What’s it all about?:
The Comedy of Errors tells the story of two sets of identical twins that were accidentally separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, arrive in Ephesus, which just so happens to be the home of their twin brothers, Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus. On encountering the friends and families of their twins, a series of wild mishaps ensues, based on mistaken identities, leading to wrongful beatings, a near-seduction, the arrest of Antipholus of Ephesus, and false accusations of infidelity, theft, madness and even demonic posssession. This play has been popular on the stage during the last three centuries and has proved itself admirable suited to adaptation as pure farce and musical spectacle.
What did I think?:
I have to admit, I was slightly wary before approaching this play. I haven’t studied any Shakespeare for a long while, and I feared not being able to understand most of it! I needn’t have worried though, as it proved to be immensely readable, and I think I just about kept up with the gist of the tale. So, in a nutshell, we have two sets of identical twins, all separated at birth and ignorant of the other’s existences. It is also particularly unlucky that they have the same names i.e. we have two Antipholus’ and two Dromio’s – you can almost anticipate the carnage that occurs when the two sets of twins meet.
This is one of Shakespeare’s earliest and shortest plays, some arguing that it is his very first, and has been performed on the stage to great acclaim. As with all other Shakespeare plays that I have come across, the writing is poetic and lyrical, with a dash of humour and a dollop of word play. And I have to say, I think Shakespearian insults are amongst the finest around:
“Why pratest thou to thyself and answer’st not? Dromio, thou drone, thou snail, thou slug, thou sot!”
There were so many problems of mistaken identity in this play that it was often hard to keep up, but I can imagine it coming across very well on the stage, and it is certainly true that these plays were written for the sole purpose of being acted out, not merely read. In general, I found it a short but pleasant enough read that shows all the promise and talent that Shakespeare had as a writer.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):