Study Guide

The Comedy of Errors Suffering

By William Shakespeare

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Proceed, Solinus, to procure my fall,
And by the doom of death end woes and all. (1.1.1-2)

Egeon’s sadness sets the opening tone for the play. Whatever is going on in his life, his suffering is so bad that death is a better alternative. (Which seems contrary to a play called The Comedy of Errors, unless this hopelessness is another error…)

Patience unmoved! No marvel though she pause;
They can be meek that have no other cause.
A wretched soul bruised with adversity
We bid be quiet when we hear it cry,
But were we burdened with like weight of pain,
As much or more we should ourselves complain. (2.1.32-37)

Adriana reveals here that she’s being more than whiny – she seems to really be suffering. Because the suffering is not physical pain, she is expected to be silent and bear it. Though Adriana herself seems to see little difference between physical and emotional pain, she seems to recognize that society dictates that emotional pain is less valid, and thus women should bear emotional wounds in silence.

Am I so round with you, as you with me,
That like a football you do spurn me thus?
You spurn me hence, and he will spurn me hither.
If I last in this service, you must case me in leather. (2.1.87-90)

E. Dromio seems to accept beatings and suffering as part of his duty to E. Antipholus and Adriana. Though he makes light of his suffering, he never rails against it, nor does he inspire his masters to reflect on their cruelty. The nature of his suffering seems farcical and playful, rather than physically violent and seriously messed up.

Since that my beauty cannot please his eye,
I'll weep what's left away, and weeping die. (2.1.119-120)

Adriana has just spent ample time railing against her husband. Ultimately, though, it seems her despair comes from her own preoccupations, rather than anger at her husband. She suffers because she lacks her husband’s love, and similar to Egeon, she raises sentiments of dying as a result of oppressive suffering.

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