The Comedy of Errors
Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus are not terribly complex in their thoughts or speeches, but they play a very special role in the play nevertheless. The Dromios are as deeply entangled in the identity confusion as their masters, the Antipholi. Unlike their masters, however, they experience and reflect on the madness they experience with a lighter, more jovial touch. For example, E. Dromio delights in the mischief of being locked out of dinner, and encourages E. Antipholus to break down the door. Much like his twin in humor, S. Dromio makes gleefully naughty jokes at the appearance of the Courtesan, which is decidedly less serious than S. Antipholus’s fearful condemnation of her as a manifestation of the Devil.
The Dromios’ performance has the power to highlight the absurd and delightful aspects of the play. In so doing, they provide comic relief for their masters’ stern severity. The Dromios are basically the comic anchors of the play. They seem to unquestioningly submit to the abuse they receive from their masters but they aren’t above complaining about it in amusing ways. In fact, the Dromios have a habit of playing with words and ideas so they can diffuse even the most tense of situations. Basically, the Dromios are in it to ride the wave, and the audience can take a cue from them and just relax and just enjoy the show, rather than figure out all the sensible details.
The Dromios must also be considered for the roles they play relative to each of their masters. For the most part, the relationship between each Dromio and his Antipholus is not that distinct. The Dromios definitely are servants to the Antipholi, but they are also constant companions, and, to some extent, we get the feeling that these guys are also partners in crime. Though S. Antipholus went out seeking a brother, through the duration of the play, it’s clear that the Antipholus-Dromio pairs operate like brothers. Sure, it’s not exactly a loving relationship, but it’s congenial and fraternal, where they hit each other because they love each other, obviously, not because one of them is adopted. It’s clear the Antipholi don’t have a brotherly relationship with each other, but that doesn’t mean they have no fraternal relationships at all. Though the Antipholi and the Dromios are separated by class distinction, the time they spend together, and the camaraderie they share, suggests that each Antipholi actually has a brotherly relationship with his respective Dromio. It’s an interesting entry point to think about the meaning of family, class, and even blood ties in the play.
A final note on the Dromios: the whole action of the play is pivoted around S. Antipholus’s search for his brother, so you’d think the conclusion of the play would celebrate S. Antipholus’s reunion with E. Antipholus. Instead, the Dromios are the ones playing the final notes of the whole affair, leaving the audience with a feeling of how the future will go. In the final scene, the Antipholi don’t seem terribly interested or excited about each other. In fact, they don’t even really exchange words. By contrast, the Dromios are shocked and amazed at their discovery of each other. Better still, they playfully talk about how they’ll go forward from here. They were brothers by birth, and they seem committed to being brothers for the rest of their lives. They choose to go side-by-side in a jolly and warm, but most importantly, an equal way. This might nod to the fact that they’ve finally found true brotherhood. While they definitely had semi-brotherly relationships with the Antipholi, they can now finally be involved in a relationship where they’re allowed to be equals in both social standing and affection.