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Feldman, A.B. (1959). Portals of Discovery. Am. Imago, 16(1):77-107.

(1959). American Imago, 16(1):77-107

Portals of Discovery

A. Bronson Feldman

A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

Joyce: Ulysses.

On New Year's night 1577 the singing children of St. Paul's Cathedral, under the direction of Master Sebastian Westcott, acted a play for Queen Elizabeth and her court, named in the accounts of the royal Office of the Revels “The History of Error”.1 Nothing is known about the plot of this drama, but a number of experts on the Tudor theater have guessed from its odd title that it was an early version—if not the protoplast—of Shakespeace's Comedy of Errors. The limping doggerel of the Comedy's least modern lines would have been quite fashionable on the London stages in the days of the lost “History”. In those days, also, the royal court favored plays with materials taken from ancient Greek romance, stories of shipwreck and piracy, of lovers tragically separated and miraculously reunited, and children vanished and found again. Shakespeare's fondness for these old Greek stories can be felt in the latest as well as the earliest of his dramatic works. So if the legend of Aegeon and his family formed the plot of “The History of Error”, then it might be possible to determine, with a surprising abundance of biographic details, how the Comedy of Errors came to be written. Thus we may discover how Shakespeare came to be a dramatist, and the way his mind was working when he entered this sphere of art.


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