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Encyclopedia > The Comedy of Errors
Poster for a performance
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The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare's early plays, written between 1592 and 1594. It is his shortest and one of his most farcical: for a major part of the humour comes from slapstick and mistaken identity, added to the puns and wordplay. The Comedy of Errors (along with The Tempest) is one of only two of Shakespeare's plays to observe the classical unities. Image File history File links Size of this preview: 481 × 599 pixels Full resolution (822 × 1024 pixel, file size: 117 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): The Comedy of Errors Anagnorisis... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 481 × 599 pixels Full resolution (822 × 1024 pixel, file size: 117 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): The Comedy of Errors Anagnorisis... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... Look up farce in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Slapstick is a type of comedy involving exaggerated physical violence. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... The three unities or classical unities are rules for drama derived from a mistaken interpretation of a particular passage in Aristotles Poetics. ...

The Comedy of Errors tells the story of two sets of identical twins. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, arrive in Ephesus, which turns out to be the home of their twin brothers, Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus. When the Syracusans encounter the friends and families of their twins, a series of wild mishaps based on mistaken identities lead to wrongful beatings, a near-incestuous seduction, the arrest of Antipholus of Ephesus, and accusations of infidelity, theft, madness, and demonic possession.



Key plot elements are taken from two Roman comedies of Plautus. For other uses, see Roman Empire (disambiguation). ... Titus Macchius Plautus, generally referred to simply as Plautus, was a playwright of Ancient Rome. ...

From Menaechmi comes the main premise of mistaken identity between identical twins with the same name, plus some of the stock characters such as the comic courtesan. In Menaechmi one of the twins is from Epidamnus; Shakespeare changes this to Ephesus and includes many allusions to St Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. Menaechmi, a Latin-language play, is considered by many as Plautus greatest play. ... Fraternal twin boys in the tub The term twin most notably refers to two individuals (or one of two individuals) who have shared the same uterus (womb) and usually, but not necessarily, born on the same day. ... Menaechmi, a Latin-language play, is considered by many as Plautus greatest play. ... The Greek city of Epidamnos (Strabo Geography vi. ... Historical Map of Ephesus, from Meyers Konversationslexikon 1888 Ephesus (Greek: , Turkish: ), was one of the cities of Ionia in Asia Minor, located in Lydia where the Cayster River (Küçük Menderes) flows into the Aegean Sea. ... Paul of Tarsus (b. ... The Epistle to the Ephesians is one of the books of the Bible in the New Testament. ...

From Amphitruo he borrows the twin servants with the same name, plus the scene in Act 3 where a husband is shut out of his house while his wife mistakenly dines with a look-alike.

The frame story of Egeon and Emilia derives from Apollonius of Tyre, also a source for Twelfth Night and Pericles, Prince of Tyre. A frame story (also frame tale, frame narrative, etc. ... Apollonius of Tyre is the subject of a popular medieval story, existing in numerous forms in many languages. ... Twelfth Night has at least three meanings: Twelfth Night (holiday), celebrated by some Christians Twelfth Night, or What You Will, a comedic play by William Shakespeare Twelfth Night (band), a progressive rock band This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share... Title page of the 1611 quarto edition of the play Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a play written (at least in part) by William Shakespeare and included in modern editions of his collected plays despite some questions over its authorship. ...

Date & text

The play contains a topical reference to the wars of succession in France, which would fit any date from 1589 to 1594. William Warner's translation of the Menaechmi was entered into the Register of the Stationers Company on June 10, 1594, and published in 1595. Warner's translation was dedicated to Lord Hunsdon, the patron of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. It has been supposed that Shakespeare might have seen the translation in manuscript before it was printed — though it is also true that Plautus was part of the curriculum of grammar school students. Charles Whitworth, in his edition of the play, argues that The Comedy of Errors was written "in the latter part of 1594."[1]The play was not published until it appeared in the First Folio in 1623. The Stationers Register was a journal maintained by the Stationers Company of London. ... The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. ... Henry Carey (or Cary), 1st Baron Hunsdon of Hunsdon (4 March 1525/1526 – 23 July 1596) was an English nobleman. ... The Lord Chamberlains Men was the playing company that William Shakespeare worked for as actor and playwright for most of his career. ... The title page of the First Folio with the famous engraved portrait of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout The First Folio is the name given by modern scholars to the first published collection of William Shakespeares plays; its actual title is Mr. ...


Two early performances of The Comedy of Errors are recorded. One, by "a company of base and common fellows," is mentioned in the Gesta Grayorum ("The Deeds of Gray") as having occurred in Gray's Inn Hall on Dec. 28, 1594. The second also took place on "Innocents' Day," but ten years later: Dec. 28, 1604, at Court.[2] Entrance to Grays Inn Grays Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in around the Royal Courts of Justice in London, England to which barristers belong and where they are called to the bar. ... The Holy Innocents by Giotto di Bondone. ...


  • Solinus, the Duke of Ephesus
  • Egeon (or Ægeon), a merchant of Syracuse
  • Emilia (or Æmilia), his lost wife, now Lady Abbess at Ephesus
  • Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse, twin brothers, sons of Egeon and Emilia
  • Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse, twin brothers, bondmen, each serving his respective Antipholus
  • Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus
  • Luciana, her sister
  • Luce, kitchen-maid to Adriana, also referred to as Nell (“a mountain of mad flesh that claims marriage of me” -- Dromio of Syracuse)
  • Balthazar, a merchant
  • Angelo, a goldsmith
  • Courtesan
  • First merchant of Ephesus, friend to Antipholus of Syracuse
  • Second merchant of Ephesus, to whom Angelo is in debt
  • Doctor Pinch, a conjuring schoolmaster
  • Messenger
  • Gaoler, Headsman, Officers, and other Attendants

Look up bondage in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Plot summary

Egeon faces execution, as a Syracusan trespassing in Ephesus, unable to pay a thousand marks' fine. He tells his sad story. In his youth, he married and had twin sons. On the same day, a poor woman also gave birth to twin boys, and he purchased these as slaves to his sons. Soon afterwards, the family made a sea voyage, and was hit by a tempest. Egeon lashed himself to the main-mast with one son and one slave, while his wife lashed herself to the mizzen with the others. The wife was rescued by one boat, Egeon by another. Egeon never again saw his wife, or the children with her. Recently, his son Antipholus, now grown, and his son’s slave Dromio, left Syracuse on a quest to find their brothers. When Antipholus did not return, Egeon set out in search of him.

Solinus, Duke of Ephesus, is moved by this story, and grants Egeon one day to pay his fine.

That same day, Antipholus of Syracuse arrives in Ephesus, searching for his brother. He sends Dromio of Syracuse to deposit some money at the Centaur. He is confounded when the identical Dromio of Ephesus appears almost immediately, denying any knowledge of the money and asking him home to dinner, where his wife is waiting. Antipholus, thinking his servant is making insubordinate jokes, beats Dromio.

Dromio of Ephesus returns to his mistress, Adriana, saying that her "husband" refused to come home, and even pretended not to know her. Adriana, concerned that her husband's eye is straying, takes this news as confirmation of her suspicions.

Antipholus of Syracuse meets Dromio of Syracuse, who (truthfully) denies claiming that Antipholus had a wife. Antipholus beats him. Suddenly, Adriana rushes up to Antipholus and begs him not to leave her. Her sister Luciana supports her plea. Confused, the Syracusans attribute this event to witchcraft, but nevertheless go off with these strange women.

Antipholus of Ephesus returns home for dinner and is enraged to find that he is rudely refused entry to his own house by Dromio of Syracuse, who is keeping the gate. He is ready to break down the door, but his friends persuade him not to make a scene. He decides, instead, to dine with a Courtesan.

Inside the house, Antipholus of Syracuse discovers he is attracted to Luciana. She is shocked to be importuned by her sister's husband, and leaves to tell her sister what has happened. Dromio of Syracuse discovers that Nell, an obese kitchen-maid, lays claim to him. He describes her as "spherical, like a globe; I could find out countries in her," which leads to a series of bawdy puns. (Ireland is "in her buttocks: I found it out by the bogs.") The Syracusans decide to leave town. Antipholus of Syracuse meets Angelo, a goldsmith, who gives him a chain, saying that he will return for his money.

Antipholus of Ephesus dispatches Dromio of Ephesus to purchase a rope with which to beat Adriana. He is then accosted by Angelo, demanding payment. Antipholus denies receiving the chain, and is promptly arrested. Dromio of Syracuse enters, announcing that he has booked passage on a ship for himself and his master. Antipholus, confused, sends him back to Adriana's house to get money for his bail.

After completing this errand, Dromio of Syracuse mistakenly delivers the money to Antipholus of Syracuse. The Courtesan spies Antipholus wearing the gold chain, and says he promised it to her. The Syracusans deny this, and flee. The Courtesan resolves to tell Adriana that her husband is insane. Dromio of Ephesus returns to the arrested Antipholus of Ephesus, with the rope. Antipholus is infuriated. Adriana, Luciana and the Courtesan enter with a conjurer named Pinch, who tries to exorcise the Ephesians, who are bound and taken to Adriana's house. The Syracusans enter, carrying swords, and everybody runs off for fear: believing that they are the Ephesians, out for vengeance after somehow escaping their bonds. Adriana reappears with henchmen, who attempt to bind the Syracusans. They take sanctuary in a nearby priory, where the Abbess resolutely protects them.

The Duke and Egeon enter, on their way to Egeon's execution. Adriana begs the Duke to force the Abbess to release her husband. Then, a messenger from Adriana's house runs in and announces that the Ephesians have broken loose from their bonds and tortured Doctor Pinch. The Ephesians enter and ask the Duke for justice against Adriana. Egeon believes he has found his own son, Antipholus, who will be able to bail him, but both Ephesians deny having ever seen him before.

Suddenly, the Abbess enters with the Syracusan twins, and everyone begins to understand the confused events of the day. Not only are the two sets of twins reunited, but the Abbess reveals that she is Egeon's wife, Emilia. The Duke pardons Egeon. All exit into the abbey to celebrate the reunification of the family.


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Although the primary goal of The Comedy of Errors is entertainment, an astute reader or director can also find deeper themes within it; appearance versus reality, time, coincidence and love are some of the themes found within the literary work. The play is also concerned with questions of identity and how a person may become known by others through appearance, by name, or through individual actions and choices. Image File history File links Circle-question-red. ... A stilt-walker entertaining shoppers at a shopping centre in Swindon, England Entertainment is an event, performance, or activity designed to give pleasure or relaxation to an audience (although, for example, in the case of a computer game the audience may be only one person). ... Variation in the physical appearance of humans is believed by anthropologists to be an important factor in the development of personality and social relations in particular physical attractiveness. ... For other uses, see Reality (disambiguation). ... A pocket watch, a device used to tell time Look up time in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Coincidence is the noteworthy alignment of two or more events or circumstances without obvious causal connection. ... Love is any of a number of emotions and experiences related to a sense of strong affection or profound oneness. ...

Due to the fact that so many confusing events happened to both sets of twins, they all believe they have gone insane. Madness is a major theme in Shakespeare's mature works Hamlet and King Lear. The Comedy of Errors suggests that Shakespeare was interested in insanity much earlier in his career. ‹ The template below (Expand) is being considered for deletion. ... ‹ The template below (Expand) is being considered for deletion. ... Hamlet and Horatio in the cemetery by Eugène Delacroix For other uses, see Hamlet (disambiguation). ... King Lear and the Fool in the Storm by William Dyce (1806-1864) King Lear is a play by William Shakespeare, considered one of his greatest tragedies, based on the legend of King Lear of Britain. ...

The Comedy of Errors also proves that even the lightest farce gains emotional resonance when grounded in seriousness. Because the play opens with an old man about to be executed, there is a slight shadow cast over all the funny events that follow. Many farces are ultimately "pointless," but Egeon's pardoning and the reunited family gives The Comedy of Errors a happy, and not just a humorous, ending. For other uses, see Emotion (disambiguation). ...

Artistic Features

In the opening scene Egeon delivers by far the longest speech of the play ("A heavier task could not have been imposed"), explaining how the two sets of twins were separated at an early age. At 421 words it is also the longest piece of pure exposition in the canon. Egeon is then absent until the final scene.



In 1734, an adaptation called See If You Like It was staged at Covent Garden. Drury Lane mounted a production in 1741, in which Charles Macklin played Dromio of Syracuse — in the same year as his famous breakthrough performance as Shylock. In the 1980s, the Flying Karamazov Brothers performed a unique, broad adaptation of this play at Lincoln Center; it was shown on PBS. The Floral Hall of the Royal Opera House The Royal Opera House is a performing arts venue in London. ... Currently home to Lord Of The Rings, the musical. ... Charles Macklin (1697?‑1797) was an actor and dramatist born in the north of Ireland, and one of the most distinguished actors of his day, shining equally in tragedy and comedy. ... Shylock After the Trial by John Gilbert (late 19th century) Shylock is a central character in Shakespeares The Merchant of Venice who famously demanded a pound of flesh from the title character. ... The Flying Karamazov Brothers The Flying Karamazov Brothers are a world famous juggling and comedy troupe who have been performing since 1973. ... Not to be confused with Public Broadcasting Services in Malta. ...


On 27 December, 1786, the opera Gli Equivoci by Stephen Storace received its première at the Burgtheater in Vienna. The libretto, by Lorenzo da Ponte, follows the play's plot fairly closely, though some characters were renamed. [3] Stephen Storace (1763 – March 19, 1796) was an English musical composer. ... Burgtheater (front) Burgtheater (side) Burgtheater (Main entrance) Burgtheater (right after its construction) The Burgtheater (en: Castle Theatre or Imperial Court Theatre), originally known as , then until 1920 as the , is the Austrias federal theatre in Vienna and one of the most important German language theatres in the world. ... “Wien” redirects here. ... Antonio Ghislanzoni, nineteenth century Italian librettist. ... Lorenzo da Ponte Lorenzo Da Ponte (March 10, 1749–August 17, 1838) was an Italian librettist born in Ceneda (now Vittorio Veneto). ...

Frederic Reynolds staged an operatic version in 1819, with music by Mozart and Arne. Various other adaptations were performed down to 1855, when Samuel Phelps revived the Shakespearean original at Sadler's Wells Theatre.[4] Frederic Reynolds (November 1, 1764 – April 16, 1841) was a British playwright and theatrical producer in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. ... Bologna Mozart - Mozart age 21 in 1777, see also: face only Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (IPA: , baptized Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart) (January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791) was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. ... Thomas Augustine Arne Thomas Augustine Arne (March, 1710 – March 5, 1778) was an English composer, best known for the popular patriotic song, Rule Britannia, which is still frequently sung, notably at the Last Night of the Proms, and also his musical settings of songs from the plays of William Shakespeare. ... Samuel Phelps (1804-1878) was an English actor, born in Devonport. ... Sadlers Wells theatre, 2005 Sadlers Wells Theatre is located on Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell, London. ...


The play has been adapted as a musical at least twice, first as The Boys from Syracuse, and then as a West End musical that won the Laurence Olivier Award for best musical in 1977. The Boys from Syracuse is a musical by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, based on William Shakespeares play, The Comedy of Errors, as adapted by librettist George Abbott, who also directed. ... West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre in London, England, or sometimes more specifically for shows staged in the large theatres of Londons Theatreland. Along with New Yorks Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre... The Laurence Olivier Awards, previously known as The Society of West End Theatre Awards, were renamed in honour of British actor Laurence Olivier, Baron Olivier in 1984, having first been established in 1976. ...

There is also a hip-hop musical adaptation called "The Bomb-itty of Errors" written by Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory Qaiyum & Erik Weiner with music by Jeffrey Qaiyum. It won 1st Prize at HBO USCAF and was nominated across from Steven Sondheim for Best Lyrics Drama Desk Award in 2001. It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Hip hop (disambiguation). ...


It has recently been announced that the play is being adapted as a contemporary set feature film. The writer of the adapted screenplay, and the director of the film is Keri Collins of Masterplan Film Productions Ltd. The film will star Ray Panthaki as both of the Antipholus twins, and is being produced by Andrew Jones. Filming is beginning in Dubai in late 2008. Keri and business partner Andrew Jones on the set of The Feral Generation. ... Formed in 2007 by award winning Writer/Directors Andrew Jones and Keri Collins, Masterplan Film Productions Ltd is an independent film production company dedicated to creating feature films across a wide variety of genres that provide emotion, inspiration and humour to a diverse range of audiences. ... Ray as Vincent in The Feral Generation. ... There are several notable people by the name Andrew Jones: Andrew Thomas Jones (b. ... Coordinates: , Emirate Government  - Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Area [1]  - Metro 4,114 km² (1,588. ... 2008 (MMVIII) will be a leap year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

There is also an Indian movie that follows the same plot, entitled Angoor (meaning 'grapes' in English), and directed by Indian lyricist Gulzar. The movie, made in Hindi, is one of the most acclaimed works in Indian cinema.[citation needed] Angoor is a Bollywood Hindi comedy movie. ...


  1. ^ Charles Walters Whitworth, ed., The Comedy of Errors, Oxford, Oxford University press, 2003; pp. 1-10.
  2. ^ The identical dates may not be coincidental; the Pauline and Ephesian aspect of the play, noted under Sources, may have had the effect of linking The Comedy of Errors to the holiday season—much like Twelfth Night, another play secular on its surface but linked to the Christmas holidays.
  3. ^ Holden, Amanda; (editor), with Kenyon, Nicholas and Walsh, Stephen [1993]. The Viking Opera Guide. London: Viking, p.1016. ISBN 0-670-81292-7. 
  4. ^ F. E. Halliday, A Shakespeare Companion 1564-1964, Baltimore, Penguin, 1964; p.112.


  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Encyclopædia Britannica, the eleventh edition The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–1911) is perhaps the most famous edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ...

See also

  • Angoor, a 1990 Hindi language adaptation of the Comedy of Errors story.

Angoor is a Bollywood Hindi comedy movie. ... The year 1990 in film involved some significant events. ... Hindi ( , Devanagari: or , IAST: , IPA: ), an Indo-European language spoken mainly in northern and central India, is one of the two official languages of India, the other being English. ...

External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
The Comedy of Errors

  Results from FactBites:
In all Seriousness: The Comedy of Errors (1295 words)
Although The Comedy of Errors, undoubtedly one of Shakespeare’s early plays, anticipates his later comedies and romances, such as The Winter’s Tale, Twelfth Night, and The Taming of the Shrew, it is, nonetheless, a play that clearly stands on its own.
As the comedy moves toward the final scene, we are well aware of the hour as the second merchant announces the pending arrival of the duke for the execution, since “the dial points at five” (5.1.18).
To conclude The Comedy of Errors with a brief and trifling conflict about which of the twins is older--and therefore has the privilege of exiting first--certainly provides the restoration of the social order required at the conclusion of classic comedy.
The Comedy of Errors: Shakespeare's First Comedy (1245 words)
Shakespeare’s comedies typically present a rustic or clown or servant-class love-match to parallel the higher born lovers and provide the frequent third couple at the wedding.
Shakespeare uses the lesser source to provide exposition, and, interestingly, to introduce a framework that drapes most of his comedies and romances, which is the opposite of “comic relief” in his tragedies: these frame tales heighten the comedy by contrast with their dreadful external circumstances.
Shakespeare’s source for the frame tale of The Comedy of Errors was most likely John Gower’s version of Appolonius of Tyre (which Shakespeare later re-used for Pericles), in which a king loses his wife and daughter at sea.
  More results at FactBites »



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