SHAKESPEARE'S DEPARTURES FROM PLAUTUS
The omissions and changes Shakespeare made from Plautus's plot are
almost as important in lending his Play a new effect as the additions
and entirely original inventions.
Notice the entire omission of the borrowed cloak taken from his wife,
Mulier, by Menaechmus and given to the Courtisan, Erotium; also, of
the character of the parasite, Peniculus, by means of whom as a
spiteful informer the wife is told of her husband's relations with
Erotium and the dinner he proposes to take with her. Instead of
Mulier's father, Senex, Shakespeare creates the noble Egean, the
father of the Twins. Introducing his plot with the incident of his
arrest, he closes it with the still more notable character of the
mother whom he gives an important part to play in the happy solution
of the difficulties and the re-union. The part of the Duke and the
trade relations of the two cities, the city in Sicily as in Plautus,
the other Ephesus, instead of Epidamnum, as in Plautus, are ingenious
changes of an external sort. What is effected by them? The different
treatment of the dinner incident which causes the husband to mean to
dine at home, until he finds he cannot, when with others he invites
the courtisan to dine with them at an Inn, lends a different color to
the story. What do you think it effects as to character, amusingness,
and unity with the plot of mistaken identity? The courtisan's open
visit to the wife and direct effect upon the plot is in strong
contrast to the intrigue of which the wife is informed by a third
person. Bring this out, and show what the influence is.
Compare the argument of Plautus (For this see "First Folio Edition" of
"Comedie of Errors," p. 76) with the opening scene wherein Shakespeare
causes Egean to tell the story out of which the Play grows. In what
respects is this an improvement? (See Extract from Ten Brink, p. 183).
What is accomplished by the addition of the twin servants?--the two
Dromios? (for special assistance in a comparative appreciation of
Shakespeare's farce and that of Plautus see Introduction also Sources
in the "First Folio Edition" of this Play).