The Comedy of Errors

Content Group


The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare's successful attempt to write a neoclassically "correct" imitation of Roman comedy in the vein of Plautus and Terence. It observes the unities of time (one day), place (Ephesus), and action (the trial of Egeon), and matches many other precedents of character and plot: lost children, the courtesan, the duplicitous or incompetent servants, the confusion from twins, etc., but Shakespeare's heightens the effect by doubling the original pair of twins in Plautus' Menaechmi. The tone is frequently farcical, but Shakespeare diversifies this by serious treatment of the distress of Adriana, the wife of one of the twins, at the apparent misconduct of her spouse, which gives the play a more modern, serious touch. Adriana's indignant dialogues with her sister, Luciana, introduce serious discussion of the unfairness of the sexual double standard. Via the confusion of identities, Shakespeare cleverly exploits the reputation of his location, Ephesus, as a place of supernatural happenings, appropriate to its devotion to Diana of the Ephesians (as vividly presented in the Acts of the Apostles). The play is a hugely predictable crowd-pleaser, despite its elaborate contrivances and light tone.

The Comedy of Errors, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1990
The Comedy of Errors, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1999
The Comedy of Errors: Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
The Comedy of Errors as Musical: Set for 'The Boys from Syracuse'
The Comedy of Errors: Atlanta Shakespeare Company, 2002
The Comedy of Errors: Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, 1970
Comedy of Errors:Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, 1970.
Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Oakbrook, IL, The Comedy of Errors, 2002.
The Comedy of Errors as Musical: set and cast for 'The Boys from Syracuse.' 1938.
Essay Title Author
Female Spectators and "The Comedy of Errors" Hugh Richmond

Alexander, Peter, ed. The Comedy of Errors. London: BBC, 1984.

Altman, Joel. "The Comedy of Errors, California Shakespeare Theatre." Shakespeare Bulletin 23 (2005): 137-9.

Armstrong, Alan. "The Comedy of Errors, Oregon Shakespeare Festival." Shakespeare Bulletin 23 (2005): 139-40.

Evans, Bertrand. "The Comedy of Errors." In Shakespeare's Comedies, 1-9. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960.

Hassel, R. Chris, Jr. "The Comedy of Errors in Context and in Performance." Upstart Crow 17 (1997): 23-39.

Kinney, Arthur F. "Staging The Comedy of Errors." In Shakespeare: Text and Theater: Essays in Honor of Jay L. Halio, edited by Lois Potter and Arthur F. Kinney, 320-31. Newark: University of Delaware Press; London: Associated University Presses, 1999.

Knapp, Margaret and Michal Kobialka. "Shakespeare and the Prince of Purpoole: The 1594 Production of The Comedy of Errors at Gray's Inn Hall." Theatre History Studies 4 (1984): 71-81.

Knight, David. "The Comedy of Errors: Not Just a Silly Play." On-Stage Studies 8 (1984): 27-32.

Mento, Joan. "The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare and Company." Shakespeare Bulletin 23 (2005): 141-3.

Miola, Robert S., ed. The Comedy of Errors: Critical Essays. New York; London: Garland, 1997.

Quince, Rohan. "Crinkles in the Carnival: Ideology in South African Productions of The Comedy of Errors to 1985." Shakespeare in Southern Africa 4 (1990-91): 73-81.

Richmond, Hugh M. "Sexual Norms Revised: The Comedy of Errors." In Shakespeare's Sexual Comedy, 48-64. Indianapolis; New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971.

Rivlin, Elizabeth. "Theatrical Literacy in The Comedy of Errors and the Gesta Grayorum." Critical Survey 14, no. 1 (2002): 64-78.

Shaw, Catherine M. "The Conscious Art of The Comedy of Errors." In Shakespearean Comedy, edited by Maurice Charney, 17-28. New York: New York Literary Forum, 1980.

Slawson, Richard J. "'Dromio, thou Dromio': The Casting of Twins in Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors." New England Theatre Journal 2 (1991): 59-71.

The Comedy of Errors at Talkin' Broadway.

Except where otherwise specified, all written commentary is © 2016, Hugh Macrae Richmond