10 of Cups - Comedy of Errors
Dramatis Personae (in order of appearance) : Angelo; Adriana; Balthazar; Luciana; Antipholus of Ephesus; Pinch; Dromio of Ephesus; messenger; Luce, a.k.a. Nell; Dromio of Syracuse; Antipholus of Syracuse; Æmelia; Solinus, Duke of Ephesus; a courtier; Ægeon.
Text & Context: The 10 of Cups is not a card of any one individual - or even individuals - but of friends, family, and fraternity. It is a card of devotion rewarded, the long lost found at last. Identity doubled and redoubled, selfhood uncovered.
Originally called The History of Errors, The Comedy of Errors has its own checkered history. These days it is generally accepted to be an early play, possibly even Shakespeare's first, but as with the dating of the entire oeuvre, not as early as it actually was. Nonetheless Errors, arguably Shakespeare's first play, shares something uniquely in common with The Tempest, arguably Shakespeare's last - that is, adherence to the classical unities.
The twinning of two plots by the Roman playwright Plautus, Errors is English Renaissance court comedy and Italian Commedia dell'arte coupled. With its theme of mistaken identity, it ties together a thread woven throughout all of Shakespeare's plays which reunites finally with the "last plays", themselves erroneously identified historically. Cymbeline, Pericles, The Winter's Tale - all depict a family torn asunder and reunited at the end. Pericles, in particular, ends not only how Errors does, but where - at the Temple of Diana, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, built by the Amazons. Diana, goddess of the moon and nature, to whom the deer was dear, twin to Apollo - recalling Leontes' disregard of the oracle viz. the devoted Paulina - and recurring metonym in Shakespeare's time for Queen Elizabeth I.
Repeated with variation by Shakespeare, the sea is an element of discord - or so it would seam. As with the verbs to hew and to cleave, the sea initially blows and cuts asunder only to be shown as the medium which necessitates reconciliation; it forces a sea-change, washes a way, enables insight. Antipholus of Syracuse, newly arrived by water vessel to Ephesus, says: "I will lose myself". Then revises,
He that commends me to mine own content
Commends me to the thing I cannot get.
I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself:
So I, to find a mother and a brother,
In quest of them, unhappy, lose myself.
Before long, he overhears Adriana - her name the Illyrian word for water and sea, hence the Adriatic; cf. Thaisa, Marina, and Ægeon/Aegean - as she opines her better half,
O, how comes it,
That thou art thus 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 away thyself from me!
For know, my love, as easy mayest thou fall
A drop of water in the breaking gulf,
And take unmingled that same drop again,
Without addition or diminishing,
As take from me thyself and not me too.
Here is Antopholus' own watery image reflected back at him. Yet the formlessness of the ocean, which fomented disunion, creating individual drops held together by mere surface tension, reunites. The many becoming one. You and I found, and lost in union.
In the self-love of Ovid's Narcissus, his falling teardrops as he stoops to kiss his reflection dispel the mirror image, the mirage - they tear. When Dromio sees his identical image reflected in his twin, he declares "
We came into this world like brother and brother;
and now let's go hand in hand, not one before another.
The stranger, the alien, filled with brotherly love, who comes to be fulfilled by seeing himself in the brother, the mother, the other.