The Two Dromios in Every Man's Comedy of Errors

—If every man’s life is a Comedy of Errors, it is because there are two Dromios wrapped up together in his parcel. We are all like the little boy who said, when asked why his clothes were just like his brother’s, “ ’Cause I’se twins ! ” The one of us makes for the other to mar. The one of us arranges our life with careful reasonableness, as if it were some stately feast; invites the guests, prepares the viands and the decorous music ; then steps out a moment, and on returning finds everything in hurly-burly, with the other of us grimacing and anticking in the midst. “ O villain! cries the tane of us to the tither, “ thou hast stolen both mine office and my name ! ”

Dromio of Ephesus does all the mischief, and Dromio of Syracuse gets all the beating. The exasperated world, naturally, can see but one man in the two, and when it sees a head, hits it. Then protests the good Dromio, —

“ But, I pray, sir, why am I beaten ? ”
And the world (in the mask of Antipholus) exclaims, half puzzled, —

“ Dost thou not know ? ”

Dro. S. Nothing, sir, but that I am beaten. . . . Well, sir, I thank you.

Ant. S. Thank me, sir! for what ?

Dro. S. Marry, sir, for this something that you gave me for nothing.

Dromio of Syracuse, for example, is a scrupulous and conscientious literary man. He dots all his i’s, and crosses his t’s, and puts beautiful carets under all omitted words, and verifies all his quotations before the manuscript leaves his hand. Then cometh Dromio of Ephesus, and inserts frightful blunders in his finished work. The Syracusan knows his Latin grammar to a dot, ad unguem. But the Ephesian writes in a second-declension accusative for us on a third-declension adjective, and when we read it we sit down and rend our garments.

The good Dromio in us never thinks of sending a copy of verses to the magazine until they have been hammered while still at fiery heat, and filed when cold, and beaten back into plasticity again, —

“ And heated hot with burning fears,
And dipt in bah’s, and kisses, and tears,
And battered with the ‘ why ‘d you do ’em ’
To shape and use.”

But the bad Dromio in us will still be jigging off some flippant rhyme, and posting it away so hot and unformed that it fairly sizzles the postage-stamp on the envelope.

Only the other day I was shown some verses in print that my friends insist are mine, and indeed there is my name to them in repulsive distinctness; but I never wrote them. They are a wretched forgery by the other Dromio.

“ O Dromio, Dromio, wherefore art thou t’other Dromio ? ”

Why, even at the risk of being made singular, could I not have been made single? Was there not “red clay” enough to body forth with a separate integument this shiftless, whimsical, miscalculating, blundering dunce of a t’other we ? Then might his cheek alone have blushed all night at the flat speech (verbum flat sapientibus) made the evening before at somebody’s fireside. Then might he have had the responsibility of that perfectly idiotic letter that now is signed with my name, sealed, and slid into the avuncular slit, and irretrievably shuffled up with wiser screeds.

And if there be any reader who has never, in his own case, discovered the fraud, let him straightway put himself in ambush for the detection. You can never be sure when the impostor will not play you some scurvy trick. He will tie you to the wrong friends. He will untie you from the right ones ; or make foes of them by some little three words that he makes you fail to say. He will take you (if still a youth) to the wrong college. He will woo the wrong maid. He will say the wrong word to the wrong person. He will tickle your wise brain with the desires of a lunatic. A Comedy of Errors, quotha ? It will be a Tragedy of Errors, rather.

Suppress him, if possible, early in the play. Tie him up with the clothes-line of control, and gag him with the mittens of silence, and pin him down with the tongs of security. Or, if worst come to worst, at least “ let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool nowhere but in ’s own house.”