Egeon is being a sad sack, and seems to have a life story so miserable that he’d rather die from it than deal with it. The story of his separated family sets the stage for the comic resolution; Egeon’s plight seems to invite the conclusion of all six people being happily reunited.
S. Antipholus is conflicted about his lost family. Not only has he left his father, but he seems unable to locate his brother and mother. He is convinced that in this process of searching for them, he’s lost himself, too. S. Antipholus is further confused by all the people who seem to know him, though he doesn’t know them. This increases his feeling that he doesn’t know himself, and obscures the obvious fact that his long-lost twin is running around in the same city.
E. Antipholus is locked out of his own house, which raises his suspicions about his wife’s fidelity. S. Antipholus has been convinced that he has acquired a wife, and, following Adriana to dinner, realizes he loves her sister, Luciana. In his quest to find his lost self, S. Antipholus sees Luciana as a solution. He imagines she’s some divine creature that can restore meaning to his life. This would be great, except Luciana thinks he’s her sister’s husband, which means she can’t exactly run off with him. Luciana tries to explain the situation to poor Adriana, who only gets more wrapped up in her husband’s apparent betrayal.
E. Antipholus is now convinced that his wife is faithless, and everyone around him is crazy. His wife seems to hate him, and he lunges at her, threatening to pluck out her eyes. Further, Adriana is convinced that E. Antipholus is possessed, and she tries to have him exorcised, which is pretty serious business.
Angelo and the Merchant challenge S. Antipholus’s honor when they suggest that he lied about having the necklace. S. Antipholus is about to battle with the Merchant when he’s interrupted by Adriana, who thinks he’s the escaped E. Antipholus. The confusion reaches a head as she wonders how E. Antipholus could’ve escaped from her house. Things only get worse when the Abbess won’t let Adriana in to get her "husband" and tend to his apparent madness.
With the arrival of the Duke, it seems law and order will prevail. Adriana seeks justice against the Abbess through the Duke, and E. Antipholus seeks justice against his wife. The appearance of the Duke, who is in the midst of carrying out the law against Egeon, shifts the balance away from the madness of misunderstanding to the rigor and order of the law. The Abbess is called on and as she emerges, S. Antipholus and S. Dromio are brought out with her. With the appearance of both sets of twins in the same place, everyone finally realizes the source of all the confusion.
With everyone face to face, the long separated family has been reunited. As this situation becomes increasingly clear, the Duke releases Egeon. E. Antipholus confirms his commitment to his wife; Egeon is reunited with Aemilia; and S. Antipholus restates his offers to Luciana. All the pairs are again matched, but it’s clear from the final lines (when S. Dromio mistakes E. Antipholus for his master) that though the confusion has been pinpointed, it will take a while to actually subside.