Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Comedy of Errors (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback by William Shakespeare (Author), Sylvan Barnet (Editor), Harry Levin (Editor)(Signet)

This is definitely one of the more mad-cap of the comedies, outrageous in what it expects us to accept and presenting some serious difficulties in staging.

A wealthy woman gives birth to identical twins. She and her husband think it would be cute to have identical twins of the same age to act as the boys’ servants, so they “purchase” a set of identical twins from an underclass family, and the rich boys now have identical twin servants.

The family is on a ship in a storm and it is clear the ship will go down. They decide to try to save their children, and they put them into some sort of contraption that might get them to shore. Their mother goes with them, but in the process the mother and one set (child and servant) end up with the mother and the other two are separated and assumed dead. Eventually they survive, but in a mistake only one set of names survive and both boys are called Antipholus and both servant boys are named Dromio.

Eventually the mother, her one son and his servant end up in Ephesus. The other two boys end up in Corinth, but eventually make their way back to Syracuse.
The play then jumps ahead about 30 or more years. In the interim Syracuse and Ephesus have had a terrible war and the concluded peace demands that if anyone from one of those countries enters the other’s country he must have adequate gold to put up to prove his good and peaceful intentions. Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Syracuse travel to Ephesus as part of a search for his missing mother and brother. They have such funds for their safeguard, but another Syracusean resident doesn’t. He hopes to rely on Antipholus to help him and he agrees.

They soon part, Antipholus sending Dromio back to the hotel where they are staying with the money, and they are to meet later. However, when they meet, it is not his servant Dromio of Syracuse he meets, but the identical twin, Dromio of Ephesus. Thus begins the hilarious and marvelous confusions as the four principals keep meeting, but each time it is one from one country and one from the other and enormous confusion ensues.

It is even complicated since Dromio of Ephesus brings Antiochus of Syracuse “home” to his wife, and he, not knowing her at all falls in love with her sister!

Lots of fun and confusion, but, of course, it all ends happily ever aftering!!! And not only the two sets of twins are united, but their mother and father as well.

What puzzles me is how does one stage the play, since it is essential that we in the audience realize that Antiochus of one country is meeting with Dromio of the other and so on, but neither of them can realize this. So, differences of dress would seem to be too obvious for them to miss. Hmmmm. How is that handled in the staging? From what I gather, a single costume serves twin characters and the audience just knows by the dialogue who is who and the people in the play never notice the identical DRESS of the two pairs.

Despite the silliness of the plot it is a funny and quite enjoyable play.

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