Shakespearean marriages in "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" 
and "The Comedy of Errors".


In A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare uses the concept of marriage, jealousy and madness.  By taking into consideration the visual imagery created in the play, we can see how the concept of marriages is revealed with motifs appealing to the madness and jealousy of the characters in his comedies.  Marriage involves lots of concepts such as love, anger, jealousy, madness etc. Shakespeare uses these concepts in a funny way in the characters. One of the main themes of Shakespearean comedy is that of the new community: thus the stereotypical round of marriages that is a given for almost any comic Act V. Here we have only one new marriage, between (Syracusan) Antipholus Erotes and Luciana, the restoration of happiness to (Ephesian) Antipholus Sereptus and formerly shrewish Adriana, and the renewal of Egeon and Aemilia's long-sundered wedding bonds.  (


In The Comedy of Errors, the confusion of twins creates chaos between Adriana and her husband. They suppose that they cheated on each other and this makes them terrible jealous and this jealousy makes them lose their mind, even it becomes madness. Moreover, this confusion reflects to Syracusan Antipholus, too.  He is being supposed as a husband of Adriana.  Even if, he likes Luciana who is sister of Adriana, he has no right to be with her because Luciana believes he is the husband of her sister. The state of mind described in the first soliloquy becomes more unsettled in the confusing confrontations that follow. Syracusan Antipholus never thinks the characters he meets are mistaken or mad--instead, he doubts his own sense of reality. When confronted by the raging, jealous Adriana, for example, Syracusan Antipholus wonders if he married her and was unaware of it, or if he is now dreaming: "What, was I married to her in my dream?/Or sleep I now, and think I hear all this?" (2.2.181-82). (


Beyond this kind of madness and jealousy, there is real love in the play. According to Shakespeare, what is tragi-comic is love itself. In Elizabethan time, as it is seen, there is a patriarchal society. Shakespeare criticizes both men and women’s point of views.  Women regard their husbands as men that can do what they want. However, Ephesian of Anthipholus’ aim is to buy the golden chain for his wife. Although his intention is accepted as good for Adriana, because of the dramatic irony, it is seen as if he cheats on her wife.  Of course, Adriana cannot see the reality unlike the audience.  Adriana and her husband love each other, proportionally they care and get jealous at each other. Yet, there should be balance in the sense of jealousy.  For instance, when Ephesian of Anthipholus sees his wife with an unknown man in his own home, he gets mad and jealous, and then he decides to go to a prostitute.  The disadvantage of jealousy makes unhappy both of them, even if it is temporary.


In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there are four lovers: Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius. Because of the elixir of Puck, the four lovers confuse their lovers.  At this point, it can be questioned that if they were rational while loving each other, could they confuse their lovers or beloveds easily? Maybe it seems to be because of the elixir but not.  If Puck had regarded their love as strong, Puck couldn’t dare to do it. Meanwhile, this chaos creates jealousy among “best friends”. Helena cannot understand and believe this situation:


Act II, scene II.

Do not say so, Lysander; say not so
What though he love your Hermia? Lord, what though?
Yet Hermia still loves you: then be content.



Even Hermia becomes a very jealous girl and she attacks Helena in act II, scene II. The two best friends get mad and the two gentlemen fight with each other because of the jealousy.


Act III, scene II.

O, when she's angry, she is keen and shrewd!
She was a vixen when she went to school;
And though she be but little, she is fierce.
'Little' again! nothing but 'low' and 'little'!

Why will you suffer her to flout me thus? Let me come to her.

In fact, the chaotic situation we laugh at is the reality itself.  At this point, Shakespeare is laughing at us as we regard the situation comic without knowing that the truth of human situation lies in this comedy.  Hence, Shakespeare constitutes the dramatic irony on the spectator, and the spectator’s situation can be considered as tragi-comic.


In addition to this, Titania and Oberon suffer from jealousy too. Oberon gets such jealous of her that he gets Puck to use elixir to Titania.  She falls in love a man and she kisses a head of donkey who is Bottom actually. While Oberon and audience laugh this, he prepares poor Titania to get mad.  Thanks to the fairy intervention, all in Shakespeare's play are happy with their spouses: but how might the wedding have been marred if Demetrius and Lysander both still loved Hermia? "These are the forgeries of jealousy" (II.i.81) cries Titania to Oberon, and their contention, likewise a result of lust and jealousy and unbridled nature, luckily enters the play only peripherally. Theseus' law, and fairy medicine, overrules the lusty, animal side of love and prevents such violence from marring, indeed unmaking, the comedy. (


In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare regards love as disillusionment and only if love and reason can be balanced together, love makes one happy by not destroying one’s personality and honor.  With these examples of jealousy and love Shakespeare shows us that if we can be refined from jealousy and the illusion with a little logic, we can avoid falling in tragi-comic situations.  When the influence of elixir is over and when reason begins to rule, all characters turn back to their normal situations, and life goes on as usual, as natural.  Moreover, the theme of marriage presents at the end of the play.  It can be questioned whether some exciting events of love, some craziness of jealousy, and some conflicts of lovers with themselves and external world finish with the beginning of marriage or not.


 According to Shakespeare, these are seen just for ordinary and fool marriages. He creates such a various characters and marriage types that some of them are really funny.  By showing these, spectators examine their lives, and their marriage relations.  Actually, the marriage of Adriana is reality itself. For Shakespeare, what is not normal is normal.  Marriages can have some troubles or some misunderstanding, but if there is a real love between couples, it is seen that all of troubles can be solved in a way or it can be understood that there is no bad intention towards each other.


In the Comedy of Erros, When Adriana and Antipholus learn the reality, they understand how much they love and want each other one more time. As the same event, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the four lovers find their right partners at the end.  Till coming this point, they show their “id” side, for instance, Hermia never supposes that Helena or Lysander betray her, but nevertheless, her subconscious mind has this affair.

Adriana never supposes that her husband can cheat her but the same thing, nevertheless she has this kind of affairs in her deep of unconscious.  It is not debatable that they cannot prevent these events such as the function of elixir in A Midsummer Night’s Dream or the chaos of twins in the Comedy of Errors.  Subsequently, the madness of all characters occurs in the two plays. There is a correlation between marriage, jealousy and madness. The fact is that it is unavoidable to experience this, because this is life itself.





·        Ephesian Effusions: The Comedy of Errors”, English Theatre papers, Shakespeare’s sources.  8th Jan.2007.


·        "The Madness of Syracusan Antipholus." Early Modern Literary Studies,Ed. O'Brien, Robert Viking. 8th  Jan.2007.


·        “Shakespeare’s sources for A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, 8th Jan.2007. <>




Academic year 2006/2007
© a.r.e.a./Dr.Vicente Forés López
© Ipek ONur
Universitat de Valčncia Press