Quick Hits: Scansion for Laughs

In Act Three, Scene One, Dromio of Ephesus is trying to get within the locked gates of his master’s home… but is tormented from inside by his twin who answers the question of identity with:

The power for this time, sir, and my name is Dromio

— III.i.43

One of the few times in the play when the name is stretched out to three syllables, its over-full and comic enunciation should make the visible DE’s reaction all the funnier.

Two acts later, in Act Five, Scene One, when the two Dromios are face to face, it is the Ephesian’s turn to draw out the name:

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE
I, sir, am Dromio; command him away.
DROMIO OF EPHESUS
I, sir, am Dromio; pray, let me stay.

— V.i.337-338

The Syracusian’s line scans with a slurred, two-syllable version of the name (like it is used through much of the play):

~   /   ~    /  ~   /  ~    /  ~ /
I, sir, am Dromio; command him away.

But the Ephesian draws it out:

/   ~   ~    / ~/    ~    /   ~   /
I, sir, am Dromio; pray, let me stay.

Again, the slow drawing out of the name can be played for laughs… Does Dromio of Syracuse at this point begin to realize what is happening?  He never has a line of confusion again in the play…  Is he the first one who “gets” it?  Is he the smartest of the four brothers?

Another line in which the scansion gives us a clue as to how to play the scene (comically) is in Act Three, Scene Two, when Angelo the Goldsmith calls upon Antipholus (of Syracuse, thinking him the Ephesian):

ANGELO
Master Antipholus,--
ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
Ay, that's my name.

— III.ii.164-165

The two cues scan as a single poetic line.


ANGELO
/  ~  ~  /  ~ /
Master Antipholus,--
ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
                       ~    /     ~  /
                      Ay, that's my name.

The response comes quickly.  Antipholus has to answer immediately, unthinking, to his own name, as if he were at home.  But maybe somewhere in those last four words, he slows down, does a double-take, begins to register his own confusion… again, for laughs.

Just some more examples where the meter and point the actor and director into performance choices.

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