TEN THINGS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO KNOW:
1. When was the play first performed?
One of Shakespeare’s early plays, The Comedy of Errors may have appeared on
stage as early as 1592.
2. Where was the play first performed?
Probably at James Burbage’s outdoor playhouse, the Theatre, north of the city
wall. In 1594 Shakespeare’s company performed the play in the Banqueting
Hall at Grey’s Inn as part of an entertainment for the law students there.
Things went badly: the crowded event got out of control, and the production
was “confounded.” Grey’s Inn Hall still survives, and if you visit it (by arrangement
with the Porter), you will see the kind of room that Shakespeare’s company
converted into the Blackfriars Playhouse.
3. How does this play fit into Shakespeare’s career?
Written around the same time as Henry VI, Part 3, The Comedy of Errors came
early in Shakespeare’s career, and it shows an initial interest in classical comedy.
Here, by adding a second set of twins, he doubles the trouble of Plautus’s play
4. How is this play like Shakespeare’s other plays?
Shipwreck, separated twins, linguistic clowns, men who need to grow up, women
who help them, and a big reunion at the end – all of it is here in one of his
5. How is this play unlike other Shakespeare plays?
The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare’s shortest play and, with The Tempest,
one of only two that obeys the classical rules of unity of time (action takes place
in one day) and unity of place (action takes place in one location). This is Shakespeare’s
most farcical play.
6. What do scholars think about this play?
Although the play is popular with audiences, scholars admire it for little more
than its clockwork plot and find its characters more two dimensional than those
in Shakespeare’s other plays.
7. Is there any controversy surrounding the work?
Ben Jonson objected to the play because finding one set of actors that look like
twins is hard enough, and this play calls for two such sets. Sadly, some directors,
afflicted with a Jonsonian literal mindedness, miss the point as well and cast a
single actor for each set of twins. I would have such vandals whipped.
8. What characters should I especially look for?
Perhaps because I saw Judi Dench play the part, I have always thought Adriana
a character of great depth.
9. What scenes should I especially look for?
Act Three, scene one, in which Antipholus of Ephesus finds himself locked out
of his own house, is the play’s tour de farce.
10. What is the language like?
The two Dromios take delight in making bad Elizabethan jokes. The higher
characters speak in regular iambic pentameter verse, and the lovers rhyme. Easy Stuff.
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Actors' Renaissance Season