David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors: A Retelling Act 3, Scene 1

— 3.1 —

Before the house of Antipholus of Ephesus were standing Antipholus of Ephesus; Dromio of Ephesus; Angelo, who was a goldsmith of Ephesus; and Balthazar, who was a merchant of Ephesus.

“Good Signior Angelo, please excuse us,” Antipholus of Ephesus said. “My wife is shrewish when I come home late. Please say that I lingered with you at your shop so that I could see you make her necklace. Also, please say that you will bring it here tomorrow. But look here at my slave. He is a rascal who would impudently swear that he met me in the marketplace and that I beat him, and that I said I had given him a thousand marks in gold, and that I denied that I was married to my wife and lived in my house.”

He said to Dromio of Ephesus, “You drunkard, what did you mean by saying all of this?”

“Say what you will, sir, but I know what I know. I know that you beat me in the marketplace. I can prove it with evidence from your own hand. If my skin were made of parchment, and the blows you gave me were ink, your own handwriting on my back and shoulders would tell you what I think.”

“I know what I think: I think you are an ass,” Antipholus of Ephesus said.

“Indeed, judging from the wrongs I suffer and the blows I bear, it does appear that I am an ass. I should kick back when I am kicked. If I would do that when I am in such a predicament, you would keep away from my heels and beware of this ass.”

Antipholus of Ephesus said, “You’re solemn, Signior Balthazar. I pray to God that our entertainment and meal will show you my good will toward you and that you are welcome here.”

“Your welcome and friendship are much more valuable to me than your most excellent delicacies,” Balthazar replied.

“Signior Balthazar, whether one is served flesh or fish, a hearty welcome is not a substitute for a good meal. A hearty welcome cannot make up for a bad meal. As we know, a hearty welcome is not the equal of even one good course.”

“Good food, sir, is common,” Balthazar said. “Every man can provide that.”

“And a good welcome is even more common than good food,” Antipholus of Ephesus said. “All that is required for a good welcome is words.”

“A little food and a great big welcome makes a merry feast,” Balthazar said.

“Yes, to a niggardly host, and to a guest who eats less than the host, but though my food is mean, eat it with my best wishes for you,” Antipholus of Ephesus said. “You may eat better food elsewhere, but it will not be served to you with a better heart than mine.”

He tried to open the door of his house, but it would not budge. He said, “That’s odd. My door is locked. Dromio, call for someone to unlock the door and let us in.”

Dromio called, “Maud, Bridget, Marian, Cicel, Gillian, Ginn!”

Antipholus of Ephesus was a successful man with many servants.

Dromio of Syracuse, who was serving as porter, called from inside the house, “Blockhead, drudge, cuckold, fool, idiot, clown! Either go away, or shut up! Are you trying to use a spell to get women by calling the names of so many? One woman is one too many. Go, get away from the door.”

Dromio of Ephesus said, “Which fool has been made our porter? My master is out here waiting in the street.”

Dromio of Syracuse said, “Let him walk from here to wherever he came from — that will keep his feet from growing cold.”

Antipholus of Ephesus said, “Who is talking from inside my house? Whoever you are, open the door!”

“Right, sir,” Dromio of Syracuse replied. “I will tell you when I will open the door after you tell me a good reason why I should open the door.”

“Why should you open the door? You should open the door so that I can eat my dinner. I have not eaten today.”

“You will not eat here today,” Dromio of Syracuse replied. “Come again — when you are invited.”

“Who are you who is keeping me out of my own house — the house I own?”

“Right now, I have the job of the porter, sir, and my name is Dromio.”

“Rascal!” Dromio of Ephesus exclaimed. “You have stolen both my job and my name. The one never got me credit; the other always got me much blame. If you had been Dromio today in my place in the marketplace, you would have changed your job as porter for that of a target for blows and you would have changed your name of Dromio to the name of Ass. To have avoided that fate, you would have to have changed your face from that of mine or have changed your name from Dromio to another human name to avoid being beaten like an ass.”

Antipholus of Syracuse started to bang on the door.

Luce, a servant to Adriana, now arrived and asked, “What a turmoil I hear! Dromio, who are these people banging on the door?”

Dromio of Ephesus recognized Luce’s voice and said, “Let my master in, Luce.”

Luce replied, “No, your master comes too late. Tell your master that.”

She knew that the meal had already been served and was being eaten. She also thought that her master was upstairs eating, not growing angry outside the door.

“I have to laugh at that,” Dromio of Ephesus said. “Let me have at you with some words: Shall I come in with my staff? Shall I make myself at home?”

“Let me have at you with some other words,” Luce replied. “When should you come in? Can you tell? The answer is never. If you come in here, you will need more than just a staff — you will need an entire army.”

From inside the house, Dromio of Syracuse said, “Luce — if your name is Luce — you have answered him well.”

Antipholus of Ephesus yelled, “Can you hear, minion? Let us in! Please?”

Luce replied, “I have already answered your question with my own questions: ‘When should you come in? Can you tell?’”

Dromio of Syracuse said to Luce, “You have already answered the question: ‘The answer is never.’”

Antipholus of Ephesus pounded on the door.

Dromio of Ephesus said, “Well struck! You answered a verbal blow from Luce with a physical blow on the door.”

Antipholus of Ephesus yelled, “Luce, you baggage, you good-for-nothing woman, let me in.”

“Let you in? Says who?” Luce yelled.

“Master, knock hard on the door,” Dromio of Ephesus said.

“Let him knock until the door aches,” Luce yelled.

Antipholus of Ephesus yelled, “You’ll regret this, minion, if I beat the door down.”

Luce replied, “Not likely, since we have a pair of stocks in this town. The police will put you in the stocks, and I will torment you.”

Hearing all the racket, Adriana arrived and said, “Who is it at the door who keeps making all this noise?”

From inside the house, Dromio of Syracuse replied, “Truly, your town is troubled with unruly fellows.”

“Is that you, wife?” Antipholus said. “I wish that you had arrived earlier.”

Adriana, thinking that her husband was upstairs eating dinner, said, “Your wife, Sir Rascal! Go and get away from the door! Get out of here!”

Dromio of Ephesus said, “If Sir Rascal is sent away in pain, then I — a regular rascal — will indeed suffer sorely.”

“Here is neither a meal, sir, nor a welcome,” Angelo said. “We would be happy to have either.”

Balthazar said, “We have been debating whether good food or a good welcome is better, but it looks like we shall depart with neither.”

“Your guests are standing at the door, master,” Dromio of Ephesus said cheekily. “Tell them that they are welcome in your home.”

“There is something in the wind — some reason why we cannot get in,” Antipholus of Ephesus said. “Something is wrong.”

“Something in the wind?” Dromio of Ephesus said. “That would be us. You would know that a cold wind is blowing if your clothing were made of thinner material. Your food inside the house is warm, but you are standing out here in the cold. It makes a man as angry as a mad-horn horned buck to be so treated.”

Antipholus of Ephesus ordered, “Go and fetch me some tool that I can use to break down the door.”

Dromio of Syracuse said, “Break anything here, and I’ll break your rascally head.”

Dromio of Ephesus said, “A man may break a word with you, sir, and words are but wind, and therefore I will break wind in your face and not in a direction away from you.”

Dromio of Syracuse said, “It seems that you want your head broken. Damn you, rascal!”

Dromio of Ephesus said, “I am spending way too much time in the great out of doors — let me in! Please!”

Dromio of Syracuse replied, “Yes, I will let you in — when fowls have no feathers and fish have no fins.”

Antipholus of Ephesus said to Dromio of Ephesus, “Well, I’ll break in. Go and borrow a crowbar.”

Dromio of Ephesus willfully misunderstood what his master had said: “A crow bare? A crow without feathers? Master, do you mean it? For every fish without a fin, there’s a fowl without a feather. If a crow bare will get us inside the house, we will pluck a crow together. Once we are inside the house, then that Dromio and this Dromio can settle our argument.”

Antipholus of Ephesus said, “Stop fooling around! Go! Bring back an iron crowbar.”

“Be patient, sir,” Balthazar said. “Don’t break down your own door. If you do, you will harm your reputation and you will make people suspect that your wife has disobeyed you and dishonored you. So far, her reputation as a wife has been excellent. Consider this: You have long known that your wife is wise, that she is sober and virtuous, and that she is mature and modest. Because of this, you should conclude that she has a good reason — unknown to you right now — for locking the door and keeping you out of your own house. This reason she will explain to you later. Take my advice. Depart quietly now, and let all of us go and eat dinner at the Tiger Inn. Around evening, return — alone — to your house and talk to your wife about why she locked the door against you. If you use your strong hands to break down the door now, you will cause rumors to be spread by crowds of people. So far, your reputation is unblemished. Keep it that way, or people will remember the day you broke your own door down — and they will remember it even when you die. Gossip spreads from person to person to person, and everyone who hears the gossip remembers it.”

“You are right,” Antipholus of Ephesus said. “I will leave quietly. Although I am in no mood to be merry, and my wife obviously does not want me to be merry, I will change my mood — with effort — and stop being angry and instead be merry. I know a courtesan who converses well and excellently. She is pretty and witty; she is wild and yet she is gentle. We will dine with her. My wife has often accused me — unjustly — of having an affair with this woman whom I am talking about, but I swear that I am faithful to my wife and that I have never slept with this woman although I like looking at and talking to her. I would tell you if I had slept with her — we are all guys here, and the story would be a good one to tell in the locker room if I were the kind of man who has affairs. We will go to her house for dinner.”

He said to Angelo, “Go to your home and fetch the necklace — it should be finished by this time. Bring it to the Porcupine, which is the name of the courtesan’s home. If for no other reason than to spite my wife, I will give the necklace to the courtesan. Good sir, make haste. Since my own door refuses to open up for me, I’ll knock elsewhere and see if that door will disdain me.”

“I’ll meet you at the Porcupine an hour or so from now,” Angelo said.

“Please do,” Antipholus of Ephesus said. “This jest at my wife’s expense shall also cost me some expense.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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