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Comedy of Errors

Written: c. 1594; Text: First Folio 1623 (Comedy), no quarto editions
SourceMenaechmi and Amphitruo by Plautus.
Characters: Antipholus of Syracuse, Adriana, Antipholus of Ephesus, Dromio of Syracuse, Egeon, Dromio of Ephesus, Luciana, Solinus
Setting: Ephesus
Time: Undetermined

Since translations of Plautus's plays do not appear until after the writing of Comedy of Errors, it is assumed that Shakespeare worked from the original Latin, which he probably read while at school. This play is diverse in its metrical styles, which is notable in Plautus's plays. Shakespeare heightened the farcical qualities of the Plautus plays by using two sets of twins. He also elevated its serious quality by adding the Aegeon subplot, which opens the play with tragedy and ends it happily. Shakespeare wrote a variation of this ending for Pericles Prince of Tyre.

Double Cherries and Drops of Water

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In A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Helena’s expression of love as a union that makes a couple one inseparable being —

We, Hermia, like two artificial gods,
Have with our needles created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
Both warbling of one song, both in one key,
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Love and Water

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The Comedy of Error’s concluding dialogue between Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse neatly ties up an underlying theme of this farce, that true love — brotherly, marital or other — renders the lovers indistinguishable, “Methinks you are my glass, and not my brother.” But this metaphor of the mirror at the end of the play is a shift from the similes of drops of water that recurred previously.
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Seasons, Elements and Humors

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The four seasons, the four elements and the four humors were all related. The four seasons spring, summer, autumn and winter paralleled the four humors blood/sanguine, yellow bile/choleric, phlegm/phlegmatic and black bile/melancholic, which in turn paralleled the four elements air, fire, water and earth. Good health and good disposition of character or personality were believed to be a matter of keeping one’s humors in proper balance.
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Keeping Adultery Hidden

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Whether in comedy or tragedy, Shakespeare’s characters advise the prudence of spouses, whether husbands or wives, of keeping their dalliances hidden. Luciana advises the man she thinks is her brother-in-law in Comedy of Errors to tell his wife, Luciano’s sister, nothing. Iago’s observation about the adulteries of Venetian women in Othello, is similar.
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He that commends me to mine own content

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He that commends me to mine own content,
Commends me to the thing I cannot get:
I to the world am like a drop of water,
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth
(Unseen, inquisitive), confounds himself.Simile

So I, to find a mother and a brother,
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Act 1
Scene 2
Line 33

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Love and Water

A man is master of his liberty

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A man is master of his liberty:
Time is their master, and when they see time,
They’ll go or come.
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Act 2
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Line 4

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Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season

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Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season,
When in the why and the whereforeAlliteration is neither rhyme nor reason?Alliteration
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Act 2
Scene 3
Line 50

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Seasons, Elements and Humors

It is thyself, mine own self’s better part

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It is thyself, mine own self’s better part:
Mine eye’s clear eye, my dear heart’s dearer heart,Anaphora and Antanaclasis

My food, my fortune, and my sweet hope’s aim,
My sole earth’s heaven, and my heaven’s claim.Anaphora and Anadiplosis

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Act 2
Scene 3
Line 66

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Love and Water

Marry, sir, by a rule as plain as the plain bald pate of Father Time

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Dromio of Syracuse
Marry, sir, by a rule as plain as the plain bald pate of Father Time himself.
Antipholus of Syracuse
Let’s hear it.
Dromio of Syracuse
There’s no time for a man to recover his hair that grows bald by nature.
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Act 2
Scene 3
Line 90

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The time was once, when thou unurg’d wouldst vow

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The time was onceHyperbaton when thou unurged wouldst vowAnastrophe
That never words were music to thine ear,
That never object pleasing in thine eye,
That never touch well welcome to thy hand,
That never meat sweet-savored in thy taste,Anaphora

Unless I spake, or looked,
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But here’s a villain that would face me down

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Antipholus Of Ephesus
But here’s a villain that would face me down
He met me on the mart, and that I beat him
And charged him with a thousand marks in gold,
And that I did deny my wife and house.—
Thou drunkard, thou, what didst thou mean by this?
Dromio of Ephesus
Say what you will,
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Act 3
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Go, fetch me something. I’ll break ope the gate.

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Antipholus of Ephesus
Go, fetch me something. I’ll break ope the gate.
Dromio of Syracuse, within
Break any breaking here, and I’ll break your knave’s pate.
Dromio of Ephesus
A man may break a word with you, sir, and words are but wind,
Ay, and break it in your face,
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Act 3
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Line 115

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And may it be that you have quite forgot

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And may it be that you have quite forgot
A husband’s office? Shall, Antipholus,
Even in the spring of love thy love-springs rot?
Shall love, in building,  grow so ruinous?
If you did wed my sister for her wealth,
Then for her wealth’s sake use her with more kindness.
Or if you like elsewhere, do it by stealth —
Muffle your false love with some show of blindness.
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Act 3
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Or if you like elsewhere, do it by stealth

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Or if you like elsewhere, do it by stealth,
Muffle your false love with some show of blindness:
Let not my sister read it in your eyeHyperbaton;
Be not thy tongue thy own shame’s oratorHyperbaton and Synecdoche:
Look sweet, speak fair, become disloyaltyIsocolon;
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Act 3
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Keeping Adultery Hidden