The Comedy of Errors
The Comedy of Errors
by William Shakespeare
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The Comedy of Errors Theme of Family

Family in The Comedy of Errors is mostly notable for its absence. Family is important to the characters, and particularly so for Egeon, S. Antipholus, and Aemilia. The theme of family can be seen as the catalyst for other themes: lack of family causes isolation, which leads to suffering. Similarly, the characters seem to expect that a unified family will eliminate isolation and end their suffering. The action of the play is defined by everyone fighting to either regain their family or to maintain it. Though it isn’t expressly articulated as everyone’s aim, the play’s comic resolution relies on the physical reuniting of the families in order to come to a conclusion.

Questions About Family

  1. Is family actually important to the individual characters in the play, or is it just a conceit that provides a basis for the action of the play? What does "family" mean to the characters? For the characters that profess to care about their family, is it really the family they care about, or is it just a proxy for something else?
  2. Describe the relationship between Adriana and Luciana. How does Luciana’s interaction with S. Antipholus make you feel about Luciana’s relationship to her sister? Do you think she reacted appropriately to S. Antipholus’s attention? Does she give him advice that may be helpful to her sister? Does she do the right thing by being honest with her sister?
  3. How does familial love compare to romantic love in this play? Is one held up as more important than the other? Are the two mutually exclusive? In the end, is it more important to the Antipholi that they’ve gotten their love lives straightened out or that they’ve found their brother and parents?
  4. In the end, is the reuniting of the family a satisfying resolution? Does it even matter, given that half of the family wasn’t even on a find-the-whole-family kind of quest? What does the play’s resolution signify?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

This play is less about the importance of family, and more about the potential destruction caused by not having a family.

Family isn’t important to everyone in the play. In fact, it only really matters to S. Antipholus. E. Antipholus and the Abbess seem to have set up perfectly happy lives for themselves, and even Egeon was content with only having one son.

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