Love & Marriage in The Comedy of Errors

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      The theme that is closely linked with the theme of Identity also relates to certain characters motivations concerns the nature of love and of marriage in The Comedy of Errors. This topic is discussed at length by Adriana and Luciana, who give conflicting views of what it means to be married and to be in love. Adriana harkens back to her husband's courtship of her and laments that he no longer gives her the attention he once did. Peter G. Phialas points out that Adriana feels a need to maintain control of her husband's liberty. In this sense, he asserts, "Adriana's concept of love is the right to possess, to receive and own and be master of." This concept is problematic largely in that it leads to her jealousy, which may or may not be well founded but, regardless, bears no positive effect on the relationship. The Abbess, serving as a guiding moral force, duly chastises Adriana for failing to deal well with the situation. Phialas claims that another aspect of Adriana's conception of love that proves problematic is her evident belief that physical beauty plays a central role in attraction; however, Adriana may have formed this conception based on an accurate understanding of her own husband's inclinations toward women in general. In opposition to her sister, Luciana seems to believe that a woman's role in a marriage is to do everything possible to maintain peace. In her view, the degree of love shared by the couple is not of the utmost importance, as she counsels E. Antipholus not to search within himself to find his love for Adriana but simply to "comfort my sister, cheer her, call her wife" as "the sweet breath of flattery conquers strife." Luciana essentially dismisses the notion that the flattery in question ought to be sincere.

      Many different perspectives are presented by the men of the play. E. Antipholus's actions seem to indicate that love is simply not a priority for him; rather, business and his association and friendship with other businessmen, are of the utmost importance. S. Antipholus, meanwhile, demonstrates himself to be afraid to discover how a union with a woman would affect his sense of his identity. In particular, in speaking to Luciana he expresses his desire to avoid drowning in Adriana's tears - offering an interesting inversion of the situation he described earlier with regard to his search for his twin, where he was already a drop of water in the ocean. Perhaps, however, this can simply be understood as S. Antipholus's image of what marriage with Adriana would be like; he shows himself to be perfectly amenable to a union with Luciana. S. Dromio offers the most comically negative perceptions of marriage in conjuring the various overwhelming physical images associated with the rotund Luce. As Kahn notes, S. Dromio's conception of Luce's physical presence is similar to S. Antipholus's conception of union with Adriana, as both express fear and confusion when confronted with the notion of being "engulfed."

      Beyond the individual characters perceptions, issues surrounding love and marriage are extensively presented through the portrayal of Adriana's relationship with her husband. Specifically, Shakespeare asks a question that Dorothea Kehler notes "is both timeless and peculiarly modern: can love survive marriage?" Indeed, the essence of the situation - that a discrepancy in the levels of affection expressed by husband and wife has led to alienation - has certainly been a subject of discussion ever since the notion of a wedding was first conceived. In the marriage in The Comedy of Errors, the imbalance of love between Adriana and E. Antipholus has left Adriana feeling utterly powerless. Her husband is free to roam around and, if he so chooses, to ignore predetermined mealtimes.

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