The Comedy of Errors
Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Ay, ay, Antipholus, look strange and frown.
Some other mistress hath thy sweet aspects;
I am not Adriana, nor thy wife.
The time was once when thou unurg'd wouldst vow
That never words were music to thine ear,
That never object pleasing in thine eye,
That never touch well welcome to thy hand,
That never meat sweet-savour'd in thy taste,
Unless I spake, or look'd, or touch'd, or carv'd to thee. (2.2.110)
This is an interesting description in light of the earlier conversation between Adriana and Luciana about men being their own masters. It seems Adriana enjoyed being in the driver’s seat, dictating E. Antipholus’s preferences. When she criticizes him at first, it’s not for his faithlessness, but because she’s not receiving the undivided attention she’d grown accustomed to. It’s not only as E. Antipholus’s wife that she expects this attention, but because that’s how she thinks a beloved woman is treated. (Marriage seems subordinate to the special role she crafted for herself as a woman in the relationship with E. Antipholus.)
Come, I will fasten on this sleeve of thine;
Thou art an elm, my husband, I a vine,
Whose weakness, married to thy stronger state,
Makes me with thy strength to communicate. (2.2.173)
Adriana is showing that while she seems to be being shrewish, she’s just subordinating herself to her husband again. These lines echo what Ovid wrote in the Metamorphoses, "…if that the vine which runs upon the elm had [not] the tree to lean unto, it should upon the ground lie flat" (xiv. 665-666, trans. by Arthur Golding, 1567). This interpretation allows us to think of Adriana not as a vine choking an elm, but rather as a vine who leans upon the elm for support. Psalm 128:3 is also alluded to here, as it reads: "Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house." The idea is that Adriana’s husband should not only not be constrained by her, he should prosper by her company.
I know a wench of excellent discourse,
Pretty and witty; wild, and yet, too, gentle;
There will we dine. This woman that I mean,
My wife-but, I protest, without desert-
Hath oftentimes upbraided me withal;
To her will we to dinner. [To ANGELO] Get you home
And fetch the chain; by this I know 'tis made.
Bring it, I pray you, to the Porpentine;
For there's the house. That chain will I bestow-
Be it for nothing but to spite my wife-
Upon mine hostess there; (3.1.109)
That E. Antipholus intends to give this chain necklace to the Courtesan (to spite his wife) allows for an easy contrast between the Courtesan and Adriana. E. Antipholus lists off all the great traits of the Courtesan, but he has yet to praise his wife. (We haven’t heard many good things from Adriana about her man either.) The wife – as the object of marriage – is set up in contrast to the Courtesan – the object of no-strings-attached companionship and sex. These are two different kinds of women that get different kinds of attention, and are judged by different standards.