Cover image for The comedy of errors
The comedy of errors
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Publication Information:
Toronto ; New York : Bantam Books, 1988.
Physical Description:
121 pages ; 18 cm.
General Note:
"Bantam edition with newly edited text and substantially revised, edited, and amplified notes, introductions, and other materials"--T.p. verso.
Added Author:
Format :

On Order



Hilarious fun, this early comedy is filled with the merry violence of slapstick and farce. When two sets of twins, separated and apparently lost to each other, all end up in the rowdy, rollicking city of Ephesus, the stage is set for mix-ups, mayhem, and mistaken identity--plus the timeless puns, jokes, gags, and suspense that makes this play a wonderful theatrical frolic and a brilliant tour de force of language and laughter.

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.



The Comedy of Errors ¥    I.1 Enter the Duke of Ephesus, with the Merchant [Egeon] 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. 4 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, 8 Have sealed his rigorous statutes with their bloods, Excludes all pity from our threat'ning looks. 10 For since the mortal and intestine jars 11 'Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us, It hath in solemn synods been decreed, 13 Both by the Syracusians and ourselves, To admit no traffic to our adverse towns: 15 Nay more, if any born at Ephesus 16 Be seen at 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, 20 Unless a thousand marks be levid, 21 To quit the penalty and to ransom him. 22 Thy substance, valued at the highest rate, Cannot amount unto a hundred marks; Therefore, by law thou art condemned to die. 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. 30 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, 34 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. 38 With her I lived in joy: our wealth increased By prosperous voyages I often made 40 To Epidamnum; till my factor's death, 41 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 arrivd where I was. There had she not been long but she became A joyful mother of two goodly sons; 50 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 deliverd 54 Of such a burden male, twins both alike. Those-for their parents were exceeding poor- I bought, and brought up to attend my sons. My wife, not meanly proud of two such boys, 58 Made daily motions for our home return. 59 Unwilling I agreed. Alas! too soon 60 We came aboard. A league from Epidamnum had we sailed Before the always wind-obeying deep Gave any tragic instance of our harm. 64 But longer did we not retain much hope; For what obscurd light the heavens did grant Did but convey unto our fearful minds A doubtful warrant of immediate death; 68 Which, though myself would gladly have embraced, Yet the incessant weepings of my wife, 70 Weeping before for what she saw must come, And piteous plainings of the pretty babes, 72 That mourned for fashion, ignorant what to fear, 73 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. 77 My wife, more careful for the latter-born, 78 Had fastened him unto a small spare mast, Such as seafaring men provide for storms; 80 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 wishd light 90 The seas waxed calm, and we discoverd Two ships from far, making amain to us: 92 Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this. 93 But ere they came-O 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 O, 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, 100 We were encountered by a mighty rock, Which being violently borne upon, Our helpful ship was splitted in the midst; 103 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 burdend 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 110 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, 115 Had not their bark been very slow of sail; 116 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. 120 duke And for the sake of them thou sorrowest for, Do me the favor to dilate at full, 122 What have befall'n of them and thee till now. egeon My youngest boy, and yet my eldest care, At eighteen years became inquisitive After his brother; and importuned me That his attendant-so his case was like, 127 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, 130 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. 136 But here must end the story of my life; And happy were I in my timely death, 138 Could all my travels warrant me they live. 139 duke Hapless Egeon, whom the fates have marked 140 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, 144 My soul should sue as advocate for thee. But though thou art adjudgd to the death, 146 And passd 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 150 To seek thy life by beneficial help. 151 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. egeon Hopeless and helpless doth Egeon wend, 157 But to procrastinate his lifeless end.Exeunt. * ¥    I.2 Enter Antipholus [of Syracuse], a Merchant, and Dromio [of Syracuse]. merchant Therefore give out you are of Epidamnum, Lest that your goods too soon be confiscate. This very day a Syracusian merchant Is apprehended for arrival here, And not being able to buy out his life, According to the statute of the town, Dies ere the weary sun set in the west. There is your money that I had to keep. antipholus s. Go bear it to the Centaur, where we host, 9 And stay there, Dromio, till I come to thee. 10 Within this hour it will be dinnertime; Till that, I'll view the manners of the town, Peruse the traders, gaze upon the buildings, And then return and sleep within mine inn, For with long travel I am stiff and weary. Get thee away. dromio s. Many a man would take you at your word, And go indeed, having so good a mean. 18 Exit Dromio [of Syracuse]. antipholus s. A trusty villain, sir, that very oft, 19 When I am dull with care and melancholy, 20 Lightens my humor with his merry jests. 21 What, will you walk with me about the town, And then go to my inn and dine with me? merchant I am invited, sir, to certain merchants, Of whom I hope to make much benefit; I crave your pardon. Soon at five o'clock, 26 Please you, I'll meet with you upon the mart, And afterward consort you till bedtime. 28 My present business calls me from you now. antipholus s. Farewell till then. I will go lose myself, 30 And wander up and down to view the city. merchant Sir, I commend you to your own content.Exit. antipholus s. He that commends me to mine own content, Commends me to the thing I cannot get. I to the world am like a drop of water That in the ocean seeks another drop, Who falling there to find his fellow forth, 37 Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself. 38 So I, to find a mother and a brother, In quest of them, unhappy, lose myself. 40 Enter Dromio of Ephesus. Here comes the almanac of my true date. 41 What now? How chance thou art returned so soon? dromio e. Returned so soon! rather approached too late. The capon burns, the pig falls from the spit, The clock hath strucken twelve upon the bell; 45 My mistress made it one upon my cheek: She is so hot because the meat is cold; The meat is cold because you come not home; You come not home because you have no stomach; 49 You have no stomach, having broke your fast; 50 But we, that know what 'tis to fast and pray, Are penitent for your default today. 52 antipholus s. Stop in your wind, sir; tell me this, I pray: 53 Where have you left the money that I gave you? dromio e. O, sixpence, that I had o' Wednesday last To pay the saddler for my mistress' crupper? 56 The saddler had it, sir; I kept it not. antipholus s. I am not in a sportive humor now. Tell me, and dally not, where is the money? We being strangers here, how dar'st thou trust 60 So great a charge from thine own custody? dromio e. I pray you, jest, sir, as you sit at dinner. I from my mistress come to you in post; 63 If I return, I shall be post indeed, 64 For she will score your fault upon my pate. Methinks your maw, like mine, should be your clock 66 And strike you home without a messenger. antipholus s. Come, Dromio, come, these jests are out of season; Reserve them till a merrier hour than this. Where is the gold I gave in charge to thee? 70 dromio e. To me, sir? Why, you gave no gold to me. antipholus s. Come on, sir knave, have done your foolishness, And tell me how thou hast disposed thy charge. dromio e. My charge was but to fetch you from the mart Home to your house, the Phoenix, sir, to dinner; 75 My mistress and her sister stays for you. antipholus s. Now, as I am a Christian, answer me, In what safe place you have bestowed my money; 78 Or I shall break that merry sconce of yours 79 That stands on tricks when I am undisposed: 80 Where is the thousand marks thou hadst of me? dromio e. I have some marks of yours upon my pate, Some of my mistress' marks upon my shoulders, But not a thousand marks between you both. If I should pay your worship those again, Perchance you will not bear them patiently. antipholus s. Thy mistress' marks? What mistress, slave, hast thou? dromio e. Your worship's wife, my mistress at the Phoenix; She that doth fast till you come home to dinner, And prays that you will hie you home to dinner. 90 antipholus s. What! wilt thou flout me thus unto my face, Being forbid? There, take you that, sir knave. [Strikes him.] dromio e. What mean you, sir? For God's sake, hold your hands! Nay, an you will not, sir, I'll take my heels. 94 Exit Dromio of Ephesus. antipholus s. Upon my life, by some device or other The villain is o'erraught of all my money. 96 They say this town is full of cozenage: 97 As, nimble jugglers that deceive the eye, Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind, Soul-killing witches that deform the body, 100 Disguisd cheaters, prating mountebanks, 101 And many suchlike liberties of sin: 102 If it prove so, I will be gone the sooner. I'll to the Centaur to go seek this slave; I greatly fear my money is not safe.Exit. * ¥    II.1 Enter Adriana, wife to Antipholus [of Ephesus], with Luciana, her sister. adriana Neither my husband nor the slave returned, That in such haste I sent to seek his master? Sure, Luciana, it is two o'clock. luciana Perhaps some merchant hath invited him, And from the mart he's somewhere gone to dinner. Good sister, let us dine and never fret. A man is master of his liberty: Time is their master, and when they see time, They'll go or come; if so, be patient, sister. adriana Why should their liberty than ours be more? 10 luciana Because their business still lies out o' door. 11 adriana Look, when I serve him so, he takes it ill. luciana O, know he is the bridle of your will. 13 adriana There's none but asses will be bridled so. luciana Why, headstrong liberty is lashed with woe. 15 There's nothing situate under heaven's eye 16 But hath his bound, in earth, in sea, in sky. The beasts, the fishes, and the wingd fowls, Are their males' subjects, and at their controls. Men, more divine, the masters of all these, 20 Lords of the wide world, and wild wat'ry seas, Endued with intellectual sense and souls, 22 Of more preeminence than fish and fowls, Are masters to their females, and their lords: Then let your will attend on their accords. adriana This servitude makes you to keep unwed. luciana Not this, but troubles of the marriage bed. adriana But were you wedded, you would bear some sway. luciana Ere I learn love, I'll practice to obey. Excerpted from The Comedy of Errors 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.