Saturday, January 28, 2006

Comedy of Errors - Ernst's Profound Final Thoughts

As a poorly-prepared, poorly-read student at Yale, I was still torn regarding a major in the fall of my junior year—would it be philosophy or English? I received an A on a paper for a Shakespeare course, and so I decided, “Well, why not?” The assigned topic of the paper was “Does Hamlet Change,” and I argued that, essentially, he did not change. This led me to think about the extent to which characters in comedies change as they confront the tests comic plots put before them. It seems to me that, often, they don’t. However, on the other hand, I can see arguing that Orlando, Isabella, Malvolio, Benedick do change, and other characters can be shown to change by the way their plays are directed.

I don’t think characters change much in The Comedy of Errors. Rather, they do what lots of characters do—namely, they reveal their deeper natures as they encounter comic obstacles.

There may be, as I have suggested, a kind of fatalism at play in the world of The Comedy of Errors. The Duke, Aegeon, the Antipholuses’ father, and the two Dromios are quite fatalistic. They accept what comes their way and don’t seem to have it as part of their natures to figure out different or spiritually freeing ways of dealing with obstacles (which is one reason I can’t see Buster Keaton, who is always figuring ways, playing a Dromio). This, as other have said, leaves us with the two women and the two Antipholi as the play’s most interesting and quasi-deeply-probed characters.

I looked quickly at the number of beatings and noticed that A/Syracuse does most of his beating early on. After that, he comes to find a kind of whimsical delight in the various serendipitous events that come his way. I like him. Conversely, A/Ephesus get into beating toward the end of the play. He has a mistress; he has an ugly temper; he wants the world about him to be run his way, thank you. I don’t like him that much. At the same time, for all that can be said about Adriana’s grace, she, similarly, has a good bit of the shrew deep inside her. I would not want to be married to this woman. On the other hand, Luciana, whose name suggests light (like the Scandinavian light-bringing Christmas-time saint) and who is also the blonde, is gently intelligent and ameliorating at every moment. I like her; she must have been born, like my wife Betty and like me, under Libra. Ah, we are such balanced, sensitive, rational people! (Cough, cough!)

As I write, I see lots of “buts” and “ifs” here. Oh well; I guess that’s the way it goes with the big S.


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