Study Guide

The Comedy of Errors Suffering

By William Shakespeare

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Suffering in The Comedy of Errors oscillates in type between emotional and physical suffering. Both are very present in the play, and all of the characters are long-suffering in one way or another. Adriana and E. Antipholus have a marriage which lacks trust and good communication; Egeon and Aemilia suffer loneliness from being separated from their spouses and children; Luciana suffers in not having a husband; S. Antipholus suffers personally for his self-isolation; and the Dromios are constantly physically beaten, leading them to feel put upon physically and mentally. Each of these kinds of suffering grounds each of the characters in the comedy, which allows them a negative circumstance to overcome in order to find happiness, towards a resolution of the play.

Questions About Suffering

  1. S. Antipholus seems to suffer throughout the play as a result of isolation. Is his suffering self-inflicted? Why does he think Luciana can rescue him from his suffering? Why does he abandon her so quickly? Is he one of those guys that will always feel that he is suffering?
  2. Does Adriana really seem to suffer at the hands of a faithless husband, or does her husband suffer more for her shrewish nagging? Is marriage just a prolonged act of suffering for both parties?
  3. Do the Dromios suffer? Is the violence against them from their masters realistic or farcical? Do the Dromios think they suffer? If they do, why do they bear their lot so patiently?
  4. Why does Egeon’s suffering bookend the play (beginning with his death-sentence, and ending with his near-execution)? Why is it important that suffering is the framework for this play if it’s supposed to be a comedy?

Chew on This

Suffering is farcical in this play, as the action of the play is too silly to exist on the same plane as any deep and meaningful depiction of suffering. 

Instead of actual suffering, the play tends towards melodrama, which is highlighted in the same way as the gags of the play. Thus, both suffering and comedy are hyperbolic in this play.

The Comedy of Errors Suffering Study Group

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