An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Comedies by Patrick Swinden (auth.)

By Patrick Swinden (auth.)

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Some of the romance sentiment seeps into the play proper. Ephesus, where the scene is laid, was celebrated for magic arts, and Shakespeare deliberately changed Plautus's Epidamnus to Ephesus. Again, the behaviour of Antipholus of Syracuse in Ephesus is very strange, and there are quite open references to illusion and transformation scattered throughout the play. In m, ii, for example, Antipholus of Syracuse wonders why Luciana labours to make his soul 'wander in an unknown field': Are you a god?

At the same time atmosphere - romantic' engagement and willingness to piece out the poet's imperfections with our thoughts - is totally lacking. (Incidentally the tedious prevalence of duologue may have something to do with this. The Two Gentlemen of Verona has the distinction of being the least evidently populated of Shakespeare's plays). The verse is correspondingly unremarkable - indulging, where it is not more drably workaday than anywhere else in Shakespeare (including The Comedy of Errors), a vein of studied eloquence which affects neither body nor wit.

We can tell from the accounts Philip Henslowe kept in his diary that a young writer would usually submit a skeleton plot to the head of the company, the man who had the financial responsibility, and only then would he begin to be paid, in advance, for each sheet of the play he produced. Shakespeare didn't work for Henslowe, but presumably the same sort of arrangement was made with James Burbage. If this was so it doesn't come as much of a surprise that the first of the comedies should bear so little stamp of Shakespeare's personality.

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