Errors was Shakespeare’s first play.  Most writers are forgiven for their early work in the light of mature masterpieces, but Shakespeare has added an element of humanism to the plot, lifting the play above mere farce.

Comedy of Errors

There are two speeches (among many) that inject a serious, human tone into the play.  The first I have chosen to examine is Egeon’s opening story to the Duke (Act I, Scene 1), explaining why he has come to Ephesus on the pain of death.  “A heavier task could not have been impos’d/Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable!” he laments.  Shakespeare injects this speech, mostly to provide plot background, but also to set up one of the major themes of the play—love.  Egeon has an undying love for his missing wife, and grieves for the son he has never known.  He has sought them out for the last five years, searching for them “through the bounds of Asia.”  Amidst this confusion of identities, with the threat of death hanging over the various characters, true love will win out in the end. 

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