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The Comedy of Errors

The Comedy of Errors


by William Shakespeare

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.

Quote #1

Why should their liberty than ours be more?
Because their business still lies out o' door. (2.1.10-11)

Luciana accepts that a woman’s place is inside the home, but Adriana doesn’t concur that men should have more freedom in their actions than women. Luciana seems more submissive and accepting of what she sees as feminine duty than Adriana. They provide two different perspectives on male/female relations, and thus are two different kinds of women.

Quote #2

Why, headstrong liberty is lashed with woe.
There's nothing situate under heaven's eye
But hath his bound, in earth, in sea, in sky.
The beasts, the fishes, and the wingèd fowls
Are their males' subjects, and at their controls.
Man, more divine, the master of all these,
Lord of the wide world and wild wat'ry seas,
Endued with intellectual sense and souls,
Of more preeminence than fish and fowls,
Are masters to their females, and their lords.
Then let your will attend on their accords. (2.1.15-25)

Luciana subjugates women under men in the "great chain of being," and seems to have rationalized that this is the way it is in the whole animal kingdom. It seems she defines women as necessarily subject to men’s whims, but she doesn’t give us a hint of whether she thinks this situation is just or not. From her talk, we’re not even sure if she considers the ethics of this situation, or merely accepts it as reality.

Quote #3

Why, mistress, sure my master is horn mad.
Horn mad, thou villain?
I mean not cuckold mad.
But sure he is stark mad. (2.1.58-61)

Adriana rankles when she thinks Dromio’s suggesting that she’s cuckolding her husband. When E. Dromio says "horn-mad," he’s referring to the rage of a horned beast of the field, basically saying his master is being crazy like an animal. Adriana thinks his "horn-mad" is a reference to a cuckold’s horns, which were a symbol of a long-suffering husband. It’s interesting that all of Adriana’s actions and complaints point towards her being shrewish, but she has a strongly negative reaction even to the suggestion that this might be the case.

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