The Sisters on Marriage

Act 2 Scene 1 – Key Scene

In this scene, Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, and her sister, the unmarried Luciana, swap views on the roles of men and women in marriage. Adriana is angry with her husband for neglecting her and that husbands have more freedom than wives. In contrast, Luciana believes that men are born to be in charge and that a woman’s role is to accept this. Both women have reasons for thinking as they do and their language gives clues as to why.

Take a look at an extract from this scene and watch it in performance here. Using the following steps, remember to look at it line by line and if you’re looking at the scene for the first time don’t worry if you don’t understand everything at once.

  • Look
    Take a look at the scene. Who has the most lines? Are they using prose or verse? Actors at the RSC often put the language into their own words to help them understand what they are saying. We’ve added some definitions (in green), questions (in red) and paraphrased some sections (in blue) to help with this. You can click on the text that is highlighted for extra guidance.
    Why, headstrong liberty is lashed with woe.
    There’s nothing situate under heaven’s eye
    But hath his bound in earth, in sea, in sky.

    The beasts, the fishes, and the wingèd fowls
    Are their males’ subjects and at their controls.
    Man, more divine, the master of all these,
    Lord of the wide world and wild watery seas,
    Indued 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.

    There’s nothing in the world that doesn’t have limits.

    Given intelligence and souls

    Greater than

    Have the sisters spoken about this subject together before? What makes us think they have or haven’t from what they say to each other?

    This servitude makes you to keep unwed.

    It’s this meek, servant-like mentality that puts men off you.

    Not this, but troubles of the marriage bed.
    But, were you wedded, you would bear some sway
    Ere I learn love, I’ll practise to obey.

    Why do you think Luciana is wary of marriage? Has Adriana added to these worries at all? What clues are there of this in the scene?

    How if your husband start some other where?
    Till he come home again, I would forbear .


    Patience unmoved! - No marvel though she pause:
    They can be meek that have no other cause.
    - A wretched soul, bruised with adversity,
    We bid be quiet when we hear it cry;
    But were we burdened with like weight of pain,
    As much or more we should ourselves complain.
    So thou, that hast no unkind mate to grieve thee,
    With urging helpless patience would relieve me;
    But if thou live to see like right bereft,
    This fool-begged patience in thee will be left.

    No wonder

    When someone is upset, we tell them to stop crying but when we feel the same, we complain as much or more. You don’t have an unkind husband, so you’re telling me to be patient to make me feel better but if you were in the same position, you’d soon change your mind.

    Well, I will marry one day but to try.
  • Watch
    Read the scene aloud, and think about how you would act out this scene. Which words would you make stand out, and how would you show the emotion of the scene? Then, watch the video and see the actors in rehearsal making these decisions, then acting out the scene in performance. What do you think of their choices? What do they tell you about the characters?
  • Imagine
    Explore some images from past versions of The Comedy of Errors at the RSC. Which sets and staging choices for the scene feel right to you?