Comedy of Errors By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act IV: Scene 1

Summary

A merchant anxious to go on a business voyage entreats Angelo to pay a debt he owes, but Angelo cannot pay until five o'clock when Antipholus is to give him the money for his gold chain. At that moment Antipholus of E. enters with his servant, Dromio, whom he discharges to go buy a whip with which he plans to chastise his "wife and her confederates." Antipholus of E. had ordered the gold chain, but as we saw in the previous scene it was Antipholus of S. who received it. With the merchant anxious to depart ("The hour steals on"), tempers rise at the confusion. The upshot is two arrests: Angelo for non-payment of debt, and Antipholus of E. for refusal to pay for his gold chain. Adding further to the lunacy is Dromio of S., who arrives to tell Antipholus of E. that he has booked passage for himself and his master on a "bark of Epidamnum," scheduled to leave shortly. This naturally casts further suspicion onto Antipholus of E. Dromio of S. then thinks his master is mad when he is told to return home (i.e., to Adriana) and fetch a "purse of ducats" for bail money. He goes, however:

Thither I must, although against my will;
For servants must their masters' minds fulfill. (112–13)

Analysis

The urgency of time presses on the action in this scene, as the comings and goings speed up in the presence of a merchant feverishly trying to collect his bills. Antipholus of E. is drawn into the "serious!' plot because he is under arrest by the end of scene 1. His quickness to judge and to punish (preparing to flog his wife) at the start of the scene contrasts comically with his predicament at the end. Note the tone of Dromio of S.'s lines quoted above: it is as if he is becoming accustomed to the lunatic twists of circumstances and of the whims of his "master." Abnormal behavior threatens gradually to establish itself as the norm.

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