William Shakespeare’s THE COMEDY OF ERRORS: A Retelling — Act 4, Scene 3

— 4.3 —

Antipholus of Syracuse, who was wearing the necklace that Angelo the goldsmith had given to him, stood on a public street and said to himself, “Every man I meet here in Ephesus greets me as if I were his very good friend. Every man calls me by my name. Some give money to me; some invite me to dinner; some give thanks to me for kindnesses; some offer to sell me commodities. Just now a tailor called me into his shop and showed me silks that he said he had bought for me and then he took my measurements. Surely these are tricks of my imagination, and surely sorcerers who were educated in Lapland, that country of magic, live here.”

Dromio of Syracuse walked up to Antipholus of Syracuse and said, “Master, here’s the gold you sent me for. What, have you gotten redemption from the picture of old Adam in his new apparel?”

Dromio of Syracuse thought, Odd. My master seems not only to have bailed himself out of jail without the money to do it with, but he also has acquired a new gold necklace. Has the police officer suddenly turned super-friendly?

“What gold is this? And what Adam do you mean?”

“I don’t mean that Adam who kept the Garden of Eden, but I do mean that Adam who keeps the prison. The Adam I mean wears leather — the skin of the calf that the father ordered to be killed for the Prodigal Son. The Prodigal Son’s father was happy to see his son and had the fatted calf killed to provide a feast to celebrate his son’s return, but the Adam I mean wears a police officer’s leather uniform and arrests prodigals who cannot pay their debts. Of course, the first Adam’s first clothing was made of fig leaves, but both Adams later wore animal skins for clothing. Remember Genesis 3:21: ‘Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.’ The Adam I mean is the one who came from behind you, sir, like an evil angel, and made you forsake your liberty. The Adam I mean is the opposite of the good angel who released Paul from prison in Acts 12:5-7: ‘So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And his chains fell off his hands.’”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“You don’t? Why, I am speaking plainly about a plain case. I am talking about the man who walks around looking like the musical instrument called a bass that is still in its leather case. This man, sir, who is dressed in a leather uniform, when gentlemen are tired, gives them a reason to sob and arrests them and lets them rest in prison. He, sir, takes pity on bankrupt men who cannot afford new clothing and gives them new suits — suits of law, aka lawsuits. I am talking about a man who while making an arrest does more damage with his nightstick than a soldier does with his bayonet.”

“Are you talking about a police officer?”

“Yes, sir, I am talking about the sergeant of the band, the man who brings a man to court to answer for breaking his bond. This sergeant apparently thinks that men are always going to bed, and therefore often says, ‘God give you good rest!’ But actually he is always thinking about good arrests that will stand up in courts.”

“That is a good place for you to rest and stop your joking. Are any ships leaving Ephesus tonight? Can we set sail tonight?”

“Why, sir, I brought you word an hour ago that the ship Expedition is setting sail tonight. Unfortunately, you were then arrested by the police officer and so were forced to wait for the ship Delay. By the way, here are the angels — the gold coins — that you sent me to get so that you could pay your bail.”

“You are confused in your mind, and so am I. Here in Ephesus, we wander around in illusions of our mind. May some blessed power deliver us from here!”

The courtesan walked over to them and said, “Well met, Master Antipholus. I see, sir, from the necklace that you are wearing that you have seen the goldsmith who failed to show up for dinner and bring the necklace to you — that is why you left before we enjoyed our after-dinner dessert. I assume that this is the necklace that you promised to give me.”

Antipholus of Syracuse had never seen the courtesan before and so he thought that she was a figure of evil: one of the many witches reputed to live in Ephesus. He said, “Satan, avoid! I charge thee, tempt me not,” using some of the words of Jesus as they appeared in the 1599 Geneva Bible: “Then said Jesus unto him, ‘Avoid[,] Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve’” (Matthew 4:10). “Avoid, Satan” was another way of saying, “Get away from me, Satan” or “Depart, Satan” or “Get lost, Satan.”

Dromio of Syracuse asked, “Master, is this person Mistress Satan?”

“She is the Devil.”

“No, she is worse. She is the Devil’s dam, aka the Devil’s mother. She has appeared here in front of us dressed like a woman with loose — or nonexistent — morals. In other words, she looks like an cheap date. Sometimes, women say, ‘God damn me!’ That is the same thing as saying, ‘God, make me an cheap date’ or ‘God, make me a dam, aka mother.’ It is written that Devils sometimes appear to men like angels of light: ‘And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). Light is an effect of fire, and fire will burn; ergo, cheap dates will burn — they will give men a venereal disease that will make the men burn when they pee. Do not go near her, master. On second thought, she looks like she might be a very expensive ‘date.’”

“Your slave and you are very funny, sir,” the courtesan said. “Will you go with me? Shall we enjoy our after-dinner dessert here in my house?”

“Master, if you do go and eat with her, expect to use a spoon to eat soft food, such as children and old people use to eat with, for you would have to be simple-minded to eat with such a woman as this. If you do go and eat with her, make sure that you use a spoon with a long handle.”

“Why, Dromio?”

“Whoever wants to eat with the Devil must have a long spoon.”

Antipholus of Syracuse said to the courtesan, “Avoid, fiend! Get lost! Why are you talking to me about after-dinner dessert? You are, like everyone else here in Ephesus, either a sorceress or magician. I conjure you to leave me and be gone.”

“We made a trade at dinner: I gave you a diamond ring and you promised to give me a gold necklace. Give me the ring of mine you had at dinner, or, in exchange for my ring, give me the necklace you promised to give to me, and I’ll be gone, sir, and not trouble you.”

As the courtesan had said, Antipholus of Ephesus and she had made a trade at dinner: She had given him her diamond ring worth forty ducats, and in return he had promised to give her a gold necklace worth two hundred ducats. If the courtesan was unable to get the necklace, she wanted to at least get her ring back.

Dromio of Syracuse said, “Some Devils ask for only the parings of one’s fingernails, a straw, a hair, a drop of blood, a pin, a nut, a cherry pit, or other items that can be used in making potions or casting spells, but this female Devil, who is greedier, wants to have a necklace. Master, be wise: Do not give her the necklace. For if you give it to her, the Devil will shake the links of the necklace like the links of a chain and frighten us with it. Remember Revelation 20:1-2: ‘And I saw an angel come down from Heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.’”

“Please, sir,” the courtesan said. “Give me my ring back, or else give me the necklace. I hope that you do not intend to cheat me.”

“Avaunt, you witch!” Antipholus of Syracuse said. “Get away from me, you witch!”

Then he added, “Come, Dromio, let us go.”

Dromio of Syracuse said, “A courtesan accusing us of cheating is like a peacock with its ornate feathers accusing someone of being proud. Mistress, you know all about that. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins, and it is personified by a whore — the citizens of Babylon were proud, and the whore of Babylon had something written on her forehead: ‘And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH’” (Revelation 17:4).

Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Syracuse exited, leaving behind the courtesan, who said to herself, “It must be that Antipholus is insane, or he would never behave in this way. He has a ring of mine that is worth forty ducats, and for that ring he promised me a necklace. Now he refuses to give me either the ring or the necklace. The reason why I think that he is insane, besides the way he was acting just now, is the wacky story he told me today at dinner: He said that his own door was shut and locked so that he could not enter his home. Apparently, his wife, knowing about his fits of insanity, purposely locked the door to keep him from entering the house. Now I need to go to his home and tell his wife a lie. I will say that her husband, who is a lunatic, rushed into my house and took away my ring from me by force. This course of action is the best that I can choose because forty ducats is too much for me to lose.”

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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