The Comedy of Errors Summary
Read the full text of The Comedy of Errors with a side-by-side translation HERE.
Egeon, a merchant from Syracuse, is spending time in the city of Ephesus. Being in Ephesus means Egeon’s life is about to get complicated. Because of some recent strife between the cities of Ephesus and Syracuse, any citizen of either locale caught in the enemy territory is sentenced to death (unless he can pay 1000 marks as a ransom for his life). The Duke of Ephesus explains all of this to Egeon as he hands him a death sentence for trespassing on Ephesian soil. Egeon is eager to get the death sentence – execution is no big deal because his life is pretty crappy – he’ll even explain why.
A long time ago, Egeon was making a lot of money as a merchant. When his agent died, he went on a business trip with his pregnant wife, who gave birth to identical twin boys while they were away from home. At the same exact time, a poor woman in the same inn also gave birth to identical twin boys. The poor woman sold her boys to Egeon to be servants for his twins. On their way home to Syracuse, a terrible storm overtook the ship that Egeon and his family were sailing in. During the storm, Egeon looked after one of his twin sons and one of the twin servants, as did his wife. However, during the storm, the boat was destroyed and the husband and wife, along with the boys, were separated. Egeon’s wife and one set of boys were rescued by a Corinthian ship, and Egeon and the two boys with him were picked up by a ship bound for Epidaurus. Thus separated, Egeon never saw his wife or lost son again.
Egeon named his set of boys after their missing twin brothers. He raised the boys until they were 18, at which point his biological son got inquisitive about his lost brother. Egeon’s son set off with his servant to find their lost halves. Since then, Egeon has wandered around looking for them. Egeon has now lost all hope, and he welcomes the Duke’s death sentence. The Duke gives Egeon until sunset to beg or borrow the money to ransom his life.
Meanwhile, the son that Egeon raised in Syracuse has shown up in Ephesus, the very place his dad came to look for him. His name is Antipholus, and his servant’s name is Dromio (but we’ll call them S. Antipholus and S. Dromio, as they’re from Syracuse, and their initials will help us avoid confusion as the play progresses). S. Antipholus sends S. Dromio to go get them a room at a local inn called the Centaur.
Just then, Dromio of Ephesus (who we’ll call E. Dromio) happens upon S. Antipholus and mistakes the Syracusian for his master, Antipholus of Ephesus (who we’ll call E. Antipholus). E. Dromio bids S. Antipholus to come home to dinner with E. Antipholus’s wife. S. Antipholus is reasonably confused, and ends up beating E. Dromio. E. Dromio runs away.
E. Dromio goes back to his master’s house. Adriana, E. Antipholus’ wife, is angry that her husband hasn’t returned.
S. Dromio, back at the marketplace, meets up with S. Antipholus. S. Antipholus beats S. Dromio for fooling around earlier and telling him weird messages about his "wife" wanting him home for dinner. (But we know that S. Antipholus was talking with E. Dromio earlier, not S. Dromio.) Then the two men are accosted by Adriana (E. Antipholus’s wife), with Luciana (Adriana’s sister) in tow. The two women add to the confusion, and they insist S. Dromio and S. Antipholus come home to dinner with them, as they mistake the men for their Ephesian counterparts. S. Antipholus is confused, but he decides to go with the flow and follow this woman who claims to be his wife. S. Dromio is left to play the keeper of the gate at E. Antipholus’s house and allow nobody inside.
Next, we finally meet the real E. Antipholus, who’s been busy with Angelo the goldsmith, making a gold necklace for Adriana. E. Antipholus goes back to his house with E. Dromio, Angelo, and a merchant named Balthazar. The men all arrive expecting to eat dinner, but they get home to find the gate is locked. S. Dromio, who can’t see the men through the gate, is taking his gate porter duties really seriously, refusing to let them in.
The mayhem only increases, but E. Antipholus and E. Dromio eventually decide to have dinner elsewhere. E. Antipholus asks Angelo the goldsmith to bring him the gold necklace during dinner.
Meanwhile, things aren’t any prettier inside E. Antipholus’s house. S. Antipholus (who is wifeless, as far as he knows) is trying to woo Luciana, his lost-brother’s wife’s sister. (High drama.) Luciana, unsure of how to respond, deflects his offers and runs off.
The situation is getting uncomfortable, so S. Antipholus instructs S. Dromio to go find a ship, so they can get out of this bewitched city. Before he leaves Adriana’s house, S. Antipholus is stopped by Angelo the goldsmith. Angelo mistakes S. Antipholus for E. Antipholus, and gives him the golden necklace and refuses payment, saying he knows he’ll get paid later. S. Antipholus wants to get out of this place ASAP, but doesn’t mind taking such a nice gift.
Later in the day at the marketplace, Angelo the goldsmith sees E. Antipholus and approaches his client for payment for the necklace. E. Antipholus, as he never received the necklace, says Angelo must be talking madness. Poor E. Antipholus gets arrested for avoiding paying his debt.
The wrongly imprisoned E. Antipholus is furious. S. Dromio approaches and tells E. Antipholus he’s secured the ship that S. Antipholus asked for. Since E. Antipholus didn’t ask for a ship, he figures Dromio is crazy, too. Wanting to be freed from jail, he sends S. Dromio to Adriana to get bail money. When S. Dromio reaches Adriana and tells her what happened, Adriana sends the servant off with bail money.
S. Dromio, rushing back to the marketplace to bail out E. Antipholus, runs into S. Antipholus. S. Dromio tries to give his real master the bail money, but S. Antipholus is confused, and just asks about the ship he sent S. Dromio for a long time ago.
E. Antipholus, still arrested, is met by E. Dromio, who knows nothing of his master’s arrest. The servant was just receiving a beating when Adriana, Luciana, and a schoolmaster named Pinch arrive. Adriana, thinking her husband is possessed, begs the schoolmaster (who is apparently a part-time exorcist) to cure her husband of whatever demon has possessed him. E. Antipholus is angry and tries to attack Adriana. Ultimately, E. Antipholus and E. Dromio are tied up, and taken to Adriana’s house.
After the men have been taken away, the women try to clear up E. Antipholus’s debt (and figure out its origin) with the arresting officer. As they’re puzzling it out, they’re encountered by S. Antipholus and S. Dromio. The Syracusians mistake Adriana and company for witches, and run at them with swords drawn. Everyone scampers off.
Angelo the goldsmith shows up again and sees that S. Antipholus is wearing the necklace that E. Antipholus denied receiving. S. Antipholus says he never denied anything. The squabble is getting tense and the men are ready to duke it out. Adriana and Co. enter just as the men are about to fight. S. Antipholus and S. Dromio take the opportunity to slip into a conveniently located priory (or religious place) nearby.
The Abbess (a religious lady of the priory) comes out, and asks exactly what all the fuss is about. Adriana begs the Abbess release her husband, but the Abbess refuses, as it would violate their sanctuary in the priory.
Just then, the Duke shows up on a merry jaunt to have Egeon beheaded. Adriana wants the Duke to make the Abbess release her husband, but her request is interrupted by a messenger. The messenger says that E. Antipholus and E. Dromio have escaped their bonds, singed Pinch’s beard, and are now headed towards the priory to rage against Adriana and Co.
Just then, E. Antipholus arrives and pleads for the Duke to deliver justice against his wife, who has much abused him. The Duke throws his hands up and declares everyone is insane. To add to the craziness, Egeon takes this moment to pipe up that he recognizes Antipholus is the son he raised in Syracuse. Of course, E. Antipholus says he’s never seen his father in all his life, causing Egeon to despair.
This fine kettle of fish is FINALLY de-fishified when the Abbess re-enters the scene with S. Antipholus and S. Dromio in tow. Everyone sees the four men, in two identical sets, face to face. Then they realize what’s been going on the whole time. S. Antipholus recognizes his dad, and the Abbess reveals that she’s actually Aemilia, Egeon’s long lost wife. S. Antipholus takes the opportunity to reiterate his offer of marriage to Luciana. The Duke even frees Egeon! Instead of death and disorder, the play ends with the Abbess calling everybody into the abbey, so they can share the stories of their lives since their separation.
Act I, Scene i
Read the full text of The Comedy of Errors Act 1 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Our comedy begins at the Ephesian marketplace, where Solinas, the Duke of Ephesus, is explaining why poor Egeon, a merchant of Syracuse, must die. (Yes, this is a comedy.)
- Solinus says that merchants from Ephesus have been forbidden to enter Syracuse, and merchants from Syracuse have been forbidden to enter Ephesus. The punishment for disobeying? Death, of course. It's harsh, yes, but Solinas wants everyone to know that the Duke of Syracuse started it.
- Of course, there’s a monetary loophole. Egeon can get out of the death sentence by paying a thousand marks. But Duke Solinus comments that Egeon doesn't appear to be worth even 100 marks. Way to kick him when he's down, Solinus.
- To the Duke's surprise, Egeon says he finds the idea of death comforting. This piques Duke Solinus’s curiosity, so he asks how and why Egeon left Syracuse for Ephesus.
- Egeon declares his grief to be unspeakable, and then immediately begins to talk about it. Egeon wants to clear up that he does not want to die because of some heinous crime he’s committed. Rather, his death wish is kind of a natural result of grief, which he’s had a lot of in his life. He’ll even tell you about it, in great length and detail.
- Egeon was born in Syracuse, and lived comfortably there with his wife. He made a lot of money traveling between Syracuse and Epidamium as a merchant. When his agent died, he had to stay in Epidamium and take care of business himself. Egeon’s wife, who was pregnant at the time, decided to join him.
- Egeon’s wife soon gave birth to identical twin boys, who looked so similar that their names were their only distinguishing feature. As literary devices would have it, a poor woman staying at the very same inn, during the very same hour, happened to also give birth to identical twin boys. Because she was too poor to raise the babies, she sold her children to Egeon, who wanted to raise the boys as companions and attendants for his twin boys.
- Egeon’s wife then started to nag him, saying they should all go home. But, as soon as the family got on the ship to head back to Syracuse, a terrible storm rolls in, threatening to kill everyone. The wife and babes wept, the sailors abandoned ship and ran off in Egeon’s lifeboat, and it seemed that nothing could save them.
- Egeon’s wife, worried for the younger of the twins, tied him and one of the servant twins to a small spare mast. Egeon did the same with the other two older boys. Then, Egeon and his wife guarded either end of the mast, each with their respective pair of babies (one son and one servant kid for each parent). When the storm started to calm, the family saw two ships approach—one from Corinth, the other from Epidaurus.
- To make the situation even more of a logic puzzle, Egeon’s boat ran into a big rock. The boat was torn in two, separating the two parents (with their respective pair of separated twins). The wife and two babies were rescued by the Corinthian ship, while Egeon and his two boys were picked up by the other. Sadly, the ship that Egeon was in was slow, and headed for home instead of catching up with the ship from Corinth. Thus, Egeon never saw his wife, younger twin son, or his servant ever again.
- Egeon explains to the Duke that when his son and servant turned eighteen, they got itchy to find their long lost twin brothers, and left Egeon alone. (Note that, thinking the other boys were gone, Egeon gave his son and the servant the names of their missing brothers, which will ensure some hilarity later on.)
- Egeon’s son and servant have been gone for five summers, in which time Egeon has roamed around the farthest reaches of Asia trying to find both lost sets of boys. His travels finally brought him to Ephesus. He knows that he risks death by entering Ephesus, but would rather risk death than not look for the boys here. Thus he’s lost a wife and two sets of kids, but has acquired a loneliness that’s priceless.
- The Duke basically says to him, "I can’t bend the rules, so you’re still sentenced to die." Still, he gives Egeon one day to try to raise the 1,000 marks for his bail by begging and borrowing from the folks of Ephesus. Duke Solinus then sends a fairly hopeless Egeon off with the jailer.
Act I, Scene ii
Read the full text of The Comedy of Errors Act 1 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- 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: When Dromio of Ephesus—the other Dromio—enters, and S. Antipholus mistakes him for his Dromio (Dromio of Syracuse), 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.
- So, like we said, when Dromio of Ephesus (we’ll call him E. Dromio for short) shows up at the marketplace, all sorts of 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.
Act II, Scene i
Read the full text of The Comedy of Errors Act 2 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- E. Antipholus’s wife Adriana, and her sister, Luciana, are at E. Antipholus’s house waiting for the man to come home for dinner.
- They have a little philosophical exchange, during which Luciana insists that men are freer than women because their work and responsibilities take them out of the home. She thinks her sister should just wait patiently for his return and understand that she can't control him.
- Adriana doesn’t take this comment so kindly. She says it’s this warped view of male-female relations that's keeping Luciana from getting married.
- Nope, Luciana says. It's because she's not interested in what happens in the marriage bed. (She's either not interested in sex, or not interested in being committed to one guy).
- Besides, before she gets married, she has to learn to obey.
- Adriana again chastises her for preaching patience and servitude when she doesn't really know what it's like to be married.
- Whatever, says Luciana. Here comes Dromio. That must mean Antipholus will be here shortly.
- E. Dromio enters the scene, and explains what happened with S. Antipholus at the marketplace—still, of course, thinking S. Antipholus was actually his master, E. Antipholus. Then E. Dromio explains to Adriana that her husband has gone mad, and denies that he has a wife—her.
- Now Adriana is even more miffed. She sends E. Dromio back to the marketplace to get E. Antipholus again. E. Dromio hesitantly goes again, but only after Adriana threatens to beat him.
- Adriana now begins to worry that she must be old and ugly, so her husband prefers other company to hers. She blames E. Antipholus for wasting the beauty of her youth. Though Luciana tries to get her sister to pull it together, Adriana continues to complain.
- Now Adriana’s convinced E. Antipholus is out having a snack in some other woman’s kitchen. She mentions that her husband was supposed to be bringing her a necklace, but she fears it’s not a jewelry store that’s detaining him.
Act II, Scene ii
Read the full text of The Comedy of Errors Act 2 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Back at the marketplace of Ephesus, S. Antipholus is confused. He found out that the gold he sent with S. Dromio did indeed make it to the Centaur. After getting a room at the inn, S. Dromio apparently left the place in search of S. Antipholus. S. Antipholus doesn’t think it makes sense that S. Antipholus has already seen S. Dromio, given the timing of the whole thing.
- When S. Antipholus does see S. Dromio (the right man), he begins to question him about his earlier (meaning E. Dromio’s) requests and the whole having-a-wife-and-being-late-for-dinner business. S. Dromio is rightfully confused, and says he definitely didn’t ask S. Antipholus about a wife and dinner and all that jazz. S. Dromio assures his master that this is the first time he’s seen S. Antipholus since heading off to the Centaur.
- Still, S. Dromio says it’s nice to see his master in such a merry, joking mood. However, S. Antipholus is upset and beats S. Dromio.
- S. Antipholus says it’s fine for them to be familiar friends when S. Antipholus is in a good mood, but otherwise S. Dromio should know his place. In other words, S. Antipholus doesn’t want to be teased when he’s in a serious mood.
- S. Dromio and S. Antipholus now joke about S. Dromio’s beating and the passage of time. Just as they’re about to be pals again, S. Antipholus notices people approaching.
- Adriana and Luciana rush in all hot and bothered.
- Adriana asserts her husband is being strange; he must be divided from himself, since he is divided from her, and she’s a part of him. She says separating her from him would be like separating a drop of water from a gulf—so basically, they’re stuck together. Adriana also points out that because of their connection, if he cheats, then she’s cheating, too, which he would undoubtedly be unhappy about. Basically, while his gender may seem to absolve him of the crime of disloyalty, his adultery would leave her stained, which would in turn dishonor him.
- This has been a fine strain of logic, but poor S. Antipholus, as he’s actually not her husband, is like, "What in the world?" He points out that unless he married Adriana in the last two hours since he arrived at Ephesus, he’s not actually married to her at all.
- Adriana insists she sent E. Dromio (who she thinks she sees in S. Dromio) to bring her husband home to dinner not a few hours ago. Of course, S. Dromio says he’s never seen her in his life (which is true). S. Antipholus is just as confused about how this strange woman even knows their names (because they’re not using S and E initials like we are).
- Adriana continues to insist on standing by her man (or at least the guy she thinks is her man), and demands that he stand by her.
- S. Antipholus, being unable to change the woman’s mind, decides he must’ve married her in a dream—or he’s currently in a dream—so the best thing to do is ride the high until he figures out what’s actually going on. S. Dromio declares Ephesus is a fairyland full of bewitching things, and he too decides to roll with the confusion.
- Adriana, not to be beaten, demands that the confused S. Antipholus come with her to dinner. She charges S. Dromio to guard the gate and let nobody in. S. Antipholus follows along, given that these ladies seem to know him better than he does.
Act III, Scene i
Read the full text of The Comedy of Errors Act 3 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Near E. Antipholus’s house, E. Antipholus meets with Angelo, a goldsmith he has asked to make his wife a necklace (the one she was talking about earlier with Luciana). He notes that he’s late for dinner, which means his wife will be "shrewish," so he asks Angelo to cover for him. Angelo has been instructed to say that E. Antipholus was with him to see about making the necklace, which Angelo should bring to the house the next day.
- E. Antipholus then complains about E. Dromio, who has been claiming that he (E. Antipholus) gave him a beating in the marketplace, which he absolutely did not...though it's strange that E. Dromio is bruised. (It was S. Antipholus! Remember?)
- E. Dromio won’t give in, so E. Antipholus calls him an ass.
- The conversation turns to the Merchant Balthazar, who’s looking rather serious. Balthazar and E. Antipholus then have a witty exchange about a dinner invitation E. Antipholus has extended to the Merchant. Balthazar says he’s more pleased about the invitation than he is about the food, as meat is cheap. E. Antipholus quips that meat may be cheap, but words are even cheaper. Still, Balthazar is welcome at his house, and dinner will be delicious and make him think happy thoughts.
- Anyway, the joke’s on E. Antipholus, as dinner would be awesome, if he could get into his house...which he can’t. Because the gate is locked.
- What ensues at the gates is a long, confused exchange. S. Dromio guards the gate of E. Antipholus’s house from the inside (so he can’t see who’s outside the door, or else he’d recognize his and his master’s identical twins). Adriana instructed him to let nobody in, so S. Dromio feels justified in having some fun with the guys outside.
- E. Dromio and E. Antipholus wonder who on earth is guarding the gate and why he wouldn’t let the owner of the house in. When they ask who this mystery guard is, S. Dromio truthfully replies that his name is Dromio. This, of course, confuses E. Dromio, who decides his identity has been stolen.
- Matters are made worse when another servant, Luce, backs up S. Dromio from inside the gate.
- E. Antipholus assures all the minions they'll pay for this insubordination when he breaks down the gate, which he's about to do.
- The confusion only increases: Adriana herself has come to the gate. She can’t see who the men outside the gate are, but one insists that he’s her husband (which he is). Adriana thinks her husband is inside, so she won’t let them in either.
- Finally, E. Antipholus has had enough, and gets ready to break down his own door. Balthazar pierces the madness as the voice of reason. He says that if E. Antipholus makes a scene by breaking down his own door, he’ll only be hurting his own reputation by casting suspicion on the faithfulness of his wife. (Like, why is she locking him out, and who’s she locking herself in with?) Balthazar’s says E. Antipholus’s wife is a good woman, so she’s sure to have a good explanation for locking him out. Until they find out what Adriana’s good excuse is, they should go to the Tiger and have some dinner.
- E. Antipholus decides that going out to eat is a good idea, and he knows where they can go.
- There's a nice woman at the Porpentine that his wife has accused him of being unfaithful with before. He hasn't been, of course, but hey—she is pretty cute.
- He then tells Angelo to go get the necklace. He's going to give it to this other woman to get back at his wife for not letting him in.
Act III, Scene ii
Read the full text of The Comedy of Errors Act 3 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Still at E. Antipholus’s house, the confusion we’ve just seen outside is almost as bad as the confusion going on inside. Remember S. Antipholus has just had dinner with Adriana (E. Antipholus’s wife) and Luciana (Adriana’s sister). Dinner must’ve been pretty good (and merrily drunk), because S. Antipholus has presently declared his love for Luciana. Of course, this is complicated by the fact that Luciana thinks her brother-in-law is coming onto her. (Awkward!!!)
- Luciana wonders just how E. Antipholus can turn from loving his wife to being so unfaithful. She says Antipholus may have married her sister for money, but she wishes he’d be better to her for the money’s sake, then. Luciana doesn’t tell him to be faithful, exactly. Instead, she recommends that if he does love another, that he do it stealthily, as it’s one offense to cheat on your wife, and an entirely different offense to let the poor woman know about it. According to Luciana, a man should hide his infidelity for his wife’s sake.
- Luciana finally deflects S. Antipholus by saying women are gullible, and will believe what men want them to believe, especially if the men can flatter them by claiming true love.
- S. Antipholus is undeterred. Again, he wonders how Luciana even knows his name. He admits he doesn’t really know her name, and decides that she must be some divine creature. He pleads with her to be his mentor, and teach him the ways of the world and himself.
- Finally, S. Antipholus rightly asserts that he has no wife, and either way, he prefers Luciana to Adriana. Besides, Adriana is inside the house crying as they speak.
- S. Antipholus wishes Luciana would do more with her power than just try to get him to love her sister. He basically declares Luciana to be the apple of his eye. Luciana is weirded out and runs off to try to comfort her sister.
- Just then, S. Dromio runs in, out of breath. S. Dromio says this woman, the unattractive kitchen wench, claims that he’s her man.
- Though the girl’s not appealing, she did know Dromio by name. Even creepier, she knew about all the marks and moles on his body. This is no woman to bring home to mom (if he had one), so Dromio ran from her as though she were a witch.
- S. Antipholus has clearly had enough, and his plan is to get the hell out. He sends S. Dromio to go find out if any ships are leaving immediately. He’d really rather not spend the night in this creepy place that’s clearly enchanted by witches and full of awful women who claim he and Dromio for their husbands. Still, S. Antipholus will be a little sad to leave Luciana, who has enchanted him.
- Now, Angelo the goldsmith shows up with E. Antipholus’s gold chain for his wife. He mistakes S. Antipholus for E. Antipholus, and happily gives him the chain, so glad to meet him before he went to the Porpentine. Of course, S. Antipholus has no idea what’s going on, but he doesn’t refuse the necklace because it’s pretty. He tries to pay Angelo on the spot, but Angelo refuses (thinking E. Antipholus will pay him later). S. Antipholus, thinking golden gifts are raining from the sky, decides to accept his gift. He’ll meet Dromio at the marketplace and leave Ephesus as soon as possible.
Act IV, Scene i
Read the full text of The Comedy of Errors Act 4 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At the marketplace in Ephesus, Angelo the goldsmith talks with a merchant. Apparently, Angelo owes him some money, and the Merchant wants to collect it before he sets sail to Persia. Angelo expects to pay off the Merchant with the money he’ll get from E. Antipholus, who he thinks owes him for Adriana’s necklace...which he would, if Angelo hadn't just given the necklace to S. Antipholus.
- Just then, E. Antipholus and E. Dromio enter the scene, having just left the Porpentine. E. Antipholus has arrived, expecting to collect the necklace from Angelo (who never showed up with it at the Porpentine), but he’s in for a surprise. E. Antipholus sends E. Dromio off to buy some rope and then chides Angelo for not showing up at the Porpentine with the necklace.
- A squabble ensues, where it becomes clear that neither man has the necklace. Angelo insists he gave it to Antipholus not half an hour ago (which he did), but E. Antipholus insists he got no such thing (becuase he didn’t). Are you following this?
- Payment for the chain is increasingly important, as the Merchant is halting his sails until Angelo pays him, though Angelo needs to get the money from Antipholus first. Ultimately, the Merchant calls for E. Antipholus to be arrested. Though Angelo regrets it, as he isn’t getting paid, he corroborates with the Merchant to get E. Antipholus jailed. Justifiably, E. Antipholus is angry and confused.
- To add to the confusion, S. Dromio arrives, mistakes E. Antipholus for his master, and informs him that he’s secured the ship to get out of Ephesus. E. Antipholus curses S. Dromio for talking nonsense (again), and then gives him instructions to go to Adriana and get money for his bail. As the jailer runs off with E. Antipholus, S. Dromio is left to wonder why he’s instructed to go back to the awful place where they had dinner. Still, he follows E. Antipholus’s instructions, because he knows his place as a servant.
Act IV, Scene ii
Read the full text of The Comedy of Errors Act 4 Scene 2 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- At E. Antipholus’s house, the women are a mess. Luciana tells Adriana about E. Antipholus’s proclamations of love.
- Adriana wants every dirty detail of her husband’s trespass. Luciana admits that S. Antipholus’s words were exactly the right kind to win a girl—if a girl were to be won, of course.
- This continues on for a while, with Adriana declaring her hatred for E. Antipholus, even as she still prays for him.
- S. Dromio arrives, out of breath, and explains that Antipholus has been jailed. S. Dromio can’t explain the details exactly, but h gets the bail money from Adriana and rushes off.
- Adriana is left to wonder at why her husband is locked up.
Act IV, Scene iii
Read the full text of The Comedy of Errors Act 4 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- S. Antipholus is still at the marketplace, waiting for S. Dromio to come tell him about whether any ships are leaving. S. Antipholus wonders at his good luck; it seems everyone in the whole city knows him and is kind to him, though he has no idea who they are. He’s convinced the place is overrun with sorcery, and his mind is being played with.
- S. Dromio then arrives with the gold to pay E. Antipholus’s debt, and tries to give it to S. Antipholus. S. Dromio then has to explain to the confused S. Antipholus that he was recently arrested, which one would think a person would remember.
- S. Antipholus, however, just wants to know about the ships he asked S. Dromio to look for. He is certain he already told S. Antipholus about a departing ship a long time ago, only to be told to bring money for bail instead. S. Antipholus, rather than investigate the matter further, simply declares the two of them seem insane as they wander in an illusion.
- A Courtesan (the amiable wench E. Antipholus went to see at the Porpentine) enters, seeming another vision of the devil. Of course she’s familiar with E. Antipholus, but S. Antipholus only recognizes in her the usual courtesanly stuff—gaudy but sweet temptation.
- S. Antipholus and S. Dromio joke happily about light, which they pun on. They call the Courtesan light, as the devil himself was an angel of light, and they also twist the notion that the woman is "light," meaning "easy." Finally, they decide that she is light like fire, which will burn.
- Anyway, the Courtesan talks about the dinner she just had with E. Antipholus, where he took a ring from her worth forty ducats, and promised her a gold chain in exchange. She notes S. Antipholus wears the chain, but when she asks for it, or her ring back, he runs away.
- The Courtesan, out a ring and a customer, decides she’ll go to his wife, which is a dangerous but useful tactic. The Courtesan is sure Antipholus is mad, and she intends to tell Adriana that Antipholus ran into her house and stole her valuable ring.
Act IV, Scene iv
Read the full text of The Comedy of Errors Act 4 Scene 4 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- E. Antipholus is still at the marketplace. He fumes about how he’ll give it to everyone once he’s bailed out, and he spots E. Dromio just in time to think he’s saved. When E. Dromio relates that all he’s brought is a piece of rope (which E. Antipholus asked for a while ago), E. Dromio receives a beating. E. Dromio laments that this is his usual undeserved payment, but doesn’t mention that E. Antipholus never asked him for any bail money.
- Adriana, Luciana, the Courtesan, and a schoolmaster named Pinch all enter the scene. This is reason enough for E. Antipholus to again beat E. Dromio, at which point all the women descend on E. Antipholus, treating him like he’s a raging lunatic. They plead with Pinch, who is a schoolmaster and a conjurer, to exorcise whatever demon possesses E. Antipholus. Now E. Antipholus starts beating Pinch as well.
- Everyone’s stories then begin to work against each other, as E. Antipholus insists that he’s not mad. He asks whether this witch-doctor is the man Adriana dined with, and the reason he was locked out of his own house. Adriana insists that E. Antipholus was at dinner, and E. Antipholus and E. Dromio insist they were not.
- E. Antipholus also is a bit unhappy about being arrested. Adriana promises she sent the bail money via Dromio. Poor E. Dromio is certain that he was neither asked to bring the money, nor given any money, and he certainly didn’t deliver the money, as everyone is sure of. Basically, everyone seems crazy, and Pinch concludes the men are possessed and must be bound and put into a dark room for their own good.
- E. Antipholus is driven into greater fury – he declares his wife a false harlot, and promises to pluck out her eyes with his bare hands. After a bit of a scuffle, E. Dromio is tied up, and he and E. Antipholus are taken away.
- Adriana then tries to deal with her husband’s debt. The officer explains the debt was called in by Angelo the goldsmith for a certain necklace. Adriana notes she never got the necklace her husband had spoken of, and this is when the Courtesan pipes up. The Courtesan says E. Antipholus ran into her house and took a ring from her, promising a gold chain in return. She says she saw Antipholus (but of course we know it was S. Antipholus) earlier, wearing the chain. Adriana, confused, and not the recipient of the chain, asks to be taken to Angelo the goldsmith to hear the whole truth. Before they can all leave, S. Antipholus runs in with his sword drawn and S. Dromio in tow.
- Luciana speaks, shocked that the men are loose again. Adriana decides they should run off and get help to tie the men up again. As the officer runs off with the women, S. Antipholus and S. Dromio are left alone, marveling at the fact that these "witches" fear their swords.
- S. Antipholus hurriedly tells S. Dromio to go grab their things from the Centaur inn so they can leave Ephesus quickly. S. Dromio thinks out loud that S. Antipholus might be being a bit hasty about departing. After all, everyone’s so nice to them, and gives them gifts of gold. In fact, if it weren’t for "the mountain of mad flesh" that wanted to mount him (the kitchen wench), S. Dromio might be happy to stay. S. Antipholus insists on leaving ASAP.
Act V, Scene i
Read the full text of The Comedy of Errors Act 5 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.
- Angelo the goldsmith apologizes to the Merchant to whom he owes money. Angelo’s sorry to have made the Merchant wait, but he’s really shocked that E. Antipholus hasn’t come through. Then, to everyone’s surprise, S. Antipholus approaches, wearing Angelo’s necklace.
- Angelo confronts S. Antipholus about the necklace, and S. Antipholus rightly says he never denied he had it. The Merchant gets involved, and says he heard Antipholus deny he had the necklace he now wears. Tempers get hot and the men draw their swords.
- Adriana thankfully enters just in time to break up the fight. She tells the Merchant that her husband is mad, and she calls upon others present to bind up the mad men. S. Antipholus and S. Dromio, sensing their doom, run off into the priory (a religious house) and seek sanctuary.
- Just then an abbess (the superior of a group of nuns) enters, and asks just what exactly everybody thinks they’re doing, disturbing God’s peace. Adriana informs the Abbess she’s just trying to get her man, who’s been strange over the last week, but seems to be particularly insane today.
- The Abbess wonders what it is that has made the man mad. She asks if he’s lost money in a sea venture, or perhaps buried a friend, or fallen in love with another woman. Adriana admits it might be the last one about another woman (remember, she’s still standing with the Courtesan). The Abbess says Adriana should have been more firm about this.
- Adriana insists she did nag him about it often, and the Abbess decides it was Adriana’s nagging that did the man in. The Abbess goes on for a bit, painting Adriana as a nagging shrew, and Luciana is surprised that her sister just lies down and takes it. Adriana says the Abbess’s criticisms of her are basically how she would’ve criticized herself. Regardless, she’d just like them to go into the priory and fetch her husband.
- The Abbess is all, "I don’t think so." She says if the guys went into the priory for sanctuary, it’s sanctuary they’ll get. The Abbess also insists the man won’t leave her care until she tries all sorts of drugs and prayers and "wholesome syrups" on him. The Abbess is insistent, and she leaves Adriana distressed and without a man.
- At Luciana’s suggestion, Adriana decides she’ll go to the Duke and weep at his feet until he has her husband forcibly removed from the Abbess’s care. The Merchant points out that it’s 5pm, so the Duke should be along soon to oversee the public beheading of a poor Syracusian merchant for showing up in Ephesus.
- The Duke enters with Egeon and some officers. He reminds the crowd that if anyone will provide the sum of 1,000 marks, Egeon’s life will be spared. Adriana doesn’t care so much about Egeon, and instead shouts out that she seeks some other justice, specifically against the tiny old nun. She explains to the Duke that her husband seems mad, and that the Abbess won’t let him out of, nor let anyone into, the priory.
- A messenger arrives and claims that Antipholus and Dromio have broken their bonds and attacked the doctor who has been attending them with fire and scissors. The messenger says Antipholus promised he was coming to get his wife next. Adriana is incredulous, as she thinks her husband is actually in the priory.
- But she’s wrong! Of course, just then, E. Antipholus shows up with E. Dromio. Adriana is shocked and convinced he moves about invisibly, as there’s no way to explain how he left the priory without her notice.
- E. Antipholus pleads that the Duke owes him justice, especially in exchange for all the service E. Antipholus did for him in war.
- Egeon offers that he recognizes these men as his son and his son’s servant, Dromio, but the old man is ignored. Egeon’s claims are drowned out by E. Antipholus railing against his wife for abusing and dishonoring him.
- The Duke then gets the whole story from E. Antipholus’s perspective: E. Antipholus complains that his wife locked him out of the house and that Angelo wrongly accused him of taking the golden necklace. Then he was wrongly arrested, and his servant, Dromio, didn’t bring his bail. When he finally got fed up and went with the officer to collect the bail from his house, he found his wife with a quack doctor, who declared him possessed and left him tied up and sealed in a dark vault in his own home. He gnawed open his bonds with his own teeth, and escaped to see the Duke. It’s been quite a day.
- All this would be reason to feel really bad for E. Antipholus, but Angelo points out that he actually did give E. Antipholus the necklace, and the man was seen wearing it. The Merchant asks whether E. Antipholus doesn’t remember being challenged to a duel and running into the priory (from which it seems he’s magically escaped). Of course, E. Antipholus has no idea about any of this; S. Antipholus is still locked in the priory, and frankly this whole situation is getting a bit tiresome.
- The Duke squabbles around about the Courtesan’s ring, and finally he decides everyone is mad, and someone should call the Abbess.
- Egeon finally speaks up, saying he thinks he’s found men to pay his bond. He identifies Antipholus and Dromio correctly, but they have no idea who he is. He laments that he must appear much changed by grief, and then gives a beautiful speech about the passage of time. Though his face is grizzled and wrinkled, and he hasn’t aged gracefully, he says his memory still glimmers—he recognizes in this man his son, Antipholus.
- Antipholus of Ephesus, seemingly unmoved, offers that he’s never met his dad. Like, ever. Egeon is insistent, he says it’s only been seven years since the men parted in Syracuse. He wonders if his son is ashamed to acknowledge him because of his miserable state.
- E. Antipholus insists he’s never even been to Syracuse and the Duke also asserts that he’s known E. Antipholus for twenty years, and the young man has never been to Syracuse in all that time. Egeon is about to be dismissed as a doddering old man when the Abbess enters.
- Actually, not only has the Abbess come, she’s brought with her Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Syracuse.
- Finally, everyone is face to face with the two sets of identical twins.
- The Abbess reveals that she’s Aemilia, Egeon’s long lost wife. After the shipwreck, her boys (one son and one servant) were taken from her by some Corinthian fisherman, leaving her alone in Epidamium. She didn't know what happened to them from there, but it’s been her lot to live as a nun ever since.
- The Duke dons his Captain Obvious hat and declares, "These sets of identical twins are long lost brothers. The Antipholuses are sons of Egeon and Aemilia, and the Dromios are the two servant boys!"
- The boys who were taken to Corinth by the fisherman explain that they eventually came to Ephesus with the warrior Duke Menaphon, who is the Duke's uncle.
- Moving briskly along, the pairs then clear up the calamity about who had dinner with Adriana, who got the necklace, who was sent for bail money, and who brought bail money.
- E. Antipholus tries to pay the Duke bail for his father, but the Duke demurs, and instead just grants Egeon his life. The Courtesan gets her ring back; Egeon gets his sons back; and Aemilia gets her husband back. Also, now that it’s clear that he isn’t Adriana’s husband, S. Antipholus reiterates his offer to Luciana to be her husband and give her happiness.
- Finally, Aemilia ushers everyone into the abbey so they can talk over that bad, fateful day when they were separated, and the fateful day that’s brought them together again.