Accounting for Appearances
Chapter 4. The Comedy of Errors
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
Time is that great gift of nature, which keeps everything from happening at once. C.J. OVERBECK
The themes of comedy and tragedy place The Comedy of Errors by Shakespeare (herein Errors or CE) in the genre of tragicomedy, which was developed by Plautus (c.254–184 BC) (Dorsch and King 5–6; unattributed references are to Dorsch and King). Aristotle had ordained that comedy should not be mixed with tragedy, so it is not surprising to find Shakespeare mixing the two as he had little respect for the Peripatetic School. Aristotle also enjoined that drama should adhere to the three unities of Time, Place, and Action, according to which everything happens on the same day at a fixed place, and have only one plot. In this present disquisition, I argue that, in keeping with Shakespeare’s opinion of the Stagirite, Errors has a subtext that gives the play two plots, one terrestrial and one celestial, the latter placing it in Shakespeare’s celestial genre. For Shakespeare, the discovery of new truths about celestial phenomena and the beauty of their existence epitomize Good, while Evil acts to prevent them from entering the encyclopedia of world culture. This is the view espoused by Copernicus (8), who states that through the study of the heavens, “we are transported to the contemplation of the highest Good.” In Errors, as in Hamlet and other plays of the celestial genre, a contest occurs ← 163 | 164 → between Good and...