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 to meet their long-lost relatives, and the comedy concludes with Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse walking hand in hand, showing the importance of their brotherly bond.
Given the importance of family in the play, it is no surprise that marriage also plays a significant role. Marriage is what solidifies new family bonds and brings families together. Along with the reunions of brothers and children in the final scene, Aegeon and Aemilia are also importantly reunited as loving husband and wife. The play also shows, however, less than ideal examples of marriage. For most of the play, Adriana suspects that her husband is cheating on her, and, as she tells Aemilia, she spends most of her time chastising Antipholus of Ephesus for this suspected infidelity. (It is never absolutely clear whether Antipholus cheats on Adriana, but he does admit to spending a lot of time with the courtesan.) Additionally, this marital relationship forces Adriana into a subservient role. Luciana advises her to cede to her husband’s will, because “a man is master of his liberty.” Adriana is even blamed by Aemilia for her husband’s infidelity. Antipholus occupies a more powerful position than his wife in their marriage, and frequently threatens physical violence against her. In addition to this marriage, Nell’s desire for Dromio of Syracuse offers a low, comedic counterpoint to the more ideal marriage of Aemilia and Aegeon. As these two relationships show, marriage may be crucial in forming the family relationships so highly valued in the play, but in one’s day-to-day life it can also be full of arguing, suspicion, fighting, and strategic maneuvering. These examples do not negate the ideal of marriage as an institution that brings families together in loving bonds, but, in comedic fashion, they do bring these high aspirations down to earth a bit.
Marriage and Family ThemeTracker
Marriage and Family Quotes in The Comedy of Errors
There had she not been long but she became
A joyful mother of two goodly sons;
And, which was strange, the one so like the other
As could not be distinguish’d but by names.
That very hour, and in the self-same inn,
A meaner woman was delivered
Of such a burden, male twins, both alike:
Those, for their parents were exceeding poor,
I bought, and brought up to attend my sons.
He that commends me to mine own content
Commends me to the thing I cannot get.
I to the world am like a drop of water,
That in the ocean seeks another drop;
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself:
So I, to find a mother and a brother,
In quest of them, unhappy, lose myself.
A man is master of his liberty:
Time is their master; and when they see time,
They’ll go or come: if so, be patient, sister.
Why should their liberty than ours be more?
Because their business still lies out o’ door.
When I desired him to come home to dinner,
He ask’d me for a thousand marks in gold:
‘’Tis dinner-time,’ quoth I; ‘My gold!’ quoth he:
‘Your meat doth burn,’ quoth I; ‘My gold!’ quoth he:
‘Will you come home?’ quoth I; ‘My gold!’ quoth he,
‘Where is the thousand marks I gave thee, villain?’
‘The pig,’ quoth I, ‘is burn’d;’ ‘My gold!’ quoth he:
‘My mistress, sir,’ quoth I; “Hang up thy mistress!
I know not thy mistress; out on thy mistress!’
I know his eye doth homage otherwhere;
Or else what lets it but he would be here?
Sister, you know he promised me a chain;
Would that alone, alone he would detain,
So he would keep fair quarter with his bed!
I see the jewel best enameled
Will lose his beauty; yet the gold bides still,
That others touch, and often touching will
Wear gold: and no man that hath a name,
By falsehood and corruption doth it shame.
Since that my beauty cannot please his eye,
I’ll weep what’s left away, and weeping die.
Ay, ay, Antipholus, look strange and frown:
Some other mistress hath thy sweet aspects;
I am not Adriana nor thy wife.
The time was once when thou unurged wouldst vow
That never words were music to thine ear,
That never object pleasing in thine eye,
That never touch well welcome to thy hand,
That never meat sweet-savour’d in thy taste,
Unless I spake, or look’d, or touch’d, or carved to thee.
How comes it now, my husband, O, how comes it,
That thou art then estranged from thyself?
Fie, brother! How the world is changed with you!
When were you wont to use my sister thus?
She sent for you by Dromio home to dinner.
By thee; and this thou didst return from him,
That he did buffet thee, and, in his blows,
Denied my house for his, me for his wife.
Did you converse, sir, with this gentlewoman?
What is the course and drift of your compact?
I, Sir? I never saw her till this time.
Villain, thou liest; for even her very words
Didst thou deliver to me on the mart.
I never spake with her in all my life.
How can she thus, then, call us by our names,
Unless it be by inspiration.
And may it be that you have quite forgot
A husband’s office? Shall, Antipholus,
Even in the spring of love, thy love-springs rot?
Shall love, in building, grow so ruinous?
If you did wed my sister for her wealth,
Then for her wealth’s sake use her with more kindness:
Or if you like elsewhere, do it by stealth;
Muffle your false love with some show of blindness:
Let not my sister read it in your eye.
Are you a god? Would you create me new?
Transform me, then, and to your power I’ll yield.
But if that I am I, then well I know
Your weeping sister is no wife of mine,
Nor to her bed no homage do I owe:
Far more, far more to you do I decline.
O, train me not, sweet mermaid, with thy note,
To drown me in thy sister flood of tears:
Sing, siren, for thyself, and I will dote.
Why, how now, Dromio! Where runn’st thou so fast?
Do you know me, sir? Am I Dromio? Am I your man? Am I myself?
Thou art Dromio, thou art my man, thou art thyself.
I am an ass, I am a woman’s man, and besides myself.
What woman’s man? And how besides thyself?
Marry, sir, besides myself, I am due to a woman; one that claims me, one that haunts me, one that will have me.
Hath not else his eye
Stray’d his affection in unlawful love?
A sin prevailing much in youthful men,
Who give their eyes the liberty of gazing.
Which of these sorrows is he subject to?
To none of these, except it be the last;
Namely, some love that drew him oft from home.
You should for that have reprehended him.
Why, so I did.
Ay, but not rough enough.
As roughly as my modesty would let me.
Haply, in private.
And in assemblies too.
The consequence is, then, thy jealous fits
Have scared thy husband from the use of wits.
I am sure you both of you remember me.
Ourselves we do remember, sir, by you;
For lately we were bound, as you are now.
You are not Pinch’s patient, are you, sir?
Why look you so strange on me? You know me well.
I never saw you in my life till now.
O, grief hath changed me since you saw me last,
And careful hours with time’s deformed hand
Have written strange defeatures in my face:
But tell me yet, dost thou not know my voice?
Dromio, nor thou?
No, trust me, sir, nor I.
I am sure thou dost.