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As soon as Egeon and the Duke leave the Ephesian marketplace, Egeon’s missing son, Antipholus, and his servant, Dromio, both of Syracuse, show up. (We’ll call them S. Antipholus and S. Dromio to avoid confusion, which abounds in this play.)
The Syracusian men are advised by an Ephesian merchant, who recommends that they both pretend to be from Epidamium. The Merchant warns that if they’re found out to be Syracusian, they’ll get the death sentence, just like another poor Syracusian merchant the Duke has just condemned to die at sunset.
S. Antipholus decides he wants to wander about the town and explore a little, and he sends S. Dromio off with some money to get them a room at an inn named the Centaur. Left alone, S. Antipholus unloads his heart to us in a beautiful speech: he can’t be happy because he’s like a drop of water that’s fallen into the ocean, looking for its fellow drop of water. In the process of the search, he’s lost his mother and brother (and his father), and seems to have lost himself, too.
(Warning: now all of the confusion begins. Turns out the lost set of twins have been in Ephesus the whole time. Remember the boys also share names: Egeon’s twin sons are both named Antipholus, and the twin servants are named Dromio.)
Dromio of Ephesus (we’ll call him E. Dromio for short) shows up at the marketplace… and mix-ups ensue.
E. Dromio has been sent by E. Antipholus’ wife to bring the tardy E. Antipholus home. E. Dromio mistakes S. Antipholus for his master, and begs him to come to dinner. Meanwhile, E. Antipholus’s wife is so peeved he’s late that she’s been beating poor E. Dromio.
S. Antipholus gets testy, as he mistakes E. Dromio for his S. Dromio, and thinks this man is talking nonsense (especially as S. Antipholus has no wife).
S. Antipholus asks about the 1,000 marks he gave S. Dromio to use to get a room at the Centaur (the inn). S. Antipholus figures that his servant is just messing with him.
Tensions get higher as E. Dromio keeps trying to get the wrong guy, S. Antipholus, to come home to E. Antipholus’s wife at their house, the Phoenix. S. Antipholus, fed up, smacks poor E. Dromio, and E. Dromio runs off, confused and now beaten twice.
S. Antipholus, once again alone, wonders at the strange and confusing exchange. He decides that S. Dromio was cheated of the money and didn’t want to admit it. Furthermore, S. Antipholus concludes that Ephesus is a crazy country, full of quacks and sorcerers. Satisfied with this perfectly reasonable explanation, S. Antipholus heads off to the Centaur to find S. Dromio and his money.