Study Guide

The Comedy of Errors Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By William Shakespeare

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Shadow of Confusion (No one knows the truth)

Egeon’s family is separated; S. Antipholus and Egeon separately seek their lost family members

The play begins amidst confusion, as Egeon seeks his lost son and S. Antipholus doesn’t know he’s in the location shared by his whole family. S. Antipholus, S. Dromio, and Egeon are driven by their identical purpose, but because they’re strangers to Ephesus (and it’s dangerous for them to even set foot there), their ends are difficult to attain.

Pressure of Darkness (Everyone thinks they know the truth)

The Antipholuses and the Dromios are continually mistaken for each other, leading to general confusion with potentially dark results

Things become dire in Ephesus. We know Egeon’s death sentence is looming over the whole play, but in the meantime, it seems that Adriana’s lost her faith in marriage, S. Antipholus has lost love (with Luciana), S. Dromio is being haunted by a large woman, E. Antipholus is slandered and jailed, and E. Antipholus is out to murder Adriana. S. Antipholus and S. Dromio have been trying to get out of Ephesus for nearly four acts without success. Everyone has some explanation for why everyone else is acting so strangely, but no one guesses the truth of the matter. The consequences could also be really serious: Egeon might get beheaded; E. Antipholus might kill Adriana (or at least leave her); Adriana loses complete faith in her husband; and S. Antipholus is convinced he’s been enchanted.

Everything Comes to Light (Everyone finds out the real truth)

Egeon rightly identifies his son; Aemilia rightly identifies her husband; the family is repaired, and Egeon’s death sentence is repealed

The preposterous truth is finally revealed when the Abbess brings the Syracusians face to face with their brothers, and she recognizes Egeon as her own long-lost husband. Not until the separated group is brought facing one another is the conflict cleared up. Even then, there’s no guarantee that they’ll all continue to tell one another apart (as the play closes with S. Dromio mistaking E. Antipholus for his S. Antipholus). Most importantly, though, we now know they can get to know one another, which is comforting, if not a total resolution.

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