The Comedy of Errors

Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V
Enter Solinus, Duke of Ephesus, with Egeon, the

merchant of Syracuse, Gaoler, and other attendants


Proceed, Solinus, to procure my fall,

And by the doom of death end woes and all.
doom (n.) 1 judgement, sentence, decision


Merchant of Syracuse, plead no more.

I am not partial to infringe our laws.
partial (adj.) 1 disposed, minded, inclined

The enmity and discord which of late

Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your Duke
outrage (n.) 1 violence, hostility, fury

To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen,
well-dealing (adj.) fair-dealing, conducting business well

Who, wanting guilders to redeem their lives,
redeem (v.) 2 ransom
want (v.) 1 lack, need, be without See Topics: Frequency count

Have sealed his rigorous statutes with their bloods,
seal (v.) 2 accomplish, carry out, fulfil

Excludes all pity from our threatening looks.

For since the mortal and intestine jars
intestine (adj.) internal, civil, domestic
jar (n.) 1 conflict, quarrel, dissension

'Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us
seditious (adj.) turbulent, tempestuous, violent

It hath in solemn synods been decreed
synod (n.) assembly, council, gathering

Both by the Syracusians and ourselves

To admit no traffic to our adverse towns.
admit (v.) 1 permit, allow, grant
adverse (adj.) 3 hostile, belligerent, antagonistic
traffic (n.) 1 trade, commerce, business, merchandise

Nay, more:

If any born at Ephesus be seen

At any Syracusian marts and fairs;
mart (n.) 1 market

Again, if any Syracusian born

Come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies,

His goods confiscate to the Duke's dispose,
dispose (n.) 1 disposal, control, discretion

Unless a thousand marks be levied,
mark (n.) 8 See Topics: Money

To quit the penalty and to ransom him.
quit (v.) 2 remit, release from

Thy substance, valued at the highest rate,
substance (n.) 2 property, wealth, possessions, treasure

Cannot amount unto a hundred marks;
mark (n.) 8 See Topics: Money

Therefore by law thou art condemned to die.


Yet this my comfort: when your words are done,

My woes end likewise with the evening sun.


Well, Syracusian, say in brief the cause

Why thou departed'st from thy native home,

And for what cause thou camest to Ephesus.


A heavier task could not have been imposed
heavy (adj.) 1 sorrowful, sad, gloomy See Topics: Frequency count

Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable.

Yet, that the world may witness that my end

Was wrought by nature, not by vile offence,

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.
hap (n.) 1 fortune, lot, fate

With her I lived in joy, our wealth increased

By prosperous voyages I often made

To Epidamnum, till my factor's death,
factor (n.) agent, representative, broker

And the great care of goods at random left,
care (n.) 4 anxiety, worry, solicitude [about]
random, at untended, neglected, uncared for

Drew me from kind embracements of my spouse,
embracement (n.) embrace, clasping, hug
kind (adj.) 2 loving, affectionate, fond

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 arrived 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 self-same inn,

A mean woman was delivered
mean (adj.) 2 lowly, humble, poor

Of such a burden male, twins both alike.

Those, for their parents were exceeding poor,
exceeding (adv.) exceedingly, extremely, very
exceeding (adv.) exceedingly, extremely, very

I bought, and brought up to attend my sons.
attend (v.) 2 serve, follow, wait [on/upon]

My wife, not meanly proud of two such boys,
meanly, not not a little, in no small degree

Made daily motions for our home return.
motion (n.) 5 urging, prompting, encouragement

Unwilling I agreed. Alas, too soon

We came aboard.

A league from Epidamnum had we sailed
league (n.) 2 [measure of distance] c.3 miles [c.5 km]

Before the always wind-obeying deep

Gave any tragic instance of our harm.
harm (n.) 2 misfortune, affliction, trouble
instance (n.) 1 sign, evidence, proof

But longer did we not retain much hope,

For what obscured light the heavens did grant

Did but convey unto our fearful minds
fearful (adj.) 1 timid, timorous, frightened, full of fear

A doubtful warrant of immediate death,
doubtful (adj.) 2 dreadful, awful, frightful
warrant (n.) 1 assurance, pledge, guarantee

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,
plaining (n.) 2 wailing, crying

That mourned for fashion, ignorant what to fear,
fashion (n.) 2 conventional behaviour, conformity, customary use

Forced me to seek delays for them and me.

And this it was – for other means was none –
this (adv.) in this way, thus, like this

The sailors sought for safety by our boat,

And left the ship, then sinking-ripe, to us.
sinking-ripe (adj.) ready to sink

My wife, more careful for the latter-born,
careful (adj.) 1 anxious, concerned, worried
latter-born (n.) second-born, younger [twin]

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.
like (adv.) 3 equally, similarly, also

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,
straight (adv.) straightaway, immediately, at once See Topics: Frequency count
stream (n.) current, flow, drift

Was carried towards Corinth, as we thought.

At length the sun, gazing upon the earth,

Dispersed those vapours that offended us,
offend (v.) 3 assail, attack, fall upon
vapour (n.) 2 mist, cloud, fog

And by the benefit of his wished light
benefit (n.) 1 agency, help, means

The seas waxed calm, and we discovered
discover (v.) 5 spy, spot, make out
wax (v.) 1 grow, become, turn

Two ships from far, making amain to us:
amain (adv.) 1 in all haste, at full speed

Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this.

But ere they came – O, let me say no more.

Gather the sequel by that went before!


Nay, forward, old man; do not break off so,

For we may pity, though not pardon thee.


O, had the gods done so, I had not now

Worthily termed them merciless to us;
worthily (adv.) justly, deservedly, rightly

For ere the ships could meet by twice five leagues
league (n.) 2 [measure of distance] c.3 miles [c.5 km]

We were encountered by a mighty rock,

Which being 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 burdened

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
hap (n.) 2 luck, chance, accident

Gave healthful welcome to their shipwrecked guests,
healthful (adj.) healthy, wholesome, fit [in health]

And would have reft the fishers of their prey

Had not their bark been very slow of sail;
bark, barque (n.) ship, vessel

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.


And for the sake of them thou sorrowest for,

Do me the favour to dilate at full
dilate (v.) 1 relate, describe, enlarge upon

What hath befallen of them and thee till now.
befall of (v.) become of, happen to


My youngest boy, and yet my eldest care,
eldest (adj.) oldest, longest

At eighteen years became inquisitive
inquisitive (adj.) eager for information, seeking knowledge

After his brother, and importuned me
importune (v.) 2 beg [for], ask persistently [for]

That his attendant, so his case was like,
like (adj.) 1 same, similar, alike, equal See Topics: Frequency count

Reft of his brother, but retained his name,

Might bear him company in the quest of him;

Whom whilst I laboured 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,
bound (n.) 2 territory, region, domain

And coasting homeward came to Ephesus,
coast (v.) 1 travel along the coast

Hopeless to find, yet loath to leave unsought
hopeless (adj.) 1 despairing, without hope
unsought (adj.) unsearched, uninvestigated

Or that or any place that harbours men.

But here must end the story of my life,

And happy were I in my timely death
timely (adj.) early, premature

Could all my travels warrant me they live.
travail, travel (n.) 2 journeying, travel [often overlapping with sense 1]
warrant (v.) 1 assure, promise, guarantee, confirm See Topics: Frequency count


Hapless Egeon, whom the fates have marked
hapless (adj.) luckless, unfortunate, unlucky

To bear the extremity of dire mishap,
extremity (n.) 1 utmost degree, greatest amount
mishap (n.) evil, misfortune, calamity

Now trust me, were it not against our laws,

Against my crown, my oath, my dignity,
dignity (n.) 2 official position, high office, rule

Which princes, would they, may not disannul,
disannul (v.) 1 annul, abolish, cancel

My soul should sue as advocate for thee.

But, though thou art adjudged to the death,
adjudge (v.) 1 sentence, condemn

And passed sentence may not be recalled
recall (v.) revoke, annul, nullify

But to our honour's great disparagement,
disparagement (n.) disgrace, dishonour, discredit

Yet will I favour thee in what I can.

Therefore, merchant, I'll limit thee this day
limit (v.) appoint, specify, fix the limit of

To seek thy health by beneficial help.
health (n.) 4 well-being, deliverance

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.

Gaoler, take him to thy custody.


I will, my lord.


Hopeless and helpless doth Egeon wend,

But to procrastinate his lifeless end.
procrastinate (v.) postpone, defer, put off


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