Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Water imagery occurs all over the play, starting with Egeon’s initial speech about the storm. This is a disorderly affair of water separating families, so it’s only natural that water should be a symbol of separation throughout the play. Twice we hear characters powerfully describe their isolation as though they were drops of water: S. Antipholus seeks for his family as though he were a drop of water in the ocean (1.2.35-36), and Adriana says it would be as easy to separate her from her husband as to capture a single drop of water again after you’d dropped it into a gulf (2.2.136-139).
There are ample tears, streams, and oceans traversed to get to the climactic point of the play – Egeon has been separated by the seas from his family, and Adriana has sworn to throw her tears at the feet of the Duke so he’ll be moved to bridge the gap between her and her husband. Throughout the play, S. Antipholus is constantly trying to get back on the water to escape the town of Ephesus. Interestingly, at the very end of the play, there’s a very deliberate notification of S. Antipholus having his goods pulled off the boat sailing out of Ephesus. He, his brother, and the Dromios are getting off the water and heading onto solid ground. It’s as if, for the first time, everyone’s pulling down their sails and setting down some roots together in a stable place. The land (and the play’s end) turns out to be hopeful (if a bit dry).