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The Comedy of Errors

by William Shakespeare

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Compare Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors.

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Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse are a set of twins who have been separated for some twenty-five years. Antipholus of Ephesus is the older, and Antipholus of Syracuse is the younger.

Antipholus of Syracuse has been raised by his father, Aegeon, a merchant of some good wealth. Due to his being away from home, Antipholus of Syracuse is presented as curious when he arrives in Ephesus, telling his servant he will “lose [himself] and wander up and down to view the city” (act 1, scene 2) despite being weary with travel. He has traveled to Ephesus with the purpose of finding his long-lost brother as well as his mother. He began asking about his lost twin and mother several years prior to the time of the play, and this longing has made him a lonely and melancholy man. These emotions are presented in his many soliloquies and asides.

Antipholus of Ephesus has been raised by his mother, Aemilia, who is the abbess of a nunnery, and he therefore likely grew up with little money. However, when he is introduced in act 3, he appears to be a man of some stature—though this seems to be due to his wife, Adriana. When Antipholus of Syracuse is mistakenly being spoken to as Antipholus of Ephesus by Luciana, Adriana’s sister, she says, “if you did wed my sister for her wealth” (act 3, scene 2). This is one indication that Antipholus of Ephesus cares not for his former family, but only about obtaining wealth and a better life for himself at anyone else’s expense. He has no time for deep thought or emotion, having no soliloquies in the entire play, while his brother has at least six.

The two brothers share one unfortunate trait, that being their proneness to violence. When their servants (also a set of separated twins, both named Dromio) make mistakes, both Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse choose to beat their servants in rage. Both respond this way in situations created by the many mix-ups that happen throughout the play, and it seems that, due to the confusion, they lash out at their servants in their embarrassment. However, Dromio of Ephesus, slave to Antipholus of Ephesus, states that he has always been beaten by his master:

... I have served him from the hour of my
nativity to this instant, and have nothing at his
hands for my service but blows. When I am cold, he
heats me with beating; when I am warm, he cools me
with beating ... (Act 4, scene 4)

There is no mention as specific as this stated by Dromio of Syracuse, and therefore no proof that Antipholus of Syracuse is usually abusive or has become as such in these strange situations. Antipholus of Syracuse claims his beatings are justified with a background of (clearly misunderstood) Christian morals, while Antipholus of Ephesus seems to beat with no motivator other than wickedness.

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The twin brothers of the same name, one from Ephesus and the other from Syracuse, have long been separated. Because of a harsh law dividing the two territories and an unfortunate accident at sea, one Antipholus has grown up with his mother, Aemilia, in Ephesus and the other with his father, Aegeon, in Syracuse. There is a second set of twins, both named Dromio, who are their servants and likewise grew up separated. Determined to find his missing son, Aegeon has challenged the law and traveled to Ephesus, where he is apprehended and detained. Antipholus of Syracuse, along with his servant Dromio, has come to Ephesus as well.

One difference that develops right away is that Antipholus of Ephesus is married, but his Syracuse twin is not. His wife’s name is Adriana. Central to the plot is that one set of twins are in their home community and know their way around, while the other two are strangers. Because of a mix-up among both the Antipholuses and both the Dromios, Antipholus of Ephesus goes to visit a courtesan, who gives him a ring. While at the Ephesus twin’s house, however, the Syracuse twin falls in love with Adriana’s sister. Both the Antiphoiluses seem to have bad tempers, as they fly into rages and beat their servants when the mix-ups occur.

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In the play, Antipholus of Syracuse is a stranger in town, so he is more curious and uncertain. He also seems friendlier to his servant Dromio than Antipholus of Ephesus is to his, often joking with him. He is gentle with Adriana when she is expressing her love for the wrong person. He courts Luciana with soft, lyrical words. Antipholus of Ephesus is rather more violent, as his Dromio complains, beating his servant quite hard. He cheats on Adriana with the Courtesan and rages against her when he thinks she has locked him out. Overall, it seems that Syracuse is a gentler soul, at least when he is traveling, while Ephesus's confidence at home makes him impatient and angry when he doesn't get what he expects and thinks he deserves.

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The first point of comparison between the two, according to Antipholus of Syracuse, the twin brothers are lost to each other, with one residing in Syracuse and the other in Epesus. In fact, Antipholus of Syracuse (Ant. S.) is on an intentional quest to find his lost brother, Antipholus of Ephesus (Ant. of E.):

Ant. S. I to the world am like a drop of water,
That in the ocean seeks another drop;
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself:
So I, to find a mother and a brother,
In quest of them, unhappy, lose myself.

Conversely, while Ant. S. seeks to restore the bliss of his domestic circumstances, Ant. E. is embroiled in the sabotage of domestic any hope of domestic bliss; in this they are very different:

Ant. E. And buy a rope’s end: that will I bestow
Among my wife and her confederates,
For locking me out of my doors by day.—

Another difference is that while Ant. s. claims Christian principles behind his (justifiable, to his eyes) threats of violence, Ant. E. simply plots out wicked deeds without hinderance of Christian scruples:

Ant. E. [To Ang.] Get you home,
And fetch the chain; ...
... to the Porpentine;
... that chain will I bestow—
Be it for nothing but to spite my wife
Upon mine hostess there: good sir, make haste.

The most notable early difference between thsm is that Ant. S., the one with christian scruples who is searching for his mother and brother, has wealth, "The gold I gave to Dromio is laid up / Safe at the Centaur; ..." while Ant. E. has less:

Dromio of Ephesus (servant of Ant. E.). O,—sixpence, that I had o’ Wednesday last
The saddler had it, sir; I kept it not.

In sum, one is a moral man with Christian scruples who is saddened by the loss of mother and brother and is in quest of them, whereas the other is a quarrelsome man who is in quest of pranks and tricks and drink, though a respected merchant of Ephesus. They are introduced as antithetical--opposites--of each other.

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