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 servants occupy lower, less privileged roles in society. Thus, Adriana and the two Dromios are prime targets for scapegoating. Both Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse beat and abuse their Dromios, and Antipholus of Ephesus threatens physical violence against Adriana multiple times.
These instances reveal the strict, oppressive social and gender hierarchies in the world of the play, as both women and servants are subject to the whims of their husbands or masters. Shakespeare, however, mostly puts this kind of scapegoating on stage simply for laughs and slapstick humor. Nevertheless, the play also delights in moments when these scapegoat figures can get a slight bit of revenge on their social superiors. Adriana is able to lock her husband out of their home, and has him tied and bound by Pinch. And both Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse are witty and quick with words, often talking back to their masters with clever riddles and jokes. While the play is a rather light comedy and is mostly interested in the comic potential of scapegoats, it can also be seen as critiquing the practice, since all of the scapegoats of the play are really not to blame, and it is ultimately foolish and mistaken for each Antipholus to take out his anger on his unfortunate social inferiors.
Scapegoats and Social Hierarchy ThemeTracker
Scapegoats and Social Hierarchy Quotes in The Comedy of Errors
Where is the gold I gave in charge to thee?
To me, sir? Why, you gave no gold to me.
Come on, sir knave, have done your foolishness,
And tell me how thou hast disposed thy charge.
My charge was but to fetch you from the mart
Home to your house, the Phoenix, sir, to dinner:
My mistress and her sister stays for you.
Now, as I am a Christian, answer me,
In what safe place you have bestow’d my money;
Or I shall break that merry sconce of yours,
That stands on tricks when I am undisposed:
Where is the thousand marks thou hadst of me?
Upon my life, by some device or other
The villain is o’erraught of all my money.
They say this town is full of cozenage;
As, nimble jugglers that deceive the eye,
Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind.
Soul-killing witches that deform the body,
Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks,
And many such-like liberties of sin:
If it prove so, I will be gone the sooner.
I’ll to the Centaur, to go seek this slave:
I greatly fear my money is not safe.
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!’
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.
What ship of Epidamnum stays for me?
A ship you sent me to, to hire waftage.
Thou drunken slave, I sent thee for a rope,
And told thee to what purpose and what end.
You sent me for a rope’s end as soon:
You sent me to the bay, sir, for a bark.
I will debate this matter at more leisure,
And teach your ears to list me with more heed.
To Adriana, villain, hie thee straight:
Give her this key, and tell her, in the desk
That’s cover’d o’er with Turkish tapestry
There is a purse of ducats; let her send it:
Tell her I am arrested in the street,
And that shall bail me: hie thee, slave, be gone!
Thou art, as you are all, a sorceress:
I conjure thee to leave me and be gone.
Give me the ring of mine you had at dinner,
Or, for my diamond, the chain you promised,
And I’ll be gone, sir, and not trouble you.
Alas, I sent you money to redeem you,
By Dromio here, who came in haste for it.
Money by me! Heart and good-will you might;
But surely, master, not a rag of money.
Went’st not thou to her for a purse of ducats?
He came to me, and I deliver’d it.
And I am witness with her that she did.
God and the rope-maker bear me witness
That I was sent for nothing but a rope!
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.