OK, Act Two is in the books… another short one, again, only two scenes.
In II.1, we meet Adriana, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus (AE), and Luciana, her sister.
Any bets Antipholus of Syracuse (AS) ends up with the sister of his long lost brother’s wife? No takers? Really?
And Adriana is none too happy. She’s ticked AE isn’t home for dinner (lunch). As she points out early in the scene, it’s “two o’clock” (II.1.3). Her sister advises patience and good thoughts; she figures the brother-in-law has met a merchant and is having an impromptu business lunch since “A man is master of his liberty” (II.i.7).
Of course, Adriana, who seems to be taking on real shrewish behavior, immediately jumps on the remark to fight against gender roles (and I don’t mean to equate a woman who wants equal rights to equal a shrew… it’s the tack and tone of her argument [and how’d you like those three “equals” in a row, huh?]). They continue to have this biting philosophical gender argument until Dromio of Ephesus (DE), their servant, arrives to inform them of his meeting with AS, whom he assumed was his master, and AS’s refusal to return for dinner. She sends him off, threatening to beat him if he doesn’t return with his master, her husband. Once he leaves, Adriana discloses her true cause of bitterness: she’s sure that AS is having an affair with one of his “minions” (II.i.87), a term used in Shakespeare’s time to refer to girlfriends. Her sister wants no part of this, though, calling out Adriana for her “self-harming jealousy” (II.i.102).
In II.ii, AS and DS are reunited, and beats DS when DS doesn’t remember his “come-to-dinner-with-wifey” request from earlier (because, of course, that exchange was with DE)… ah, yes, we’re putting the slap into slapstick, folks. But it’s not just fun and maiming… there’s some pretty good verbal humor between AS and DS as well before the arrival of Adriana and Luciana.
AS knows something’s weird (“How can she thus then call us by our names?” [II.ii.165] … duh!), he just doesn’t think (because if he did, there would be no play… he’d figure out what we already know)… so he goes along with all of it:
What, was I married to her in my dream?
Until I know this sure uncertainty,
I'll entertain the offered fallacy.
I'll say as they say, and persever so,
And in this mist at all adventures go.
In this “mist”-y fog of love, AS is willing to play along (even if DS is sure this is all attributable to “goblins… and sprites” (II.ii.189), and they both return home with the sisters.
Which begs the question: here we are at the end of the second act, over a third into the play, and we’ve yet to see AE… where’s Waldo, er, Antipholus (of Ephesus)?
A quick peek to Act Three will show us…