It’s been a wonderful holiday weekend, and while I wasn’t able to read all of Act Three on Friday (before the Macbeth performance), I was able to write a Mac review on Saturday, and read the remainder of Act Three and the totality of Act Four at the beach on Sunday… thank goodness for a short play!
So where were we? … ah, yes. The Comedy of Errors: Act Three, Scene Two.
Luciana (Adriana’s sister, and AE’s sister-in-law) walks in with AS, in mid-conversation. She begins to question him on a “husband’s office” (III.ii.2), or duties. She goes on to tell him that even if he doesn’t love Adriana, he should make all outward appearances that he does, so as not to hurt Adriana’s feelings. Hmmmmm, that kind of gender politics seems kinda weird. But nothing compared to the weirdness that follows: AE not only denies his marriage to Adriana (not weird to us as we know it’s AS who’s married to Adriana, but weird to Luciana), but he also professes his attraction to Luciana (she doesn’t see how this can be, but we–the audience–can see where this will head in Act Five); he even calls her “mermaid” and “siren” (III.ii.45/7), conjuring visions of her attempting to enchant him. She is quite thrown off by this and flees. DS arrives to tell AS of another coupling… his own. It seems DE is married to a kitchen wench… DS is a little freaked out. The wench (Nell) is, hmmm, how to put this in modern, politically correct, verbiage… mass-challenged.
So fat that at “an ell and three quarters” (III.ii.110)–an ell is 45 inches–she is six and a half feet around… “spherical, like a globe” (III.ii.112), DS says… which begins a rather crude geography lesson of where her parts are (for example, Spain is in the heat of her breath). Crude, but I can see the possible humor of it onstage. AS and DS, after comparing notes, come to the conclusion that Ephesus is no place for them, as “none but witches do inhabit here” (III.ii.155), and AS sends DS to find a ship’s passage out of town tonight. After DS leaves, Angelo the goldsmith arrives to give Antipholus (of E) the gold chain he had commissioned but has only just now completed. AS knows nothing of the chain, but accepts it and even offers to pay, but Angelo will have none of it; after all, they’re going to have supper together tonight, and Antipholus can pay him then.
Immediately following, at the beginning of Act Four, Scene One, we find Angelo accosted by one of his own creditors; Angelo puts him off until five o’clock as that’s when he and Antipholus are going to have supper together. But before that plan is fully discussed, who should arrive but AE and DE. AE immediately sends off DE to buy a rope’s end, so that he can flog his “wife and her confederates” (IV.i.17) for locking him out of his own house. Angelo asks AE for the money he owes for the gold chain… MWE* as AE doesn’t have the chain… within minutes, Angelo has AE arrested and held until he can pay what is owed. DS arrives with information about a ship to leave tonight, but AE wants to know where his rope is…. say what? MWE*… and AE sends DS to Adriana to get money for his release.
IV.ii finds Adriana and Luciana debriefing over Luciana’s conversation with AS, and Adriana isn’t exactly thrilled. However, we see her true love for Antipholus when DS arrives, needing the money to bail out AE: the money is secured and they head off to the jailer.
IV.iii opens with AS astounded by the fact that “everyone doth call (him) by (his) name” (IV.iii.3). File that one under: “DUH!”… but he’s sure that all of this is a play upon his imagination. DS arrives with the money for his bail, but AS feels that DS is confused (and that so is himself). Adding to the confusion is the arrival of the Courtesan, asking for the chain AE promised her at dinner earlier in the day. Both AS and DS proclaim her a demon and flee. The Courtesan, concerned for AE’s mental health, decides to go to Adriana, and warn her of her husband’s mental breakdown.
In Act Four, Scene Four (this act has more scenes than any other in the play), AE is with the jailer, and tells his captor that the money is coming. DE arrives, not with money, but with the rope’s end AE requested back in IV.i… and is beaten with it when he doesn’t have the money requested for his bail. Adriana, Luciana, the Courtesan, and the schoolmaster Dr. Pinch arrive to check on AE and to cure him of his malady. MWE* as AE begins to seem really crazy now that he’s faced with all of the other confusing and contradictory information of the day. Because of his crazy actions, AE and DE are bound and taken off by Dr. Pinch to a location where the demons that have possessed the man and his master can be exorcised. Then AS and DS arrive, trying to sneak out of town, and AS has his sword out for protection. Adriana, Luciana, the Courtesan and the officer see this and flee the “possessed,” armed, and dangerous men… and AS and DS head for their hotel to gather their things and leave town tonight.
There is now only one act, just one scene, only 430 lines to resolve this comedy of errors…