The Comedy of Errors

Type: 
Comedy
First Performed: 
1592-93
First Printed: 
1623
"

Headstrong liberty is lash'd with woe.
There's nothing situate under heaven's eye
But hath his bound, in earth, in sea, in sky.

"

Shakespeare's shortest play is a farce filled with mistaken identities that stems from a storm at sea that took place 33 years before the action of the play begins.

Aegeon, a merchant from Syracuse, is arrested in Ephesus because of hostility between Ephesus and Syracuse. Aegeon explains to Solinus (the Duke of Ephesus) that he was shipwrecked during a storm with his wife, Aemilia, and two pairs of identical twins—their twin sons (both named Antipholus) and twin servants (both named Dromio). In the course of the storm, his wife, one son and one servant were lost. As adults, the remaining Antipholus and Dromio left Aegeon to search for their long-lost twins, and when Aegeon had not heard from them in five years, he set off in search of them himself.

Solinus is moved by the old man's tale and postpones Aegeon's death sentence. Meanwhile, Antipholus of Syracuse arrives in Ephesus, and everyone confuses the identities of the twins. Antipholus of Syracuse is invited to dinner at the home of Antipholus of Ephesus and dines with Adriana, his twin's wife. Meanwhile, Angelo, a merchant, accidentally gives a gold chain commissioned by Antipholus of Ephesus to Antipholus of Syracuse, telling him he'll come back later for payment. When the intended recipient Antipholus of Ephesus refuses to pay later on because he believes he has not received the gold chain, Angelo has him arrested. All this time, Adriana and her sister, Luciana, are convinced that Antipholus and Dromio (of Ephesus) have gone mad, so they restrain the pair and take them to a doctor.

When Adriana later encounters Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse, she mistakenly believes they escaped the doctor. The pair from Syracuse decide to hide in a nearby abbey. In the meantime, Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus do escape from the doctor, and arrive to petition the Duke. In the midst of everyone trying to tell their own tale, Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse arrive with the abbess—who turns out to be Aemilia, Aegeon's long-lost wife. Everyone's tales are sorted out and the Duke releases Aegeon from his death sentence, who is then reunited with his wife and sons. The whole family rejoices.