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After trudging part of the way through both Homer’s Iliad and Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human, I decided to take a break and read something a bit more lighthearted.  Shakespeare is the obvious choice, right?  I am an English teacher, and as you might suspect, I love Shakespeare.  He and Milton are the two authors that make the English language sound the best it possibly can.  One of my eventual goals is to read every one of Shakespeare’s plays.  Before yesterday, I had read 14 out of roughly 38 (a few are disputed).  Most of those 14 are either tragedies or histories.  Yesterday I decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I would read another Shakespeare play, but I would read a comedy to lighten things up after several days with Homer and Nietzsche.

I settled on The Comedy of Errors.  This is definitely one of Shakespeare’s lighter plays.  It features two sets of twin brothers separated at birth.  One set of twins are wealthy, and the other set are poor.  The parents of the wealthy twins purchase the poor twins shortly after birth to be lifelong servants for their two sons.  A shipwreck on the way home separates the family.  The father is rescued by one boat with a twin from each set, and the mother is rescued by another boat with the other two twins.  Twenty years later, the two sets of twins wind up in the same city and an amusing sequence of events follows.  Each twin has the same name as his brother, though none of them know it.  Repeatedly mistaken identities, marital strife exacerbated by the mix-ups, beatings, arrests, and accusations of demonic possession make this play an extremely enjoyable farce. 

Many critics have dismissed The Comedy of Errors as simple comedic fluff.  I strongly disagree.  Beyond his linguistic skill, I believe that one of Shakespeare’s greatest gifts is his perception of relationship dynamics.  All of his plays read as studies in interpersonal relations.  The Comedy of Errors showcases a multitude of relationships in a very insightful way.  I also thought that the confusion regarding the identity of the twins can offer an interesting perspective on the world we currently inhabit, with identity theft such an enormous problem.  I would recommend The Comedy of Errors to any Shakespeare fan looking for a change of pace from the histories and tragedies.  I should have another post or two in the next few days, so please check back soon!

The Current Count:

9 Read, 91 To Go

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