The Folger edition of The Comedy of Errors includes facing-page notes and illustrations throughout the play; background information on the play, Shakespeare's life, theater, and times; notes on unfamiliar language, or words that meant something different in Shakespeare's day; and a scholarly assessment of the play in light of today's interests and concerns.
Colorful Character Connections offer an at-a-glance map of character relationships, an introduction to the plot, and important quotes to look and listen for.
Audio and Video Resources
Building Blocks of Comedy
The face of Comedy has been changing for hundreds of years, but you might be surprised at what's stayed the same. This video will show you how stock characters and plot points make a Shakespearean comedy familiar and relatable to any audience.
Rhyming in Comedy of Errors
Even though the plot of the play is complicated, The Comedy of Errors is easy to follow thanks to the play's musicality and frequent rhyme. Here we lay out the three kinds of rhyme found in the play, and how they are used to build energy and understanding.
Click here to go to the Folger Shakespeare Library's YouTube channel, with video resources on introducing performance-based teaching in your classroom.
Knock, Knock, or Whose Line is it Anyway?
Folger Education offers lesson plans on Shakespeare's frequently taught plays, as well as lessons on introducing Shakespeare. Try the plans for teaching Shakespearean comedy below, or, for more lesson plans, visit the Lesson Plans Archive.
In life, people are asked to think quickly and without preparation on a daily basis. Improvisational acting can help students prepare for situations where they are called upon to "think fast". The exercises in this lesson allow students to realize that even Shakespeare's works can be improvised at times and updating classical literature can be a worthwhile enterprise.
What's so Funny
Twelfth Night This activity tries to focus students' attention on the comic elements of Twelfth Night by drawing parallels to examples of humor in popular culture. After brainstorming and analyzing modern examples of humor, they use their results to understand the different elements of comedy in the play.
A Scene of Tragical Mirth
Often it is hard for students to understand that there is a fine line between what is comic and what is tragic, even though choosing one or the other changes a scene entirely. When the audience and the players perform the "play within a play" scene in different styles, students see the power of a director's choices and the versatility of Shakespeare's plays.
Playing the Fool
While students are accustomed to watching comedic films and television shows, analyzing humor in Shakespeare’s text is another matter. In this lesson, students will take a scene from As You Like It and examine it for its comedic appeal.
For many students today, reading Shakespeare's language can be a challenge. Things to pay attention to in The Comedy of Errors:
- unfamiliar word order
- words with different meanings
- puns or wordplay
Students should also watch out for metaphors, or plays on words in which one object or idea is expressed as if it were something else.
With your students, you may wish to rearrange the words into a more familiar order. Students will generally find that the sentences will gain in clarity, but may lose its rhythm or shift its emphasis.
Seeing Shakespeare performed, or performing Shakespeare, can help students form more powerful connections with the text than reading alone.
About the Play
The Comedy of Errors was first printed in 1623 collection of Shakespeare's plays, now known as the First Folio.
To learn more, explore our Discover Shakespeare online resource, including the sections highlighted at right.