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THE COMEDY OF ERRORS.

ACT I. SCENE I.

A Hall in the DUKE's Palace.

Enter DUKE, Ægeon, Jailer, 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 gilders to redeem their lives,
Have seald 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 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,

1

1 Both by the Syracusians,] Thus the first folio.

The modern editors have altered it to Syracusans, but it will be a sufficient vindication of the old spelling to state, that it has the sanction of Bentley, in his Dissertation on Phalaris. Boswell.

His goods confiscate to the duke's dispose;
Unless a thousand marks be levied,
To quit the penalty, and to ransom 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.

DUKE. Well, Syracusian, say, in brief, the cause Why thou departedst from thy native home; And for what cause thou cam’st to Ephesus. ÆGE. A heavier task could not have been im

pos’d, Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable: Yet, that the world may witness, that Was wrought by nature, not by vile offence, 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 too ^, had not our hap been bad. With her I liv'd in joy; our wealth increas'd, 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:

my end

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- by NATURE, not by vile offence,] Not by any criminal act, but by natural affection, which prompted me to seek my son at Ephesus. Mr. M. Mason has made a similar observation. MALONE.

3 — and wed-] Wed for wedded was the phraseology of Shakspeare's time. So, in Timon of Athens :

“ Which makes the wappen' widow wed again.” 4 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 metre. MALONE.

till my factor's death, “ And the great care of goods at random left, “ Drew me from kind embracements of my spouse :] Thus

5 66

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

poor mean woman was deliver'd 6
Of such a burden, male twins, both alike:
Those, for their parents were exceeding poor,
I bought, and brought up to attend my sons.

66

66

* First folio, bears, the old copy, except that in that copy we have And he great care, &c. For this emendation I am answerable.

Perhaps there are few passages in these plays where an emendation, effected by the addition of a single letter, produces so easy and clear a sense. Mr. Steevens, however, adhered to the errour of the old copy, but changed its punctuation and adopted a parenthesis, suggested by Mr. M. Mason ; in consequence of which alterations the text appears in his edition as follows :

our wealth increas'd,
By prosperous voyages I often made
“ To Epidamnum, till my factor's death :
“ And he (great care of goods at random left)

“ Drew me, &c.” According to this punctuation and arrangement, the meaning is, that Ægeon carried on a successful trade till his factor's death; and then he [the dead factor] drew him away from the embracements of his wife. MALONE. 6 A POOR mean woman was deliver'd-] The old copy

reads : A mean woman was delivered.” The word poor was added to complete the metre in the second folio. It is manifest that some word was omitted by the compositor of the original copy; but the word supplied by the second folio can hardly be the authour's word, for in the next line but one we have

for their parents were exceeding poor.However, rather than print an imperfect verse, I have admitted this clumsy emendation." Malone.

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 tragick 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 embrac'd,
Yet the incessant weepings of my wife,
Weeping before for what she saw must come,
And piteous plainings of the pretty babes,
That mourn'd for fashion, ignorant what to fear,
Forc'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 fasten'd him unto a small spare mast,
Such as sea-faring 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,
Fasten'd ourselves at either end the mast;
And floating straight, obedient to the stream,
Were * carry'd 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 discover'd
Two ships from far making amain to us,
Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this:

* First folio, was.

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 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

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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.

7

- borne upon] The original copy reads—borne up. The additional syllable was supplied by the reviser of the second folio, who, however, absurdly reads—borne up upon. Malone.

8 Gave helpful welcome-] Old copy-healthful welcome. Corrected by the editor of the second folio. So, in K. Henry IV. P. I.:

And

gave the tongue a helpful ornament.” Malone. I cannot think any change was necessary.

A healthful welcome is a kind welcome, wishing health to their guests. It was not a 'helpful welcome, for the slowness of their bark prevented them from rendering assistance. Boswell.

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