Study Guide

The Comedy of Errors Isolation

By William Shakespeare

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Thus have you heard me severed from my bliss,
That by misfortunes was my life prolonged
To tell sad stories of my own mishaps. (1.1.118)

In stating that he is "severed from his bliss," Egeon asserts that he is isolated, and in that isolation, his suffering is so great that his life seems to exist only to tell his sad story. (It’s no wonder he embraces death.)

Till that, I'll view the manners of the town,
Peruse the traders, gaze upon the buildings,
And then return and sleep within mine inn,
For with long travel I am stiff and weary.
Get thee away. (1.2.12-16)

S. Antipholus seems to be alone, but either he doesn’t mind solitude or he’s gotten quite used to it. He approaches the city with some voyeurism – it’s as if he’s more comfortable observing from an outsider’s than actually trying to get raucously involved in the town (as his brother is more inclined to do).

He that commends me to mine own content
Commends me to the thing I cannot get.
I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself.
So I, to find a mother and a brother,
In quest of them, unhappy, lose myself. (1.2.33-40)

S. Antipholus is not only isolated from his mother and brother; his quest for them has taken him from his home and what little family he did have in his father. It’s clear, though, as S. Antipholus talks of losing himself, he also feels cut off from who he actually is. We wonder whether this quest for others is really his attempt to find himself, because he lacks self-knowledge, and (counter-intuitively) is trying to find that through others.

If everyone knows us, and we know none,
'Tis time, I think, to trudge, pack and be gone. (3.2.169-170)

S. Antipholus is surrounded by people that seem to know him, yet this situation is far from solving his problem of isolation. He actually feels more estranged from himself. Considering he doesn’t know any of these people, he feels like he doesn’t know the person they know (who should be him).

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