Forgot your password?  

Introduction & Overview of The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

This Study Guide consists of approximately 202 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Comedy of Errors.
This section contains 356 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our The Comedy of Errors Study Guide

The Comedy of Errors Summary & Study Guide Description

The Comedy of Errors Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Sources For Further Study and a Free Quiz on The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare.


The Comedy of Errors is considered one of Shakespeare's earliest plays, possibly his first comedy and certainly his shortest play, written sometime between 1589 and 1594, although it was not printed until1623. The primary source of the play is the Menaechmi of Plautus, a Roman comic playwright, but Shakespeare also borrowed from Plautus's Amphitruo. From the Menaechmi Shakespeare took his central plot, which revolves around "errors," or mistaken identity, involving identical twin brothers. To this Shakespeare added additional characters and episodes.

Much of the Criticism on the play discusses how Shakespeare complicated Plautus's plot Shakespeare added another set of twins, servants to the twin sons of Aegeon. The story of Aegeon—his separation from his wife and one of the twin sons—is also a change from the Roman play Shakespeare gave greater voice to the primary female characters in the play (and thus to issues of gender and the relationships between men and women), especially Adriana, who is merely a shrewish "wife" in Plautus's play, and downgraded the role of an unnamed Courtezan. Shakespeare's selection of Ephesus for the setting of the play (the action of the play takes place in a single day in a single place) has been noted by critics as an important alteration in the play, since Ephesus was associated with sorcery, exorcism, mystery cults, and emerging Christianity. Critics tend to be in agreement that Shakespeare greatly expanded on the generally one-dimensional stereotypical characters in Plautus's play

There was a scarcity of commentary on the play prior to the nineteenth century. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was the first to discuss the playas a unified work of art, asserting that it was a farce and therefore should not be Judged by the standards applied to comedy. Some Critics viewed It as an apprentice work, since it was written so early in Shakespeare's career, and few Critics argued that the play displays the full range of Shakespeare's dramatic talent. More recent criticism has focused on the play's genre (its "identity" as a tragedy, farce, comedy, or a combination of these) and the way in which it explores the issues of Identity, gender, and love and marriage.

Read more from the Study Guide

This section contains 356 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our The Comedy of Errors Study Guide
The Comedy of Errors from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
Follow Us on Facebook