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Solinus, duke of Ephesus.
Æmilia, wife to Ægeon, an abbess at Ephesus.
Gaoler, Officers, and other Attendants.
* In the old copy, these brothers are occasionally styled Antipholus Erotes, or Errotis; and Antipholus Sereptus; meaning, perhaps,-erraticus, and surreptus. One of these twins wandered in search of his brother, who had been forced from Æmilia by fishermen of Corinth. The following acrostick is the argument to the Menachmi of Plautus—Delph. Edit. p. 654:
“Mercator Siculus, cui erant gemini filii,
li se cognoscunt fratres postremò invicem.” The translator, W.W. calls the brothers, Menächmus Sosicles, and Menechmus the traveller. Whencesoever Shakspeare adopt ed erraticus and surreptus, (which either he or his editors have mis-spelt) these distinctions were soon dropped, and throughout the rest of the entries the twins are styled of Syracuse or Ephe
COMEDY OF ERRORS.
ACT I.....SCENE I.
A Hall in the Duke's Palace.
Enter Duke, Ægeon, Gaoler, Officers, and other
Æge. Proceed, Solinus, to procure my fall, And, by the doom of death, end woes and all.
Duke. Merchant of Syracusa, plead no more; I am not partial, to infringe our laws: The enmity and discord, which of late Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your duke To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen,Who, wanting gilders to redeem their lives, Have sealed his rigorous statutes with their bloods, Excludes all pity from our threat’ning looks. For, since the mortal and intestine jars 'Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us, It hath in solemn synods been decreed, Both by the Syracusans and ourselves, To admit no traffick to our adverse towns: Nay, more, If any, born at Ephesus, be seen At any Syracusan marts and fairs, Again, If any Syracusan born, Come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies, His goods confiscate to the duke's dispose; Unless a thousand marks be levied, To quit the penalty, and to ransome him. Thy substance, valued at the highest rate, Cannot amount unto a hundred marks; Therefore, by law thou art condemn’d to die.
Æge. Yet this my comfort; when your words are done, My woes end likewise with the evening sun.
Е е 2
Duke. Well, Syracusan, say, in brief, the cause
Æge. A heavier task could not have been impos’d,
1 Was wrought by nature, not by vile offence.] All his hearers understood that the punishment he was about to undergo was in consequence of no private crime, but of the publick enmity between two states, to one of which he belonged: but it was a general superstition amongst the ancients, that every great and sudden misfortune was the vengeance of heaven pursuing men for their secret offences. Hence the sentiment put into the mouth of the speaker was proper. By my past life, (says he) which I am going to relate, the world may understand, that my present death is according to the ordinary course of Providence, [wrought by nature) and not the effects of divine vengeance overtaking me for my crimes, [not by wile offence.] Warburton.
The real meaning of this passage is much less abstruse than that which Warburton attributes to it. By nature is meant natural affection. Ægeon came to Ephesus in search of his son, and tells his story, in order to show that his death was in consequence of natural affection for his child, not of any criminal intention.
M. Mason. 2 And by me too,] Too, which is not found in the original copy, was added by the editor of the second folio, to complete the me
Malone. 3 And he (great care of goods at random left)] Surely we should read
And the great care of goods at random left
Drew me &c.
And he (great care of goods at random left)
From whom my absence was not six months old,
4 A poor mean woman -] Poor is not in the old copy. It was inserted, for the sake of the metre, by the editor of the second folio. Malone.
The children thus dispos’d, my wife and I,
Duke. Nay, forward, old man, do not break off so; For we may pity, though not pardon thee.
Æge. O, had the gods done so, I had not now Worthily term’d them merciless to us! For, ere the ships could meet by twice five leagues, We were encounter'd by a mighty rock; Which being violently borne upon, Our helpful ship was splitted in the midst, So that, in this unjust divorce of us, Fortune had left to both of us alike What to delight in, what to sorrow for. Her part, poor soul! seeming as burdened With lesser weight, but not with lesser woe, Was carried with more speed before the wind; And in our sight they three were taken up By fishermen of Corinth, as we thought. At length, another ship had seiz'd on us; And, knowing whom it was their hap to save, Gave helpful welcome to their shipwreck'd guests; And would have reft the fishers of their prey, Had not their bark been very slow of sail, And therefore homeward did they bend their course. Thus have you heard me sever'd from my bliss;
borne upon,] The original copy reads-borne up. The additional syllable was supplied by the editor of the second folio.
Malone. 6 Gave helpful welcome - ] Old copy-healthful welcome. Corrected by the editor of the second folio. So, in King Henry IV, P. I:
“And gave the tongue a helpful welcome.” Malone.