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Two Sides of the Same Coin: Twins and Duplicity in The Comedy of Errors

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The Comedy of Errors

December 2012
Wyckham Avery teaches English and theatre at The New School of Northern Virginia, Fairfax, VA

Plays/Scenes Covered

The Comedy of Errors 3.2, 4.4, 3.2, 2.1


This lesson could also work with:

A Midsummer Night's Dream, 3.2.122-344

The Taming of The Shrew, 2.1.185-325

As You Like It, 3.5.109-35

Julius Caesar, 4.2.30-177

1 Henry 1V, 1.1.1-33

Othello, 3.3.90-257

Henry V, 4.1.84-221



What's On for Today and Why

 Duplicity in its earliest definition means doubleness, but today can mean acting in two ways. Although it often connotes deceitfulness, for this discussion it helps to look at it without judgement. It can be the difference between someone being "two-faced" or recognizing a person's yin and yang.

Students will:


  • Work in pairs to explore duplicity within a character's monologue.


This lesson will take 2 x 45 minute classes

What You Need

Monologues from The Comedy of Errors (including worked example)



What is also helpful:

The Folger Edition of The Comedy of Errors

Shakespeare Lexicons and/or glossaries

What To Do

Day 1

1. Prepare for the lesson by printing copies of the monologue/s for as many pairs in your class. You will need to give some groups the same text to work from, but that can lead to good discussion about different choices. You may choose to give all groups the same monologue to compare results.


2. Introduce the word "duplicity" to develop a working definition. Terms to help illustrate this idea are the comedy and tragedy masks, the yin yang symbol, or the character of Two-Face from Batman.


3. Divide students into pairs and distribute copies of the printed monologues. Have each pair read their monologue and discuss what they believe the two sides of the character are in the speech. Model activity with worked example included with handouts.


4. Have students create a performance showing the duplicity of the character. They should break up the lines between them, annotate their choices with two different colored highlighters, and determine how they would like to perform.


5. Students may incorporate costumes, props, and music to help portray their characters. Memorization is optional as long as the main focus is on analysis of the text.


6. Allow the rest of the period to rehearse.


Day 2


1. Check in with students and assess progress.


2. Allow students approximately 20 minutes to rehearse-amount of time will depend on number of students - leave time for performance and reflection)


3. Have each pair perform.


4. After the performances, discuss what they observed about the characters, performances, and text.

*What methods did students use to show they were one character?

*What are the two sides of each character?

How Did It Go?

Were the students able to show two sides of one character?

Did the students make clear choices about the two sides of a character?

Did the students exhibit an understanding of duplicity?


Students can choose to film and edit their performances instead of performing live.


If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.

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1 Comment

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