The Comedy of Errors
How we cite our quotes:
EGEON. Not know my voice! O time's extremity,
Hast thou so crack'd and splitted my poor tongue
In seven short years that here my only son
Knows not my feeble key of untun'd cares?
Though now this grained face of mine be hid
In sap-consuming winter's drizzled snow,
And all the conduits of my blood froze up,
Yet hath my night of life some memory,
My wasting lamps some fading glimmer left,
My dull deaf ears a little use to hear;
All these old witnesses-I cannot err-
Tell me thou art my son Antipholus. (5.1.308)
This is a really beautiful passage. Egeon, in the midst of all of this madness, is able to pierce through the chaos with an earnest plea about the meaning of family. His grievous loss puts all of the hullabaloo into perspective. To add gravity to the situation, Egeon is on his way to his own execution over a son he would die for. He thinks he’s now found that son, only to be faced with the fact that this son apparently doesn’t recognize him. For Egeon, the love of his family is worth living and dying over. The beauty of Egeon’s words and the depth of his feelings elevate this part of the play above the goofy plotline.
I never saw my father in my life.
But seven years since, in Syracuse, boy,
Thou know'st we parted; but perhaps, my son,
Thou sham'st to acknowledge me in misery. (5.1.320)
Heartbreaking. Egeon has been pushed so far that he doesn’t even think of the possibility that this is his long lost son – after so much grief, such a happy possibility hardly seems a possibility at all. Rather, Egeon worries that for his son, love of family comes second to maintaining one’s reputation.
Egeon, art thou not? or else his ghost?
O, my old master! who hath bound him here? (5.1.338)
S. Dromio seems more thrilled than Egeon’s own son to find him again. Is the bond between master and servant stronger in this play than the bond between blood relations? It’s also worth noting here that the Antipholi don’t seem terribly excited (or, at least, don’t explicitly address feeling excited) in the text. In contrast, the Dromios immediately start affectionately joking with each other. What’s up with that?