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MonkeyNotes-The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
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Act IV, Scene 1

This scene opens with a second merchant asking Angelo to pay a past debt. Angelo asks him to go with him to Antipholus' house so that he can settle the matter of payment. He explains that Antipholus of Ephesus owes him the exact same amount for a gold chain that he owes the second merchant. At that precise moment, Antipholus of Ephesus enters and tells his Dromio to buy a whip from the market that he will use to punish his wife and her fellow "confederates." He then confronts Angelo and wishes to know why he has not come to the Porcupine to deliver the gold chain. Angelo, believing him to be continuing in the same light vein as earlier, explains the situation and requests his payment.

Since the chain has been delivered to the wrong Antipholus, confusion grows and results in anger and false accusations. The confrontation culminates in the arrest of both Angelo and Antipholus of Ephesus. Immediately after the arrest has taken place, Dromio of Syracuse enters, having returned from the harbor. He tells Antipholus that there is a ship that is ready to embark on a journey to Ephidamnum. Antipholus does not understand Dromio's news and calls him a madman. He then sends Dromio to the Phoenix to find to his mistress and to bring from her "a purse of ducats" to bail him out of prison. Utterly confused, Dromio departs to do his master's bidding.


Notes

In this scene there is a strong emphasis on mis-timing. Antipholus of Ephesus is worried "lest I come not time enough," and Angelo claims that "the wind and tide stays for this gentleman." The swirling confusion that emerges between Angelo and Antipholus becomes a public disorder, and both men are arrested. Because of the mistaken identities, friendly, commercial relationships based on long-standing trust, are disrupted and destroyed, and there seems to be a break-down in the entire social order. As the action of the play grows increasingly fast and confusing, Shakespeare takes care to restore a sense of time to the events. It is Angelo who mentions time when he tells the impatient second merchant that "at five o' clock, I shall receive the money for the same."

It is in this scene that Antipholus of Ephesus is truly incorporated into the central plot of the play. While the confusion of identities has already created a sense of loss and transformation for Antipholus of Syracuse and the two Dromios, Antipholus of Ephesus now experiences the need to reassert his identity in a world that seems to have lost its bearings; where the abnormal begins to preside as the norm.

Confused beyond doubt, Dromio believes that his master has been affected, and, hence, to keep his own senses, agrees to fulfill the whims of his master. Although Dromio is thoroughly perplexed, he seems to accept lunacy as normal and conventional.

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MonkeyNotes-The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

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