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THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
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.
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
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 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
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,
Weeping before for what she saw must come,
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,
Gaol. I will, my lord.
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.
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
Enter Dromio of Ephesus.
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
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 !”
“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,