Study Guide

The Comedy of Errors Writing Style

By William Shakespeare

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Writing Style

Indirect, Obtuse, Playful

Because the conceit of the play is so complicated, Shakespeare had to have characters speak directly to each other, but in an indirect way, so they don’t get to the heart of all the confusion until the play’s resolution. Characters are often very wrapped up in their own issues, and therefore are more prone to be consumed by their own thoughts than to listen critically to what others are saying. Even when there is straight talk, it gets lost in the confusion of the situation. The style in which the characters speak is the only thing that saves the play from being utterly confusing. The characters are obtuse enough that their veiled speech could make sense in a variety of situations. Their content is not often relevant to their conversation partner, but it's usually sharp and clever enough that they could be thought to be punning or otherwise joking around. There's enough playfulness in what is said – especially between the each master-and-servant duo – that the confused character often dismisses the confusing messages because of the light way in which they’re communicated. This veiled style of speaking allows the interactions to occur on different levels, one of which makes sense to each conversation partner, even if it doesn't make for coherent conversation.

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