Study Guide

The Comedy of Errors Plot Analysis

By William Shakespeare

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Plot Analysis

Initial Situation

Egeon is sentenced to death in Ephesus; Egeon is seeking his two lost sons

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 in Ephesus seeking his lost family

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 also in Ephesus, and is missing his dinner; S. Antipholus is having E. Antipholus’s dinner, and has declared his love for Adriana’s sister; Adriana thinks her husband is trying to betray her

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.


The misunderstanding about the necklace leads to E. Antipholus being jailed; E. Antipholus and E. Dromio are tied up and locked in Adriana’s house

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.


S. Antipholus and S. Dromio escape into the priory after almost getting into a duel with the Merchant; the Abbess refuses to release S. Antipholus to Adriana’s care

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.


The Duke arrives prepared to behead Egeon; E. Antipholus arrives to face the Duke and condemn his wife; the Abbess arrives again with S. Antipholus and S. Dromio

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.


E. Antipholus is committed to his wife; S. Antipholus again declares his love for Luciana; the whole family is reunited; Egeon doesn’t get beheaded

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.

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