Most of the time, I enjoy a book better than any adaptation. The tone, the language, the descriptions, all these factors play an important role for me to understand and fully enjoy the plot. But there are those plays that need... to be played out to get the essence of what the author has in mind. I consider The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare one such play - which I had the pleasure to see (via streaming) live from the National Theatre in London (Alex wrote a nice little post on that experience). Still, it doesn't mean I wouldn't be able to find good things in the book as well:
This is a classic case of mistaken identities - two sets of identical twins - Antipholus and Dromio - find themselves in difficult (albeit comical) situations when they both happen to be in the same place - Ephesus. The story reminded me so much of the so-called "screwball comedy" films of the 1930s that I was surprised this was indeed Shakespeare and in 1594.
The twists in the story are incredible, sometimes difficult to keep track of. Money gets delivered to the wrong hands, accusations lead to arrest of the innocent, and of course love triangles that never existed are formed ... Still, there was not the same depth as in other plays by Shakespeare I've read - it is tiny, yes, but I would think Shakespeare could have made some social commentary. Only one or two points made me think twice about eventual concealed : when Antipholus of Ephesus is presented as slightly "off balance" - beating his servant, wanting to beat his wife (both of which btw, are toned down in the stage play), I can't really make out whether this is a serious accusation and an insight into a severe social circumstance, or whether it's more for effect and for a complement to a farcical plot...
All in all, reading The Comedy of Errors did not make me like it as much as the stage performance. The many twists make for a tiring read and I would constantly try to remember the staged play to identify the characters in the plot. But then, perhaps this play was meant to been seen and not read?