Comedy of Errors

Tragedy Averted: The Role of Social Class in Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” 12th Grade

The mistaken identities of twins Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse, and their slaves Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse, facilitate the comedy upon which Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors pivots. A common feature of Shakespeare’s later plays is a comedic sub-plot following lower-born characters; the action in this often reflecting or refracting the action in the main plot. However, because The Comedy of Errors follows Aristotle’s classical unities, (of time, action, and space) the lower-born Dromios and the noble Antipholus brothers co-exist in the same plot, sharing the same predicament of being separated from their respective brothers. As pointed out by Foakes in his introduction to The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare’s principal source material for the play was the Menaechmi of Plautus, yet he ‘multiplied the twins’ in his own play, as the Menaechmi only featured one set. By choosing to include two sets of twins seeking the exact same end together, Shakespeare makes ambiguous the social position of the Dromios, who are referred to interchangeably as ‘attendants,’ ‘slaves,’ and ‘bondsmen.’ The Dromios are separated from the Antipholus brothers purely by their status as commodities of them, and in a similar...

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