The play, ultimately, "explores in a seriously comic way, the proper relationship of husband and wife" (Wells 55), particularly beginning with this scene, where Adriana (Mrs. Antipholus of Ephesus) and her sister Luciana discuss marriage and the sexes. The charitable Luciana tries to calm her married sister: "A man is master of his liberty: / Time is their master, and when they see time, / They'll go or come; if so, be patient, sister" (II.i.7-9). It sounds like Oxford's assertion to someone like Burghley (Clark 16-17), expressing "his current preoccupation" (Ogburn and Ogburn 111). Adriana asks, "Why should their [men's] liberty than our be more?" "Because their business still lies out a' door" (II.i.10-11), responds Luciana, who continues with the argument from nature:
The beasts, the fishes, and the winged fowlsAdriana questions Luciana's authority.
Are their males' subjects and at their controls:
Man, more divine, the master of all these,
Lord of the wide world and wild wat'ry seas,
Indu'd with intellectual sense and souls,
Of more pre-eminence than fish and fowls,
Are masters to their females, and their lords:
Then let your will attend on their accords.
Their Dromio enters, whimpering about being beaten and accused of stealing 1000 marks by a "horn-mad" Antipholus (II.i.57). Adriana is angered by Dromio's reports of Antipholus apparently playing dumb about his domestic life. She delivers a diatribe blaming him for any faults she may have and for her signs of aging:
Hath homely age th' alluring beauty tookLuciana's warnings against jealousy are futile, and perhaps Oxford was indirectly poking fun at his own "jealous insanity" (Anderson 147).
From my poor cheek? Then he hath wasted it.
Are my discourses dull? Barren my wit?
If voluble and sharp discourse be marr'd,
Unkindness blunts it more than marble hard.
Do their gay vestments his affections bate?
That's not my fault, he's master of my state.
What ruins are in me that can be found,
By him not ruin'd? Then he is the ground
Of my defeatures. My decayed fair
A sunny look of his would soon repair.
Antipholus of Syracuse comes upon Dromio his servant and, thinking him the Dromio of the previous encounter, whacks him again for joking around. Dromio is baffled. Antipholus explains:
Because that I familiarly sometimesIt's obviously an aristocratic point of view (Ogburn and Ogburn 112). The two go into a vaudeville act, an exchange of quick wit about the subject of time.
Do use you for my fool, and chat with you,
Your sauciness will jest upon my love,
And make a common of my serious hours.
When the sun shines, let foolish gnats make sport,
But creep in crannies, when he hides his beams:
If you will jest with me, know my aspect,
And fashion your demeanor to my looks,
Or I will beat this method in your sconce.
Adriana and Lucentia come upon them and think they are the Ephesian pair.
How comes it now, my husband, O, how comes it,This harks back to Antipholus' earlier water-drop reference (I.ii.35). Adriana raises the issue of "a deep-divorcing vow" (II.ii.138) -- perhaps echoing the "always-wind-obeying deep" (I.i.63) from Egeon's description of the tempest (Garber 162) -- but she insists that his infidelity, since they are married, is hers too:
That thou art then estranged from thyself?
Thyself I call it, being strange to me,
That, undividable incorporate,
Am better than thy dear self's better part.
Ah, do not tear theyself away from me;
For know, my love, as easy mayst thou fall
A drop of water in the breaking gulf,
And take unmingled thence that drop again,
Without addition or diminishing,
As take from me thyself and not me too.
I am possessed with an adulterous blot;The Syracusians continue to protest their ignorance. Adriana is insulted: "How ill agrees it with your gravity / To counterfeit thus grossly with your slave, / Abetting him to thwart me in my mood!" (II.ii.168-170). This is something only a "woman of quality" could say (Ogburn and Ogburn 112). Naturally, Antipholus remains baffled, à la Christopher Sly in the Induction of The Taming of the Shrew:
My blood is mingled with the crime of lust:
For if we two be one, and thou play false,
I do digest the poison of thy flesh,
Being strumpeted by thy contagion.
What, was I married to her in my dream?Syracusian Dromio is more superstitious:
This is the fairy land. O spite of spites!
The pinching bit anticipates The Merry Wives of Windsor and appears in Lyly's Endymion (Ogburn and Ogburn 112). It appears also in Antony and Cleopatra. Dromio wonders, "I am transformed, master, am I not?" (II.ii.195), which anticipates A Midsummer Night's Dream (Ogburn and Ogburn 588), especially when Antipholus says, "If thou art chang'd to aught, 't is to an ass" (II.ii.199). "'Tis true she rides me, and I long for grass" (II.ii.200). Despite all the confusion, Adriana and this Antipholus will go home to dine together.