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MonkeyNotes-The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
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Act IV, Scene 4

The scene opens as Antipholus of Ephesus is reassuring the officer about his intention to be set free on bail and that the officer need not fear an escape. Just then, Dromio of Ephesus walks in, having returned from the 'mart' with a 'rope's end'. Antipholus, believing him to have returned with the bail money, asks him for it, and when Dromio denies that he was sent forth on such an errand, Antipholus beats him and calls him "senseless villain." Dromio then takes the conversation forward, quibbling in the peculiar style of the two Dromios.

At this point, Adriana, Luciana, and the courtesan enter, bringing in tow a schoolmaster named Dr. Pinch, who poses as a conjurer. Pinch proceeds with his process of exorcism, and Antipholus, having lost his patience, accuses Adriana of being a loose woman for having locked him out of his own house while she entertained a gentleman. She is both amazed and humiliated, but Dromio seconds his master's story and confirms that they dined with the courtesan.

Carried away by his rage, Antipholus accuses Adriana of being in cahoots with the goldsmith in having him arrested. Adriana explains that she in fact sent money to "redeem" him, but Dromio claims he saw none of it. Having witnessed such counter accusation and denial, Dr. Pinch conjectures that "both man and master is possess'd." Adriana once again denies her husband's accusations, which to her are false, but to Antipholus of Ephesus are the truth. Antipholus, more enraged than ever, threatens Adriana: "Dissembling harlot, thou art false in all, and art confederate with a damned pack to make a loathsome object scorn of me; but with these nails I'll pluck out these false eyes that would behold in me this shameful sport."

Suitably frightened, Adriana gives the orders to bind her husband and lock him in a dark cell. When the officer tries to intervene, explaining that it is illegal to take the prisoner out of custody, Pinch orders, "Go bind this man, for he is frantic too." Adriana, however, offers to go with the officer and pay the debt her husband owes the goldsmith; therefore, the officer allows Dr. Pinch and his assistants to carry away both Antipholus of Ephesus and his Dromio.

Barely has Adriana been able to resolve the situation at hand when Antipholus of Syracuse and his Dromio charge onto the stage with "naked swords," and chase the "witches" away. Feeling triumphant over scaring the devils away, Antipholus of Syracuse instructs Dromio to make the necessary preparations to board the ship, for "I long that we were safe and sound aboard."


Notes

The theme of appearance versus reality is further developed in this scene. The psychological turmoil caused by the mistaken identities finds release in physical violence as Antipholus of Ephesus whips his servant, threatens to assault his wife, and involves himself in a fight on stage. Antipholus of Syracuse also displays his fair share of violent outbursts, as he enters menacingly with his sword drawn to drive off the devils. Hence, the conflict over identities that began on a private level erupts into public disorder. In a similar manner, the minor conflicts of jealousy between Adriana and her husband eventually lead to the disruption of their marital relationship and the threat of violence.

The image of magic is also developed in this scene. Adriana believes her husband is possessed and brings Dr. Pinch, a conjurer, to exorcise the devils from Antipholus. Thus, Antipholus of Syracuse's belief that the town of Ephesus is one of "Lapland sorcerers" is translated into action with the appearance of Pinch. Magic is further developed when Antipholus of Syracuse enters with his drawn sword to chase off the devils.

Although Dromio of Syracuse softens to the idea of remaining in Ephesus, "but for the mountain of mad flesh that claims marriage of me," Antipholus of Syracuse promises to carry out his resolution to leave immediately on the next ship. This difference of opinion helps to maintain the tension, for Antipholus' immediate departure would prevent a resolution in the play.

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MonkeyNotes-The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

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