THERE has been very general agreement in regarding The Comedy of Errors as one of the earliest of Shakespeare's productions. A play called A Comedy of Errors ("like to Plautus his Menaechmus ") was acted by players at Gray's Inn on December 28, 1594, and there seems no reason to doubt that this was the present play. Of internal evidences, the most pointed is the reference in III. ii. 125-127 to France as “making war against her heir,” which is taken as an allusion to the contest between Henry of Navarre and the League (1589–94). But Henry of Navarre was heir to the French throne before the death of Henry III in 1589, and had been at war with France as early as 1585. Thus there is nothing in the passage to prevent this comedy from having come at the very beginning of Shakespeare's career. The large amount of verbal quibbling in the style of the play; the versification, which is marked by much rime both in couplets and alternates, by a considerable amount of doggerel, and by the absence of weak and light endings; and the comparative rarity of prose, all point to an early date. The year 1591 has been most frequently conjectured, and the play may well enough have been written still earlier. It was first published in the First Folio of 1623, and on this the present text is based.

The main plot is derived from the Menech mi of Plautus, which Shakespeare may have read either in the original or in the translation by W. W. (? William Warner). Though this translation was not published till 1595, it is stated in the printer's note to the readers that the work had been done by the translator" for the use and delight of his private friends," so that Shakespeare may have had opportunity of access to it some time previously.

The characters common to Plautus and Shakespeare are the two Antipholuses (Menechmi), Dromio of Syracuse (Messenio), Adriana (Mulier), the Courtezan (Erotium), and Pinch (Medicus). Shakespeare preserves in the Dromio of Syracuse, whom he borrows, and bestows upon the Dromio of Ephesus, whom he invents, the stock characteristics of the witty slave of Plautus. In Pinch's attempt to diagnose the madness of Antipholus, there is a strong reminiscence of the Medicus of Plautus. Mulier in the Menechmi is more of the conventional shrew than Adriana. The Parasite who plays a large part in the Latin comedy, the cook and maid-servant of the Courtezan, and Senex, the father of Mulier, are all discarded by Shakespeare. On the other hand, the enveloping plot of the parents of the twins, with the characters of Ægeon, Æmilia, Solinus, Luciana, the Merchants, and Luce, are all due to Shakespeare's invention. Little of the detail is drawn from Plautus, the most notable borrowings being the humorous treatment of the conjurer, the frequent thrashings of Dromio, and the reproof administered by the Abbess to Adriana, which resembles the remarks addressed to Mulier by Senex.

From the Amphitruo of Plautus are derived the scene (111. i.) in which Antipholus of Ephesus and his Dromio are shut out of their own home, and the notion of “doubling'' the slaves as well as the masters. This play had formed the basis of an early farce, Jack Juggler (1562-63), but no trace is discernible of Shakespeare's having used this intermediary. The riming fourteensyllabled lines iu which the Dromios often speak belong to the tradition of the early drama, and have also suggested an English intermediary; a supposition which receives a slight support from the unexplained presence of the names Sereptus and Errotis added to Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse respectively in the stage directions of the Folio. Some have thought that Shakespeare may have founded his play on a Historie of Error showen at Hampton Court on Newyeres daie at night enacted by the Children of Powles” (15764); but, though possible, this is far from certain. The word “Error” was at that time the common term for mistaken identity, and this was so common a device in the drama that no argument can be based on its mere occurrence in a title not otherwise identical.

Though The Comedy of Errors is notable among Shakespeare's plays for the slightness of the characterization, yet a comparison with Plautus shows, especially in the case of Adriana, a substantial superiority in elaboration and vitality on the part of Shakespeare's creations.



SOLINUS, duke of Ephesus.

Second Merchant, to whom Angelo is a debtor ÆGEON, a merchant of Syracuse.

Pixch, & schoolmaster. ANTIPHOLUS of Ephesus, twin brothers, and sons to ANTIPHOLUS of Syracuse, Ægeon and Æmilia. ÆMILIA, wife to Ægeon, an abbess at Ephesus. DROMO of Ephesus, twin brothers, and attendants on ADRIANA, wife to Antipholus of Ephesus.

the two Antipholuses. LUCIANA, her sister. BALTHAZAR, a merchant.

LUCE, servant to Adriana. ANGELO, a goldsmith.

A Courtezan. First Merchant, friend to Antipholus of Syracuse.

Gaoler, Officers, and other Attendants.

DROM10 of Syracuse

, }

SCENE: Ephesus.]


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SCENE I. (A hall in the Duke's palace.) Enter DUKE, ÆGEON, GAOLER, [Officers,) and

other Attendants. 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 guilders to redeem their lives, Have seal'd his rigorous statutes with their

bloods, Excludes all pity from our threatening looks. 10 For, since the mortal and intestine jars 'Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us, It hath in solemn synods been decreed, Both by the Syracusians and ourselves, To admit no traffic to our adverse towns. Nay, more: If any born at Ephesus be seen At any Syracusian marts and fairs ; Again, if any Syracusian 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 ransom him. Thy substance, valu'd 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.

Duke. Well, Syracusian, say in brief the cause Why thou departed'st from thy native home, 30 And for what cause thou cam'st to Ephesus. Æge. A heavier task could not have been

impos'd Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable ;

Yet, that the world may witness that my end
Was wrought by nature, not by vile offence, ss
I'll utter what my sorrow gives me leave.
In Syracusa was I born, and wed
Unto a woman, happy but for me,
And by me, had not our hap been bad.
With her I liv'd in joy; our wealth increas'd 40
By prosperous voyages I often made
To Epidamnum, till my factor's death
And the great care of goods at random left
Drew me from kind embracements of my

spouse ; From whom my absence was not six months

old Before herself, almost at fainting under The pleasing punishment that women bear, Had made provision for her following me, And soon and safe arrived where I was. There had she not been long but she became A joyful mother of two goodly sons; And, which was strange, the one so like the

other As could not be distinguish'd but by names. That very hour, and in the self-same inn, A meaner woman was delivered Of such a burden, male twins, both alike. Those, for their parents were exceeding poor, I bought and brought up to attend my sons. My wife, not meanly proud of two such

boys, Made daily motions for our home return. Unwilling I agreed. Alas ! too soon We came aboard. A league from Epidamnum had we sail'd Before the always wind-obeying deep Gave any tragic instance of our harm; But longer did we not retain much hope ; For what obscured light the heavens did grant Did but convey unto our fearful minds A doubtful warrant of immediate death; Which though myself would gladly have em

brac'd, Yet the incessant weepings of my wife,





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Weeping before for what she saw must come,
And piteous plainings of the pretty babes,
That mourn'à for fashion, ignorant what to fear,
Fore'd me to seek delays for them and me.
And this it was, for other means was none :
The sailors sought for safety by our boat,
And left the ship, then sinking-ripe, to us.
My wife, more careful for the latter born,
Had fast ned him unto a small spare mast,
Such as seafaring men provide for storms.
To him one of the other twins was bound,
Whilst I had been like heedful of the other.
The children thus dispos'd, my wife and I,
Fixing our eyes on whom our care was fix'd, 85
Fastined ourselves at either end the mast;
And floating straight, obedient to the stream,
Was carried towards Corinth, as we thought.
At length the sun, gazing upon the earth,
Dispers'd those vapours that offended us;
And, by the benefit of his wished light,
The seas wax'd calm, and we discovered
Two ships from far making amain to us,
Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this.
But ere they came, - 0, let me say no more!
Gather the sequel by that went before.

Duke. Nay, forward, old man; do not break 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 encount’red 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 healthful 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, That by misfortunes was my life prolong'd To tell sad stories of my own mishaps. Duke. And, for the sake of them thou sorrow

est for, Do me the favour to dilate at full What hath befallen of them and thee till now. Æge. My youngest boy, and yet my eldest

care, At eighteen years became inquisitive After his brother; and importun'd me That his attendant - so his case was like, Reft of his brother, but retain'd his name Might bear him company in the quest of him ; Whom whilst I labour'd of a love to see, I hazarded the loss of whom I lov'd.

Five summers have I spent in farthest Greece,
Roaming clean through the bounds of Asia,
And, coasting homeward, came to Ephesus; 135
Hopeless to find, yet loath to leave unsought
Or that or any place that harbours men.
But here must end the story of my life ;
And happy were I in my timely death,
Could all my travels warrant me they live.
Duke. Hapless Ægeon, whom the fates have

To bear the extremity of dire mishap!
Now, trust me, were it not against our laws,
Against my crown, my oath, my dignity,
Which princes, would they, may not disannul,
My soul should sue as advocate for thee.
But, though thou art adjudged to the death,
And passed sentence may not be recall'd
But to our honour's great disparagement,
Yet I will favour thee in what I can.
Therefore, merchant, I'll limit thee this day
To seek thy life by beneficial help.
Try all the friends thou hast in Ephesus;
Beg thou, or borrow, to make up the sum,
And live; if no, then thou art doom'd to die.
Gaoler, take him to thy custody.

Gaol. I will, my lord.
Æge. Hopeless and helpless doth Ægeon

wend, But to procrastinate his lifeless end. (Exeunt.

(SCENE II. The mart.] Enter ANTIPHOLUS of Syracuse, DROMIO of

Syracuse, and FIRST MERCHANT. 1, Mer. Therefore give out you are of Epi

damnum, Lest that your goods too soon be confiscate. This very day a Syracusian merchant Is apprehended for arrival here ; And, not being able to buy out his life According to the statute of the town, Dies ere the weary sun set in the west. There is your money that I had to keep: Ant. S. Go bear it to the Centaur, where we

host, And stay there, Dromio, till I come to thee. Within this hour it will be dinner-time; Till that, I'll view the manners of the town, Peruse the traders, gaze upon the buildings, And then return and sleep within mine inn, For with long travel I am stiff and weary. Get thee away. Dro. S. Many a man would take you at your

word, And go, indeed, having so good a mean. (Exit.

Ant. S. A trusty villain, sir, that very oft, When I am dull with care and melancholy, Lightens my humour with his merry jests. What, will you walk with me about the town, And then go to my inn and dine with me? 1. Mer. I am invited, sir, to certain mer

chants, Of whom I hope to make much benefit; I crave your pardon. Soon, at five o'clock, Please you, I'll meet with you upon the mart And afterward con you till bed-time. My present business calls me from you now.


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Ant. S. Farewell till then. I will

go self, And wander up and down to view the city. 1. Mer. Sir, I commend you to your own content.

[Erit. Ant. S. He that commends me to mine own

Commends me to the thing I cannot get.
I to the world anı like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself.
So I, to find a mother and a brother,
In quest of them, unhappy, lose myself.

Enter Dromio of Ephesus.
Here comes the almanac of my true date.
What now? How chance thou art return'd so

soon? Dro. E. Return'd so soon ! rather approach'd

too late. The capon burns, the pig falls from the spit, The clock hath strucken twelve upon the

bell ; My mistress made it one upon my cheek, She is so hot because the meat is cold ; The meat is cold because you come not home; You come not home because you have no

stomach; You have no stomach having broke your fast; But we that know what 't is to fast and pray 51 Are penitent for your default to-day.

Ant. S. Stop in your wind, sir; tell me this, Where have you left the money that I gave

you? Dro. E. 0,- sixpence, that I had o' Wednes

day last To pay the saddler for my mistress' crupper ? The saddler had it, sir; I kept it not.

Ant. S. I am not in a sportive humour Tell me, and dally not, where is the money ? We being strangers here, how dar’st thou trust So great a charge from thine own custody ? Dro. E. I pray you, jest, sir, as you sit at

dinner. I from my mistress come to you in post; If I return, I shall be post indeed, For she will score your fault upon my pate. Methinks your maw, like mine, should be your

clock And strike you home without a messenger. Ant. S. Come, Dromio, come, these jests are

out of season; Reserve them till a merrier hour than this. Where is the gold I gave in charge to thee ? Dro. E. To me, sir ? Why, you gave no gold

to me. Ant. S. Come on, sir knave, have done your

foolishness And tell me how thou hast dispos'd thy charge. Dro. E. My charge was but to fetch you from

the mart Home to your house, the Phænix, sir, to dinMy mistress and her sister stays for you.

Ant. S. Now, as I am a Christian, answer me In what safe place you have bestow'd my

money, Or I shall break that merry sconce of yours That stands on tricks when I am undispos'd. Where is the thousand marks thou hadst of Dro. E. I have some marks of yours upon my

pate, Some of my mistress' marks upon my shoul

ders, But not a thousand marks between you both. If I should pay your worship those again, Perchance you will not bear them patiently. Ant. S. Thy mistress' marks ? What mis

tress, slave, hast thou ? Dro. E. Your worship’s wife, my mistress at

the Phænix ; She that doth fast till you come home to dinner, And prays that you will hie you home to din

Ant. S. What, wilt thou flout me thus unto Being forbid ? There, take you that, sir knave. Dro. E. What mean you, sir ? For God's

sake, hold your hands ! Nay, an you will not, sir, I'll take my heels.

(Erit. Ant. S. Upon my life, by some device or

other The villain is o'erraught of all my money. They say this town is full of cozenage, As, nimble jugglers that deceive the eye, Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind, Soul-killing witches that deform the body, Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks, And many such-like liberties of sin.

it prove so, I will be gone the sooner. I'll to the Centaur to go seek this slave; I greatly fear my money is not safe. [Erit, 185

ACT II (SCENE I. The house of Antipholus of Ephesus.)

Enter ADRIANA and LUCIANA. Adr. Neither my husband nor the slave re

turn'd, That in such haste I sent to seek his master! Sure, Luciana, it is two o'clock. Luc. Perhaps some merchant hath invited

him And from the mart he's somewhere gone to

dinner. Good sister, let us dine and never fret. A man is master of his liberty. Time is their master, and when they see time They'll go or come; if so, be patient, sister. Adr. Why should their liberty than ours be

more? Luc. Because their business still lies out o'

door. Adr. Look, when I serve him so, he takes it

ill, Luc. 0, know he is the bridle of your will. Adr. There's none but asses will be bridled

I pray:













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Luc. Why, headstrong liberty is lash'd with There's nothing situate under heaven's eye But hath his bound ; in earth, in sea, in sky, The beasts, the fishes, and the winged 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, Indu'd with intellectual sense and souls, Of more preëminence than fish and fowls, Are masters to their females, and their lords: Then let your will attend on their accords. Adr. This servitude makes you to keep un

wed. Luc. Not this, but troubles of the marriage

bed. Adr. But, were you wedded, you would bear

some sway. Luc. Ere I learn love, I 'll practise to obey. Adr. How if your husband start some other

where? Luc. Till he came home again, I would for

bear. Adr. Patience unmov'd! no marvel though she

pause. They can be meek that have no other cause. A wretched soul, bruis'd with adversity, We bid be quiet, when we hear it cry; But were we burd'ned with like weight of pain, As much or more we should ourselves complain; So thon, 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-beggd patience in thee will be left.

Luc. Well, I will marry one day, but to try. Here comes your man; now is your husband


Enter DROMIO of Ephesus. Adr. Say, is your tardy master now at hand ?

Dro. E. Nay, he's at two hands with me, and that my two ears can witness.

Adr. Say, didst thou speak with him ? Know'st thou his mind ?

Dro. E. Ay, ay, he told his mind upon mine Beshrew his hand, I scarce could understand it.

Luc. Spake he so doubtfully, thou couldst not feel his meaning ?

Dro. E. Nay, he struck so plainly, I could too well feel his blows; and withal so doubtfully that I could scarce understand them.

Adr. But say, I prithee, is he coming home? [55 It seems he hath great care to please his wife. Dro. E. Why, mistress, sure my master is

born-mad. Adr. Horn-mad, thou villain ! Dro. E.

I mean not cuckold-mad; But, sure, he is stark mad. When I desir'd him to come home to dinner, 60 He ask'd me for a thousand marks in gold. * T is dinner-time," quoth I; “My gold,"

quoth he. "Your meat doth burn," quoth I; “My gold !”

quoth he.

“Will you come home?" quoth I; “My gold !”

quoth he, “Where is the thousand marks I gave thee, villain ? "

7 “The pig,". quoth I, “is burn'd;" "My

gold'!" quoth he. ‘My mistress, sir," quoth I; Hang up thy

mistress! I know not thy mistress. Out on thy mistress ! ”

Luc. Quoth who?

Dro. E. Quoth my master. “I know," quoth he, no house, no wife, no

mistress." So that my errand, due unto my tongue, I thank him, I bare home upon my shoulders ; For, in conclusion, he did beat me there. Adr. Go back again, thou slave, and fetch

him home. Dro. E. Go back again, and be new beaten

home? For God's sake, send some other messenger.

Adr. Back, slave, or I will break thy pate Dro. E. And he will bless that cross with

other beating: Between you I shall have a holy head. Adr. Hence, prating peasant! Fetch thy

master home. Dro. E. Am I so round with you as you with That like a football you do spurn me thus ? You spurn me hence, and he will spurn me

hither. If I last in this service, you must case me in leather.

[Exit.) 80 Luc. Fie, how impatience loureth in your

face ! Adr. His company must do his minions

grace, Whilst I at home starve for a merry look. Hath homely age the alluring beauty took From my poor cheek? Then he hath wasted

it. Are my discourses dull ? Barren my wit ? If voluble and sharp discourse be marr'd, Unkindness blunts it more than marble hard. Do their gay vestments his affections bait? That's not my fault ; he's master of my state. What ruins are in me that can be found By him not ruin'd? Then is he the ground Of my defeatures. My decayed fair A sunny look of his would soon repair. But, too unruly deer, he breaks the pale And feeds from home ; poor I am but his stale. Luc. Self-harming jealousy! fie, beat it

hence ! Adr. Unfeeling fools can with such wrongs

dispense. I know his eye doth homage otherwhere, Or else what lets it but he would be here? Sister, you know he promis'd me a chain ; Would that alone, alone he would detain, So he would keep fair quarter with his bed ! I see the jewel best enamelled Will lose his beauty; and tho' gold bides still That others touch, yet often touching will Wear gold; and no man that hath a name,





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