Cover image for The comedy of errors
The comedy of errors
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Publication Information:
London : Arden Shakespeare, 2001.
Physical Description:
lv, 117 pages : illustrations, map ; 20 cm.
General Note:
Originally published by Methuen, 1962.
Added Author:

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PR2804.A2 F6 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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The Arden Shakespeare is the established edition of Shakespeare's work. Justly celebrated for its authoritative scholarship and invaluable commentary, Arden guides you a richer understanding and appreciation of Shakespeare's plays.This edition of The Comedy of Errors provides, a clear and authoritative text, detailed notes and commentary on the same page as the text, a full introduction discussing the critical and historical background to the play and appendices presenting sources and relevant extracts.

Author Notes

William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616 Although there are many myths and mysteries surrounding William Shakespeare, a great deal is actually known about his life. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, son of John Shakespeare, a prosperous merchant and local politician and Mary Arden, who had the wealth to send their oldest son to Stratford Grammar School.

At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, the 27-year-old daughter of a local farmer, and they had their first daughter six months later. He probably developed an interest in theatre by watching plays performed by traveling players in Stratford while still in his youth. Some time before 1592, he left his family to take up residence in London, where he began acting and writing plays and poetry.

By 1594 Shakespeare had become a member and part owner of an acting company called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, where he soon became the company's principal playwright. His plays enjoyed great popularity and high critical acclaim in the newly built Globe Theatre. It was through his popularity that the troupe gained the attention of the new king, James I, who appointed them the King's Players in 1603. Before retiring to Stratford in 1613, after the Globe burned down, he wrote more than three dozen plays (that we are sure of) and more than 150 sonnets. He was celebrated by Ben Jonson, one of the leading playwrights of the day, as a writer who would be "not for an age, but for all time," a prediction that has proved to be true.

Today, Shakespeare towers over all other English writers and has few rivals in any language. His genius and creativity continue to astound scholars, and his plays continue to delight audiences. Many have served as the basis for operas, ballets, musical compositions, and films. While Jonson and other writers labored over their plays, Shakespeare seems to have had the ability to turn out work of exceptionally high caliber at an amazing speed. At the height of his career, he wrote an average of two plays a year as well as dozens of poems, songs, and possibly even verses for tombstones and heraldic shields, all while he continued to act in the plays performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This staggering output is even more impressive when one considers its variety. Except for the English history plays, he never wrote the same kind of play twice. He seems to have had a good deal of fun in trying his hand at every kind of play.

Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, all published on 1609, most of which were dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothsley, The Earl of Southhampton. He also wrote 13 comedies, 13 histories, 6 tragedies, and 4 tragecomedies. He died at Stratford-upon-Avon April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later on the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. His cause of death was unknown, but it is surmised that he knew he was dying.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

These are the first two titles in Penguin's newly revamped "Pelican Shakespeare" series. The Pelicans have been the leading editions for many years, but the publisher realized that much new scholarship on the plays has been unearthed since the series was introduced. Eight Shakespeare scholars were hired to produce new, more accurate texts plus introductions and textual notes. The good stuff just gets better with age. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1.1 A Enter the Duke of Ephesus, with [Egeon] the mer- chant of Syracuse, Jailer, and other attendants. egeon Proceed, Solinus, to procure my fall, And by the doom of death end woes and all. duke Merchant of Syracusa, plead no more. I am not partial to infringe our laws. The enmity and discord which of late Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your Duke To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen, Who, wanting guilders to redeem their lives, Have sealed his rigorous statutes with their bloods, Excludes all pity from our threat'ning looks. For since the mortal and intestine jars Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us, It hath in solemn synods been decreed, Both by the Syracusians and ourselves, To admit no traffic to our adverse towns. Nay, more, if any born at Ephesus Be seen at any Syracusian marts and fairs; Again, if any Syracusian born Come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies, His goods confiscate to the Duke's dispose, Unless a thousand marks be levièd To quit the penalty and to ransom him. Thy substance, valued at the highest rate, Cannot amount unto a hundred marks; Therefore by law thou art condemned to die. 32unspeakable indescribable. (But with a punning oxymoron on the literal sense: Egeon will speak that which cannot be spoken.) 34by nature i.e., by natural affection; here, a father's love 35gives me leave allows me. 37-8 happy . . . bad happy only in having me, and happy indeed through me if we had not suffered misfortune. 41Epidamnum (So spelled in Plautus's The Menaechmi); Epidamnus, a port on the coast of modern Albania. factor's agent's 42care of anxiety about 52As that they 54mean of low birth egeon Yet this my comfort: when your words are done, My woes end likewise with the evening sun. duke Well, Syracusian, say in brief the cause Why thou departed'st from thy native home And for what cause thou cam'st to Ephesus. egeon A heavier task could not have been imposed Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable. Yet, that the world may witness that my end Was wrought by nature, not by vile offense, I'll utter what my sorrow gives me leave. In Syracusa was I born, and wed Unto a woman, happy but for me, And by me, had not our hap been bad. With her I lived in joy; our wealth increased By prosperous voyages I often made To Epidamnum, till my factor's death And the great care of goods at random left Drew me from kind embracements of my spouse; From whom my absence was not six months old Before herself, almost at fainting under The pleasing punishment that women bear, Had made provision for her following me, And soon and safe arrivèd where I was. There had she not been long but she became A joyful mother of two goodly sons, And, which was strange, the one so like the other As could not be distinguished but by names. That very hour and in the selfsame inn A mean woman was deliverèd Of such a burden male, twins both alike. Those, for their parents were exceeding poor, I bought and brought up to attend my sons. 58not meanly to no small degree 59motions proposals, entreaties 62league a measure of distance, about three miles 64instance proof, sign 68doubtful dreadful 72plainings wailings 73for fashion in imitation 74delays i.e., delays from death 77sinking-ripe ready to sink 78careful anxious. latter-born (Compare line 124, however, from which we learn that the younger or "latter-born" was saved with the father.) 84whom those on whom, or, him on whom 86straight at once 89vapors clouds 92making amain proceeding at full speed 93Epidaurus a Greek town southwest of Athens and Corinth; or possibly Dubrovnik, on the Adriatic coast My wife, not meanly proud of two such boys, Made daily motions for our home return; Unwilling I agreed. Alas, too soon We came aboard. A league from Epidamnum had we sailed Before the always-wind-obeying deep Gave any tragic instance of our harm. But longer did we not retain much hope; For what obscurèd light the heavens did grant Did but convey unto our fearful minds A doubtful warrant of immediate death, Which, though myself would gladly have embraced, Yet the incessant weepings of my wife-- Weeping before for what she saw must come-- And piteous plainings of the pretty babes, That mourned for fashion, ignorant what to fear, Forced me to seek delays for them and me. And this it was, for other means was none: The sailors sought for safety by our boat And left the ship, then sinking-ripe, to us. My wife, more careful for the latter-born, Had fastened him unto a small spare mast Such as seafaring men provide for storms; To him one of the other twins was bound, Whilst I had been like heedful of the other. The children thus disposed, my wife and I, Fixing our eyes on whom our care was fixed, Fastened ourselves at either end the mast, And, floating straight, obedient to the stream, Was carried towards Corinth, as we thought. At length the sun, gazing upon the earth, Dispersed those vapors that offended us, And by the benefit of his wishèd light The seas waxed calm, and we discoverèd Two ships from far, making amain to us, Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this. 95that that which 98had . . . so i.e., had the gods shown pity 99Worthily justly 103helpful ship i.e., the mast 106What something 107as as if 114healthful saving 115reft bereft 116bark sailing vessel 122dilate at full relate at length But ere they came--Oh, let me say no more! Gather the sequel by that went before. duke Nay, forward, old man. Do not break off so, For we may pity, though not pardon thee. egeon Oh, had the gods done so, I had not now Worthily termed them merciless to us! For, ere the ships could meet by twice five leagues, We were encountered by a mighty rock, Which being so violently borne upon, Our helpful ship was splitted in the midst, So that in this unjust divorce of us Fortune had left to both of us alike What to delight in, what to sorrow for. Her part, poor soul, seeming as burdenèd With lesser weight, but not with lesser woe, Was carried with more speed before the wind, And in our sight they three were taken up By fishermen of Corinth, as we thought. At length, another ship had seized on us, And, knowing whom it was their hap to save, Gave healthful welcome to their shipwrecked guests, And would have reft the fishers of their prey Had not their bark been very slow of sail; And therefore homeward did they bend their course. Thus have you heard me severed from my bliss, That by misfortunes was my life prolonged, To tell sad stories of my own mishaps. duke And, for the sake of them thou sorrowest for, Do me the favor to dilate at full What have befall'n of them and thee till now. egeon My youngest boy, and yet my eldest care, 127so . . . like in a similar situation 128Reft . . . name (Evidently Egeon, presuming that the lost son and servant are dead, has given their names to the surviving twin brothers.) 130-1 Whom . . . loved i.e., while I labored lovingly to find the lost twin, I ran the risk of losing my younger son, whom I loved no less. 133clean entirely. bounds boundaries, territories 134coasting traveling along the coast 135Hopeless despairing 136Or either 138timely speedy, opportune 139travels "travails," or hardships, as well as travels. warrant assure 141mishap (Punning on Hapless in line 140.) 143dignity high office 144would they even if they wished. disannul annul, cancel 146the death i.e., death by judicial sentence 147recalled revoked 148But except 150limit allow, appoint At eighteen years became inquisitive After his brother, and importuned me That his attendant--so his case was like, Reft of his brother, but retained his name-- Might bear him company in the quest of him, Whom whilst I labored of a love to see, I hazarded the loss of whom I loved. Five summers have I spent in farthest Greece, Roaming clean through the bounds of Asia, And, coasting homeward, came to Ephesus-- Hopeless to find, yet loath to leave unsought Or that or any place that harbors men. But here must end the story of my life, And happy were I in my timely death Could all my travels warrant me they live. duke Hapless Egeon, whom the fates have marked To bear the extremity of dire mishap! Now, trust me, were it not against our laws, Against my crown, my oath, my dignity, Which princes, would they, may not disannul, My soul should sue as advocate for thee. But though thou art adjudgèd to the death, And passèd sentence may not be recalled But to our honor's great disparagement, Yet will I favor thee in what I can. Therefore, merchant, I'll limit thee this day To seek thy health by beneficial help. Try all the friends thou hast in Ephesus; Beg thou, or borrow, to make up the sum, And live; if no, then thou art doomed to die.-- Jailer, take him to thy custody. jailer I will, my lord. 158procrastinate postpone 1.2Location: The street. 1give out say 8keep safeguard. 9Centaur the name of an inn, identified by its sign over the door. In mythology, a centaur is half horse, half man. host lodge 11dinnertime i.e., noon 18mean (1) opportunity (2) money. 19villain servant. (Said good-humoredly.) 21humor mood, disposition egeon Hopeless and helpless doth Egeon wend, But to procrastinate his lifeless end.Exeunt. Excerpted from The Comedy of Errors: Critical Essays by William Shakespeare All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. viii
Introductionp. 1
1594/1604--a play for Christmas?p. 1
1623: the textp. 10
Sources and analoguesp. 17
Plautus, Menaechmip. 17
William Warnerp. 21
Plautus, Amphitruop. 25
Apollonius of Tyre: Gower or Twine?p. 27
Acts and Ephesiansp. 37
Farce, City Comedy and Romancep. 42
Four centuries of 'Errors' on the page and on the stagep. 59
Editorial Proceduresp. 81
Abbreviations and referencesp. 82
The Comedy of Errorsp. 87
Appendix A Proverbial language in 'The Comedy of Errors'p. 181
Appendix B Extracts from 'Gesta Grayorum' (1688)p. 183
Appendix C Plautus, 'Menaechmi' (William Warner's 1595 translation)p. 188
Appendix D Extracts from Acts and Ephesians (The Geneva Bible (1560))p. 221
Indexp. 225