The Comedy of Errors


William Shakespeare

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The Comedy of Errors Themes

Read our modern English translation.
Themes and Colors
Commerce and Exchange Theme Icon
Marriage and Family Theme Icon
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Mistakes and Coincidences Theme Icon
Scapegoats and Social Hierarchy Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Comedy of Errors, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Commerce and Exchange

Many of the characters in the play are merchants or traders, and issues of money are important from the start of the play: Aegeon’s life depends on whether or not he will be able to come up with 1000 marks in order to pay the fine for being a Syracusan in Ephesus. And one of the first concerns of Antipholus of Syracuse when he arrives in Ephesus is for the safety of his money. All…

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Marriage and Family

The Comedy of Errors is essentially a play about a family that is split apart and then reunited at last. The family unit and the bonds of familial relationships are crucial to the play. Antipholus of Syracuse travels all around the Mediterranean in search of his lost brother and mother, and Aegeon puts his life in jeopardy by searching for his family in Ephesus. At the end of the play, Aegeon’s entire family is overjoyed…

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Appearances and Identity

Practically all of the high-jinx and mistakes that drive the comedy and plot of The Comedy of Errors result from the confusion of the identities of Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus, and Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse. Each one is constantly mixed up with his twin because of his physical appearance, even though they act differently and insist on who they really are. The play thus shows the folly of making assumptions based…

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Mistakes and Coincidences

Shakespeare’s play is called The Comedy of Errors for a reason: the play is filled to the brim with humorous mistakes and errors, from mistaken identities to mixed-up objects to misinterpreted puns. Characters continually make mistakes and grow more and more confused as the play progresses. While such mistakes can be seen as negative things in the lives of the play’s characters, they are also in some sense beneficial to the play. It is precisely…

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Scapegoats and Social Hierarchy

Resorting to supernatural explanations is one way the play’s characters make sense of the strange things they experience during the play. Another way is through using scapegoats. With no easy explanation, characters become frustrated and take this anger out on other people whom they irrationally blame for their troubles. In particular, Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse place blame on their respective servants and Adriana. In the world of the play, women and…

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