The Identity Of Adriana In The Comedy Of Errors

The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare was first performed 1594. It focuses primarily upon the concept of identity. The Comedy of Errors includes the hilarious misidentifications of twins Antipholus/Dromio and the role of women. The play’s key women, Adriana, Luciana and Emilia are able to easily draw their identity from the men who surround them. Adriana is Antipholus’s spouse. In a crucial exception, she spends much the play in constant anxiety, questioning and challenging her role, as her husband seeks the company of other females. Adriana’s outspokenness makes it clear that she is not like the other women in Antipholus’s play. Although she questions the traditional gender roles and seeks to challenge them, Adriana ultimately returns to her traditional societal role as a wife who is submissive.

Early in the play we see Adriana reacting confusedly to her husband. Act 2: Antipholus is late for dinner and Adriana starts to make a mockery of the relative freedom enjoyed by men. /LUCIANA O. Know he is your bridle./ADRIANA “There’s no other than asses that will be bridled.” (2.1.10-15). This is where she slowly defines gender norms. Bridle also has a connotation with the word bride which is in keeping with the discussion on marriage. Luciana, her older sister, replies to the question with a traditional explanation on the sovereignty that man has over women. There’s nothing beneath heaven’s eye, but he has his bound. The beasts as well as the fishes and the winged fowls are their masters. It’s not clear if her speech is a true reflection of her beliefs, or just a repetition of what she has been taught to believe. Luciana, through this view on obedience, describes men like Gods. Luciana stresses the word “divine”, with everything “under heaven’s eye” in her hands. She asserts that women are God’s creations and men’s subordinates. This means they have a duty to their husbands to follow the natural order in which they were created. This idea mirrors the creationist notion of Adam & Eve. He has an “intellectual soul and wider sense” that allows him to command “their women” and decide their fate like a God. This perspective challenges Adriana’s view of her relationship. It reverts to the antiquated notion that women can determine their identity and purpose from their men. Adriana also claims that we should not take her advice seriously. She says “They can’t be meek if they have any other cause” (2.1.33). Adriana doesn’t feel able to empathize fully with Luciana’s marital problems because she isn’t married. It is evident, however, that there is a gap between them. Luciana wants to be able to empathize with her sister’s marital woes, but Adriana questions this idea and confronts Antipholus in Syracuse. The following quote is from her conversation with him at the market. She laments his absence and lack of love. Ah, don’t let me take thyself away! My love, know that I am yours. You can take as little water as you like, without adding or decreasing, but not from me. (2.2.121-128) Adriana states that Antipholus and she are “indivisible, integrate” in one unifying entity, stressing the closeness of their marital bond, which binds her and Antipholus forever. Antipholus, who stated earlier that his marriage was inseparable like a single drop of water, compared it to her analogy. (2.2.121-128) He says that his brother and missing mother are like drops of water. Like water bonds to itself, so is family. As an analogy for a world full of people, “the ocean”, he uses the metaphor to explain the difficulties of his task in finding another person among many millions. Adriana and Antipholus both seek to fill the void left by a disintegrating relationship or family. It is not her husband in fact, but her brother-in law. However, it is fascinating to see this parallel quest for identity in which two seemingly unrelated people talk about their self-identity and connections with others.

Antipholus in Syracuse is apprehensive about the difficulty of finding his family here. Adriana warns her “husband” that he could be hurt by her leaving. Adriana is completing the “dear self’s best part” of Antipholus’ search for his missing relatives. She claims that, as his spouse, she is the second half of him he seeks. Adriana is his missing family member, and he knew it. This completes the blood bond he had lost when he separated from his family. Adriana sees her marriage to Antipholus, as a blood-bond stronger than that of parental kinship. Adriana continues her view of marriage as mutualistic with another monologue. ADRIANA COME, I will fasten upon this sleeve. Adriana suggests that her “fastening” to Antipholus is like that of an elm. He is her “stronger state”, and she claims that he gives her strength. She embodies weakness and strength and so she returns to old ideas about marriage, which are based on female dependence and submission. She tries to be equal with her husband, but her preconceived ideas about her behavior and her desire to please her husband prevail. Despite her struggles to be heard and give her opinion, she ultimately finds her weakness to be as much a marriage to her husband’s strength as his strength as man as well as as Lord as it is in real life. Adriana’s progressive ideas about the role women play in marriage are highlighted in this text. Despite her endless nagging to Luciana and her speeches, Adriana is not a jealous or shrewish wife. She instead seeks equal power in her marriage. Adriana’s role is distinctive in the play, as unlike other women portraying her, Adriana doesn’t have a preconceived notion of herself. Emilia, for example, after losing her family, decides to live in solitude and away from men. Adriana, on the other hand, is not dependent only on men. Adriana desires to be loved as a woman, just like a man. This characteristic is unique to her and the other women she surrounds, who only want to be shaped by them, not the other way around.

Adriana finally realizes her errors in treatment of her husband. In a last segment of character growth, she reverts into a mix of Luciana and herself’s ideas on women and marriage. Adriana is forced to confront the Abbess in Act III to ask her husband for his release. He refuses. The venom clamours that jealous women make Poisons worse than mad dogs’ teeth. (5.1.68-71) Adriana refers to her codependent behavior as the “venom”. Adriana agrees and says that Adriana “betrayed” me (5.1.90). Adriana was unable to attain her epiphany and become independent of her mind and self. Despite the fact that the Abbess appears to be all-knowing and unforgiving when diagnosing Antipholus as she hides in the monastery because he is insane, it is clear that her attitude toward Adriana reflects the society in which she grew up. Shakespeare’s deus Ex Machina maneuver, which resolves all tensions, ties up this Act. But he fails to grasp the crucial turning point in Adriana’s character development. Instead of being a paragonof free-will, modern ideas about marriage, she instead reverts back to Luciana’s understanding and obedience and her marital issues instantly disappear.

Shakespeare’s Adriana is more than just a smart wife. She questions her roles as a woman in the relationship to her husband. He uses speeches to compare their independence and the unbalanced roles in their relationships. Additionally, her worries are the same as all women. She wonders whether her husband is a cheater, if Adriana has lost her charm, and many other human anxieties. Shakespeare’s dynamic personality gives Adriana energy and gives her a sense of belief. The play is replete with major suspensions of disbelief. By utilizing the ‘happy end’ device, he denies his heroine the possibility of salvation or conflict resolution. It also reinforces that men are responsible for the actions of women and not vice versa. As with all the women in this text, Adriana’s behavior and actions are ultimately restricted by a male. This is an uncomfortably uncomfortable fate.

Works Cited Shakespeare and William. A humorous play written by Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors is about two sets of identical twins who were separated at birth and are reunited later in life. New York: Penguin, 1999. Print.


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