The Comedy of Errors
The Comedy of Errors Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Riverside edition.
Alas, poor women! make us but believe,
Being compact of credit, that you love us;
Though others have the arm, show us the sleeve;
We in your motion turn, and you may move us.
Then, gentle brother, get you in again;
Comfort my sister, cheer her, call her wife.
'Tis holy sport to be a little vain
When the sweet breath of flattery conquers strife. (3.2.21)
Luciana admits women are easily deceived, but in the same breath reveals that women enjoy being gullible. In her immediately preceding speech, Luciana had said it’s better to trick women and keep them happy than to tell them the unhappy truth. In the quote here, it seems Luciana might be asserting that women participate in men’s deceptive games by willingly "believing" the deception. At least in Luciana’s opinion, women would rather have flattery (even if it’s deceitful) than hear the awful truth.
What claim lays she to thee?
Marry, sir, such claim as you would
lay to your horse; and she would have me as a beast: not
that, I being a beast, she would have me; but that she,
being a very beastly creature, lays claim to me. (3.2.84)
Here’s an unusual instance where there’s no gloss over the fact that in love, women claim as much ownership over men as men tend to claim over women. Adriana has tried to justify her possessiveness of E. Antipholus as the feelings of a good wife, but there’s a hint that her feelings aren’t really that different than Nell’s ownership claims over her man.
Satan, avoid! I charge thee, tempt me not.
Master, is this Mistress Satan?
It is the devil.
Nay, she is worse, she is the devil's
dam, and here she comes in the habit of a light wench; and
thereof comes that the wenches say 'God damn me!' That's
as much to say 'God make me a light wench!' It is written
they appear to men like angels of light; light is an effect
of fire, and fire will burn; ergo, light wenches will burn.
Come not near her. (4.3.48)
S. Antipholus is quick to see the supernatural (as usual), but S. Dromio seems to recognize that the real danger of this woman is that she’s a woman. Lately, it seems women have been bringing nothing but trouble to S. Dromio. It’s interesting that he teases that woman is the "devil’s dam" (or the devil’s mother), which is even worse than her being the devil. Whether her evil is supernatural or practical is immaterial – she’s evil. If she’s a supernatural devil, she’ll burn in hell. If the Courtesan is a natural devil (i.e., a prostitute), she’ll burn just as well.