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William Shakespeare (2581 words)

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare, English playwright and poet recognized in much of the world
as the greatest of all dramatists. Shakespeare’s plays communicate a profound
knowledge of human behavior, revealed through portrayals of a wide variety of
characters. His use of poetic and dramatic means to create a unified artistic
effect out of several vocal expressions and actions is recognized as a singular
achievement, and his use of poetry within his plays to express the deepest
levels of human motivation in individual, social, and universal situations is
considered one of the greatest accomplishments in literary history. William
Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-on-Avon. No knows the exact date of
William’s birth, although we do know that he was baptized on Wednesday, April
26, 1564. His father was John Shakespeare, tanner, glover, dealer in grain, and
town official of Stratford. William’s mother, Mary, was the daughter of Robert
Arden, a prosperous gentleman. On November 28, 1582, William Shakespeare and
Anne Hathaway entered into a marriage contract. The baptism of their eldest
child, Susanna, took place in Stratford in May 1583. One year and nine months
later their twins, Hamnet and Judith, were christened in the same church. In
1593, William found a patron, Henry Wriothgley, to sponsor him. During this
time, he wrote two long poems. His first long poem, “Venus and Adonius”, was
written in 1593. In 1594 he wrote his second long poem, “Rape of Lucrece”.

In London, Shakespeare established himself as an actor who began to write many
plays. Shakespeare worked “Lords Chamberlain’s Men” company which later
became “The King’s Men” in 1603 after King James I took over. This company
became the largest and most famous acting company, only because Shakespeare
worked for them, writing all the plays they performed. They performed these
plays by Shakespeare in a well known theater which was called “The Globe”
because of it s circular shape. Shakespeare left London in 1611 and retired. On
March 25, 1616, Shakespeare made a will and, shortly after he died on April 23,
1616 at the age of 52. Many people believed that Shakespeare knew he was dying;
however he didn’t want anyone to know that he was. Certainly there are many
things about Shakespeare’s genius and career which the most diligent scholars
do not know and can not explain, but the facts which do exist are sufficient to
establish Shakespeare’s identity as a man and his authorship of the
thirty-seven plays which reputable critics acknowledge to be his. Since the 19th
century, Shakespeare’s achievements have been more consistently recognized,
and throughout the Western world he has come to be regarded as the greatest
dramatist ever. ACT I The play’s opening lines signal a mood of tension, and
they portend disaster for Egeon, a middle-aged merchant from the ancient city of
Syracuse on the island of Sicily. The cities of Syracuse and Ephesus are openly
hostile toward one another. Captured in Ephesus, Egeon has been condemned to
death by the Duke, who urges him to tell the sad story of how he has come to
this state. Along with his wife Emilia, identical twin sons both named
Antipholus, and identical twin slaves both named Dromio, Egeon some years ago
suffered a shipwreck. One son and slave survived with the father; the others, he
hoped, survived with the mother. Neither group knew of the other’s survival,
however, nor of each other’s whereabouts, but when Antipholus of Syracuse
turned eighteen, his father gave him permission to search for his brother. The
worried Egeon then set out after his second son, and after five years of
fruitless wandering, he came to Ephesus. Moved by this tale of sadness, the Duke
of Ephesus gave Egeon a day, within which time Egeon must raise a thousand marks
ransom money. Antipholus of Syracuse takes his leave of a friendly merchant and
tells his servant Dromio of Syracuse to take the 1,000 marks he has with him to
their lodging for safekeeping. Meanwhile, he tells Dromio he’s going to look
around the town. Soon Dromio of Ephesus, an exact look-alike of the other Dromio,
enters and tells Antipholus of Syracuse, thinking he is Antipholus of Ephesus,
to come home for dinner that his wife has been waiting. In no mood for joking
around with the servant, Antipholus hits the uncomprehending Dromio on the head,
as he walks off. Antipholus then groans with the thought that a bondsman has
just cheated him out of 1,000 marks. ACT II Antipholus of Ephesus’ wife,
Adriana, debates with her sister Luciana on the proper conduct of authority in
marriage. Luciana’s conventional wisdom that men are masters to their females
and their lords. Dromio breaks up the conversation with the complaint that his
master has just hit him and demanded the return of a nonexistent thousand marks.

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The servant’s report of his master’s words ” I know no house, no wife, no
mistress,” send Adriana into a fit of anger. Antipholus of Syracuse beats
Dromio of Syracuse, this time, for his former ignorance, and warning him in the
future to be sure precisely when the time is right for joking around. Dromio
takes the beating completely dumbfounded about the reason for it. Then shortly
after Adriana and Luciana see Antipholus of Syracuse and take him for Antipholus
of Ephesus. The Syracusian Antipholus and Syracusian Dromio begin to doubt their
senses. Their bewilderment follows quickly upon Adriana’s long forgiving
speech to her husband. Antipholus of Syracuse correctly explains that he has
only been in Ephesus for two hours, and therefore he does not know who Adriana
is. When Luciana recounts having sent Dromio to fetch him to dinner. Antipholus
of Syracuse becomes further confused, suspecting that his servant is in on a
practical joke. By the end of the scene, however, both master and servant simply
agree to play along with the rather pleasant madness of going to dinner with a
beautiful women who thinks she is wife and mistress to them. ACT III Antipholus
of Ephesus, together with his servant, a goldsmith, and the merchant Balthazar,
try to gain entrance to his home but refused entry by Dromio of Syracuse. At
balthazar’s warning that too much yelling outside his home may endanger his
wife’s honor into question. Antipholus is determined to get even with his wife
so he walks over to the Inn where he knows of a lady of excellent discourse.

Later in the house, Luciana entreats Antipholus of Syracuse to be kind to his
wife even if he must be a hypocrite in the process. He shocks Luciana by his
response, that he likes Adriana but, is deeply in love with her. When Luciana
runs off, Dromio of Syracuse enters to explain that he too is having problems
with a member of the opposite sex. Master and servant, truly worried that
witchcraft is involved, determine to set forth on the first available ship.

Compounding matters at the end of the scene is Angelo the goldsmith, who
delivers a gold chain to Antipholus of Syracuse, which he ordered for his wife.

Antipholus of Syracuse refuses payment saying that he could settle it later. Act
IV A merchant anxious to go on a business voyage entreats Angelo to pay a debt
he owes, but Agelo cannot pay until five O’clock when Antipholus is to give
him the money for his gold chain. At that moment Antipholus of Ephesus enters
with his servant, Dromio, whom he discharges to go buy a whip with which he
plans to beat his wife with. Antipholus of Ephesus had ordered the gold chain,
but as we saw in the previous scene it was Antipholus of Syracuse who received
it. With the merchant anxious to depart tempers rise at the confusion. The
upshot is two arrests: Angelo for non-payment of debt, and Antipholus for
refusal to pay for his gold chain. Adding further to the lunacy is Dromio of
Syracuse, who arrives to tell Antipholus of Ephesus that he has booked passage
for himself and his master on a ship scheduled to leave shortly. This naturally
costs further suspicion onto Antipholus of Ephesus. Dromio of Syracuse then
thinks his master is mad at him when he is told to retutrn home and fetch bail
money. Luciana tells Adriana of Antipholus’s strange behavior toward her;
which set off another jealous tirade. Her attitude soon changes though,
revealing her true feelings. When Dromio of Syracuse arrives to beg bail money
for his master, Adriana complies. Antipholus of Syracuse alone, recounts each
strange occurrence of the day, concluding that a Lapland sorcerer must inhabit
the place. Just as he lists the last bit madness, in comes Dromio of Syracuse
with the gold for bail money, which his master had demanded that he fetch.

Antiphoulus of Syracuse, knowing nothing of his own arrest grows acutely
bewildered, when a courtesan arrives requesting a gold chain for a ring which
she claims to have given Antipholus, he takes her to be the devil incarnate, and
he exists post-haste. The courtesan concludes that he must be mad and decides to
tell his wife that he had stolen her ring by force. Antipholus of Ephesus is at
the center of this scene. First he is told by Dromio of Ephesus that he has
fetched flagging rope, but has no memory of being asked to collect five hundred
ducats bail money. Antipholus uses the whip on Dromio who groans in response.

Adriana enters with schoolmaster, Dr. Pinch, who is to treat her husband for
demonic possession. When Dromio of Ephesus corroborates Antipholus of Ephesus’
story that Adriana had locked them out earlier. Dromio of Ephesus probably
thinks she is crazy because she doesn’t have a clue to what they are talking
about. Meanwhile the doctor orders the two of them to be treated in the accepted
Elizabethan manner for dealing with the insane. That they must be tied together
and put in a dark room. Finally Adriana promises to make good for the
outstanding debt, and Antipholus of Ephesus, together with his Dromio are led
off by the doctors and others. Before Adriana has had time to catch her breath
her husband and servant return. It is Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of
Syracuse. Adrian goes crazy again and says that they have to be bound together
again. Though Dromio of Syracuse feels that nothing will happen Antipholus is
determined to leave the city at once. ACT V While Angelo the goldsmith explains
his predicament to another merchant and explains that Antipholus has the gold
chain. At that moment Antipholus of Syracuse and his Dromio enter. Antipholus
wears the chain, feels that he has been named a villain by the merchant and
Angelo, who accuses him of non-payment, and prepares to have a sword fight with
Angelo. Adriana then enters and stops the fight letting Anttipholus of Syracuse
and Dromio of Syracuse to hide in a priory. The abbess of the priory claims
Adriana, who wants to recapture her insane husband and blind him for his own
good. In contrast to Dr. Pinch in the previous scene, the Abbess is a sensitive
person with the interest of the man seeking sanctuary at heart. The Abbess takes
it as a charitable duty of her order to try to heal Antipholus. Just then the
Duke enters on his way with Egeon to the place of death and sorry execution
where he is to be beheaded publicly. Adriana goes to the Duke and pleads with
him to force the Abbess to heal her mad husband. Then a messenger arrives to
announce Antipholus has escaped in another part of town where they beat all the
maids and tied up the doctor and burned him to death. Adriana is near hysteria
as she hears her husband’s cry at this very moment within the Abbey. She
thinks she might be possessed as Antipholus of Ephesus and his Dromio go to the
Duke in front of her. When she has just left her husband in the Abbey with the
Abbess. Antipholus of Ephesus begs for help from the Duke. He then explains what
has happened and has not, happened; though others think it has, to him this day.

Then the Duke is starting to understand what’s going on and call for the
Abbess. Egeon then believes that his son is standing right front of him, who
really is, but Antipholus of Ephesus denies ever seeing the man. The Duke takes
Egeon as a senile and crazed old man, so he calls for the Abbess. Then the Lady
Abbess and Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Syracuse come in front of the
Duke. When the duke saw the two Antipholuses and the two Dromios, both so
exactly alike, he at once remembered the story Egeon had told him in the
morning. Then the Lady Abbess made herself known to be the fond mother of the
two Antipholus. When the fisherman took the eldest Antipholus and Dromio away
from her, she entered a nunnery and soon became the Lady Abbess. Then Antipholus
of Ephesus offered the Duke the ransom money for his father’s life; but the
Duke freely pardoned Egeon, and would not take the money. After a while
Antioholus of Syracuse married the fair Luciana, the sister of his brother’s
wife; and Egeon with his wife and sons, lived at Ephesus for many years.

Critical Commentary The plot for the Comedy of Errors was not original.

Shakespeare, like most other playwrights and authors of that time, based his
work on another, earlier work. In Shakespeare’s case he chose one of
Plautus’s most highly respected comedies, the Menaechmi. Significantly, he did
not rely exclusively on rhymed couplets for his comedy. In fact half the play is
in black verse, and exceptional accomplishment for a beginning playwright.

(Kemp,3) The plot was well known to the public of the time. The use of mistaken
identities, as well as the confusion of twins, had long been popular in the
Western Theater tradition. While Plautus had only one set of twins, Shakespeare
has two, which makes this comedy increased to a great extent the possibility of
confusion. He combines adventure, the comedy of human folly, romance, and
suspense in a play that while not one of his masterpieces can be said to be both
clever and original and still popular today. (O’Brian, 3) As the plot gets
underway even the secondary characters are unhappy. A constant theme in his
first play. The idea of mastery and liberty in the Comedy of Errors, whether it
be husband and wife or master and servant is not so important in itself as it is
as part of a general context of man’s mastery over his or her own fate.

Beginning with nature’s surrealist joke, Comedy of Errors for the most part
light heatedly explores ways in which people are caught upon webs spun according
to the laws of chance. This, of course, is one primal appeal of farce: natural
repetition and duplication- when compounded to include individual themselves-
threatening even their senses of identity can be frightening. (Gibbons, 7) In
the Comedy of Errors, the changes Shakespeare makes to his main source* Plautus,
emphasizes the pathos of human capacity for error and man’s subjection to the
power of fortune. The doubling the masters and servants results in situation
identical twins puts in question the very idea of nature, as well as the human
quest for self-knowledge. Shakespeare ensures that the audience knows more of
the situation that the characters do, which increases the impression that the
characters are victims, causing effects both ridiculous and pathetic. The wife
Adriana declares her belief in the sanctity of marriage as a spiritual union,
she and her husband has an identical twin, and that it is to this man a complete
stranger, that she is declaring herself in dissoluble knit. The Meta physical
paradox that man and wife are not one flesh is confronted by the physical
paradox that man and brother are identically the same. The longing for the
reunion that one twin feels for the other is contested with the frustration both
husband and wife feel within the bonds of marriage. (Gibbons, 2)
Kemp, Darnell. “William Shakespeare.” Internet,,
2 Feb. 1999. Gibbons, Brian. “Doubles and Likenesses-with-difference.”
Internet,, 2 Feb. 1999.

O’Brian, John. “The Madness of Syracusan Antipholus.” Internet,, 2 Feb. 1999.


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