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Identity in Ephesus


Henry James Richter. Comedy of Errors. Two Dromios. Watercolor drawing, 1829.

I to the world am like a drop of water

That in the ocean seeks another drop...

So I, to find a mother and a brother,

In quest of them, unhappy, lose myself.

~ Antipholus of Syracuse, I.2


Imagine growing up knowing you have a twin sibling somewhere in the world that you have never met. Would you set out across the globe in search of your other half? How would this change your perspective of yourself?


Antipholus of Syracuse is having difficulty defining himself. His quest to find his family defines who he is, at least until people begin behaving as though he is his brother – which redefines him as husband, landowner, and business associate of several local merchants. His mind reels at these new discoveries, but his incredulity is surpassed by his curiosity, and his growing love for Luciana.


While the situation is outrageous, this sort of thing happens more than one might think – people find out that they’re adopted, or that they have siblings they’ve never met. Antipholus is not only having trouble with his identity because his perception changed, but also because he is recognized as someone else in a strange land. He is carried away with everyone else’s clear idea of who he is instead of his own troubled concept of identity.


How do you define yourself – by your interests? By your relationships to others? In what ways do you allow other people’s perception of you to define who you are?


Next: Farce and Violence

  Did you know?

Twin Trivia!

  • William Shakespeare fathered a set of fraternal twins: Hamnet and Judith.
  • Woodcuts from the 16th century show that identical twins could be used in street entertainment, like the "sawed in half" trick used in magic shows.
  • Identical twins represent about a third of all twins.
  • It is possible that Queen Elizabeth I employed twins in her court: Frances Howard Seymour and Martha Howard, who are said to have died on the same day in 1598.
  • Twin girls seperated at birth in Mexico in 1989 were both adopted in the US. When one sister moved to the town where her twin lived, people she had never met claimed to know her. For a Shakespearean twist, the confused twin’s name was Adriana (the name of Antipholus of Ephesus’s wife).
  • A set of identical twins seperated at birth in 1940 grew up having no knowledge of each other for 39 years. Both were named James, married women named Linda, divorced, and remarried women named Betty. Both named their sons James Alan, and their dogs "Toy."

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