Page images






SHAKSPEARE certainly took the general plan of this comedy from a translation of the Menæchmi of Plautus, by W. W. i. e. (according to Wood) William Warner, in 1595, whose version of the acrostical argument is as follows:

"Two twinne-borne sonnes, a Sicill marchant had,
"Menechmus one, and Sosicles the other;
"The first his father lost a little lad,
"The grandsire namde the latter like his brother:
"This (growne a man) long travell tooke to seeke

"His brother, and to Epidamnum came,

"Where th' other dwelt inricht, and him so like, "That citizens there take him for the same:

"Father, wife, neighbours, each mistaking either,

"Much pleasant error, ere they meet togither."

Perhaps the last of these lines suggested to Shakspeare the title for his piece.

In this comedy we find more intricacy of plot than distinction of character; and our attention is less forcibly engaged, because we can guess in great measure how the denouement will be brought about. Yet the poet seems unwilling to part with the subject, even in the last (and unnecessary) scene, where the same mistakes are continued, till their power of affording entertainment is entirely lost. STEEVENS.

[blocks in formation]

This comedy, I believe, was written in 1593.-See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, vol. ix. MALONE.




Enter Duke, Egeon, Gaoler, Officers, and other Attendants.

Ege. 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 seal'd 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,


any, born at Ephesus, be seen At any Syracusan marts and fairs, Again, If any Syracusan born,


[ocr errors]

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, valued at the highest rate,
Cannot amount unto a hundred marks;

Therefore, by law thou art condemn'd to die.
Ege. Yet this my comfort; when your words
are done,

My woes end likewise with the evening sun.
Duke. Well, Syracusan, 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 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,
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 he, 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 she had not been long, but she became

« PreviousContinue »