The Comedy of Errors

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Original text
Act I, Scene I
Enter the Duke of Ephesus, with the
Merchant of Siracusa, Iaylor, and other attendants

Marchant.
Proceed Solinus to procure my fall,
And by the doome of death end woes and all.

Duke.
Merchant of Siracusa, plead no more.
I am not partiall to infringe our Lawes;
The enmity and discord which of late
Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your Duke,
To Merchants our well-dealing Countrimen,
Who wanting gilders to redeeme their liues,
Haue seal'd his rigorous statutes with their blouds,
Excludes all pitty from our threatning lookes:
For since the mortall and intestine iarres
Twixt thy seditious Countrimen and vs,
It hath in solemne Synodes beene decreed,
Both by the Siracusians and our selues,
To admit no trafficke to our aduerse townes:
Nay more,
if any borne at Ephesus / Be seene
at any Siracusian Marts and Fayres:
Againe, if any Siracusian borne
Come to the Bay of Ephesus, he dies:
His goods confiscate to the Dukes dispose,
Vnlesse a thousand markes be leuied
To quit the penalty, and to ransome him:
Thy substance, valued at the highest rate,
Cannot amount vnto a hundred Markes,
Therefore by Law thou art condemn'd to die.

Mer.
Yet this my comfort, when your words are done,
My woes end likewise with the euening Sonne.

Duk.
Well Siracusian; say in briefe the cause
Why thou departedst from thy natiue home?
And for what cause thou cam'st to Ephesus.

Mer.
A heauier taske could not haue beene impos'd,
Then I to speake my griefes vnspeakeable:
Yet that the world may witnesse that my end
Was wrought by nature, not by vile offence,
Ile vtter what my sorrow giues me leaue.
In Syracusa was I borne, and wedde
Vnto a woman, happy but for me,
And by me; had not our hap beene bad:
With her I liu'd in ioy, our wealth increast
By prosperous voyages I often made
To Epidamium, till my factors death,
And he great care of goods at randone left,
Drew me from kinde embracements of my spouse;
From whom my absence was not sixe moneths olde,
Before her selfe (almost at fainting vnder
The pleasing punishment that women beare)
Had made prouision for her following me,
And soone, and safe, arriued where I was:
There had she not beene long, but she became
A ioyfull mother of two goodly sonnes:
And, which was strange, the one so like the other,
As could not be distinguish'd but by names.
That very howre, and in the selfe-same Inne,
A meane woman was deliuered
Of such a burthen Male, twins both alike:
Those, for their parents were exceeding poore,
I bought, and brought vp to attend my sonnes.
My wife, not meanely prowd of two such boyes,
Made daily motions for our home returne:
Vnwilling I agreed, alas, too soone
wee came aboord.
A league from Epidamium had we saild
Before the alwaies winde-obeying deepe
Gaue any Tragicke Instance of our harme:
But longer did we not retaine much hope;
For what obscured light the heauens did grant,
Did but conuay vnto our fearefull mindes
A doubtfull warrant of immediate death,
Which though my selfe would gladly haue imbrac'd,
Yet the incessant weepings of my wife,
Weeping before for what she saw must come,
And pitteous playnings of the prettie babes
That mourn'd for fashion, ignorant what to feare,
Forst me to seeke delayes for them and me,
And this it was: (for other meanes was none)
The Sailors sought for safety by our boate,
And left the ship then sinking ripe to vs.
My wife, more carefull for the latter borne,
Had fastned him vnto a small spare Mast,
Such as sea-faring men prouide for stormes:
To him one of the other twins was bound,
Whil'st I had beene like heedfull of the other.
The children thus dispos'd, my wife and I,
Fixing our eyes on whom our care was fixt,
Fastned our selues at eyther end the mast,
And floating straight, obedient to the streame,
Was carried towards Corinth, as we thought.
At length the sonne gazing vpon the earth,
Disperst those vapours that offended vs,
And by the benefit of his wished light
The seas waxt calme, and we discouered
Two shippes from farre, making amaine to vs:
Of Corinth that, of Epidarus this,
But ere they came, oh let me say no more,
Gather the sequell by that went before.

Duk.
Nay forward old man, doe not breake off so,
For we may pitty, though not pardon thee.

Merch.
Oh had the gods done so, I had not now
Worthily tearm'd them mercilesse to vs:
For ere the ships could meet by twice fiue leagues,
We were encountred by a mighty rocke,
Which being violently borne vp,
Our helpefull ship was splitted in the midst;
So that in this vniust diuorce of vs,
Fortune had left to both of vs alike,
What to delight in, what to sorrow for,
Her part, poore soule, seeming as burdened
With lesser waight, but not with lesser woe,
Was carried with more speed before the winde,
And in our sight they three were taken vp
By Fishermen of Corinth, as we thought.
At length another ship had seiz'd on vs,
And knowing whom it was their hap to saue,
Gaue healthfull welcome to their ship-wrackt guests,
And would haue reft the Fishers of their prey,
Had not their backe beene very slow of saile;
And therefore homeward did they bend their course.
Thus haue you heard me seuer'd from my blisse,
That by misfortunes was my life prolong'd,
To tell sad stories of my owne mishaps.

Duke.
And for the sake of them thou sorrowest for,
Doe me the fauour to dilate at full,
What haue befalne of them and they till now.

Merch.
My yongest boy, and yet my eldest care,
At eighteene yeeres became inquisitiue
After his brother; and importun'd me
That his attendant, so his case was like,
Reft of his brother, but retain'd his name,
Might beare him company in the quest of him:
Whom whil'st I laboured of a loue to see,
I hazarded the losse of whom I lou'd.
Fiue Sommers haue I spent in farthest Greece,
Roming cleane through the bounds of Asia,
And coasting homeward, came to Ephesus:
Hopelesse to finde, yet loth to leaue vnsought
Or that, or any place that harbours men:
But heere must end the story of my life,
And happy were I in my timelie death,
Could all my trauells warrant me they liue.

Duke.
Haplesse Egeon whom the fates haue markt
To beare the extremitie of dire mishap:
Now trust me, were it not against our Lawes,
Against my Crowne, my oath, my dignity,
Which Princes would they may not disanull,
My soule should sue as aduocate for thee:
But though thou art adiudged to the death,
And passed sentence may not be recal'd
But to our honours great disparagement:
Yet will I fauour thee in what I can;
Therefore Marchant, Ile limit thee this day
To seeke thy helpe by beneficiall helpe,
Try all the friends thou hast in Ephesus,
Beg thou, or borrow, to make vp the summe,
And liue: if no, then thou art doom'd to die:
Iaylor, take him to thy custodie.

Iaylor.
I will my Lord.

Merch.
Hopelesse and helpelesse doth Egean wend,
But to procrastinate his liuelesse end.
Exeunt.
Original text
Act I, Scene II
Enter Antipholis Erotes, a Marchant, and
Dromio.

Mer.
Therefore giue out you are of Epidamium,
Lest that your goods too soone be confiscate:
This very day a Syracusian Marchant
Is apprehended for a riuall here,
And not being able to buy out his life,
According to the statute of the towne,
Dies ere the wearie sunne set in the West:
There is your monie that I had to keepe.

Ant.

Goe beare it to the Centaure, where we host,
And stay there Dromio, till I come to thee;
Within this houre it will be dinner time,
Till that Ile view the manners of the towne,
Peruse the traders, gaze vpon the buildings,
And then returne and sleepe within mine Inne,
For with long trauaile I am stiffe and wearie.
Get thee away.

Dro.
Many a man would take you at your word,
And goe indeede, hauing so good a meane.
Exit Dromio.

Ant.
A trustie villaine sir, that very oft,
When I am dull with care and melancholly,
Lightens my humour with his merry iests:
What will you walke with me about the towne,
And then goe to my Inne and dine with me?

E.Mar.
I am inuited sir to certaine Marchants,
Of whom I hope to make much benefit:
I craue your pardon, soone at fiue a clocke,
Please you, Ile meete with you vpon the Mart,
And afterward consort you till bed time:
My present businesse cals me from you now.

Ant.
Farewell till then: I will goe loose my selfe,
And wander vp and downe to view the Citie.

E.Mar.
Sir, I commend you to your owne content.
Exeunt.

Ant.
He that commends me to mine owne content,
Commends me to the thing I cannot get:
I to the world am like a drop of water,
That in the Ocean seekes another drop,
Who falling there to finde his fellow forth,
(Vnseene, inquisitiue) confounds himselfe.
So I, to finde a Mother and a Brother,
In quest of them (vnhappie a) loose my selfe.
Enter Dromio of Ephesus.
Here comes the almanacke of my true date:
What now? How chance thou art return'd so soone.

E.Dro.
Return'd so soone, rather approacht too late:
The Capon burnes, the Pig fals from the spit;
The clocke hath strucken twelue vpon the bell:
My Mistris made it one vpon my cheeke:
She is so hot because the meate is colde:
The meate is colde, because you come not home:
You come not home, because you haue no stomacke:
You haue no stomacke, hauing broke your fast:
But we that know what 'tis to fast and pray,
Are penitent for your default to day.

Ant.
Stop in your winde sir, tell me this I pray?
Where haue you left the mony that I gaue you.

E.Dro.
Oh sixe pence that I had a wensday last,
To pay the Sadler for my Mistris crupper:
The Sadler had it Sir, I kept it not.

Ant.
I am not in a sportiue humor now:
Tell me, and dally not, where is the monie?
We being strangers here, how dar'st thou trust
So great a charge from thine owne custodie.

E.Dro.
I pray you iest sir as you sit at dinner:
I from my Mistris come to you in post:
If I returne I shall be post indeede.
For she will scoure your fault vpon my pate:
Me thinkes your maw, like mine, should be your cooke,
And strike you home without a messenger.

Ant.
Come Dromio, come, these iests are out of season,
Reserue them till a merrier houre then this:
Where is the gold I gaue in charge to thee?

E.Dro.
To me sir? why you gaue no gold to me?

Ant.
Come on sir knaue, haue done your foolishnes,
And tell me how thou hast dispos'd thy charge.

E.Dro.
My charge was but to fetch you frõ the Mart
Home to your house, the Phoenix sir, to dinner;
My Mistris and her sister staies for you.

Ant.
Now as I am a Christian answer me,
In what safe place you haue bestow'd my monie;
Or I shall breake that merrie sconce of yours
That stands on tricks, when I am vndispos'd:
Where is the thousand Markes thou hadst of me?

E.Dro.
I haue some markes of yours vpon my pate:
Some of my Mistris markes vpon my shoulders:
But not a thousand markes betweene you both.
If I should pay your worship those againe,
Perchance you will not beare them patiently.

Ant.
Thy Mistris markes? what Mistris slaue hast thou?

E.Dro.
Your worships wife, my Mistris at the Phoenix;
She that doth fast till you come home to dinner:
And praies that you will hie you home to dinner.

Ant.
What wilt thou flout me thus vnto my face
Being forbid? There take you that sir knaue.

E.Dro.
What meane you sir, for God sake hold your hands:
Nay, and you will not sir, Ile take my heeles.
Exeunt Dromio Ep.

Ant.
Vpon my life by some deuise or other,
The villaine is ore-wrought of all my monie.
They say this towne is full of cosenage:
As nimble Iuglers that deceiue the eie:
Darke working Sorcerers that change the minde:
Soule-killing Witches, that deforme the bodie:
Disguised Cheaters, prating Mountebankes;
And manie such like liberties of sinne:
If it proue so, I will be gone the sooner:
Ile to the Centaur to goe seeke this slaue,
I greatly feare my monie is not safe.
Exit.
Modern text
Act I, Scene I
Enter Solinus, Duke of Ephesus, with Egeon, the
merchant of Syracuse, Gaoler, and other attendants

EGEON
Proceed, Solinus, to procure my fall,
And by the doom of death end woes and all.

DUKE
Merchant of Syracuse, 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 threatening 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 levied,
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.

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 camest 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 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.
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 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
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,
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 obscured 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 vapours that offended us,
And by the benefit of his wished light
The seas waxed calm, and we discovered
Two ships from far, making amain to us:
Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this.
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
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
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 favour to dilate at full
What hath befallen 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,
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,
And coasting homeward came to Ephesus,
Hopeless to find, yet loath to leave unsought
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
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 adjudged to the death,
And passed sentence may not be recalled
But to our honour's great disparagement,
Yet will I favour 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.
Gaoler, take him to thy custody.

GAOLER
I will, my lord.

EGEON
Hopeless and helpless doth Egeon wend,
But to procrastinate his lifeless end.
Exeunt
Modern text
Act I, Scene II
Enter Antipholus of Syracuse, First Merchant, and
Dromio of Syracuse

FIRST 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 OF SYRACUSE
(to Dromio of Syracuse)
Go, bear it to the Centaur, where we host,
And stay there, Dromio, till I come to thee.
Within this hour it will be dinner-time.
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 OF SYRACUSE
Many a man would take you at your word
And go indeed, having so good a mean.
Exit

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
A trusty villain, sir, that very oft,
When I am dull with care and melancholy,
Lightens my humour with his merry jests.
What, will you walk with me about the town,
And then go to my inn and dine with me?

FIRST 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,
Please you, I'll meet with you upon the mart,
And afterward consort you till bedtime.
My present business calls me from you now.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
Farewell till then. I will go lose myself
And wander up and down to view the city.

FIRST MERCHANT
Sir, I commend you to your own content.
Exit

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
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,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself.
So I, to find a mother and a brother,
In quest of them unhappy, lose myself.
Enter Dromio of Ephesus
Here comes the almanac of my true date.
What now? How chance thou art returned so soon?

DROMIO OF EPHESUS
Returned so soon? Rather approached too late.
The capon burns, the pig falls from the spit.
The clock hath strucken twelve upon the bell;
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.
You have no stomach, having broke your fast.
But we that know what 'tis to fast and pray
Are penitent for your default today.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
Stop in your wind, sir. Tell me this, I pray:
Where have you left the money that I gave you?

DROMIO OF EPHESUS
O, sixpence, that I had o' Wednesday last
To pay the saddler for my mistress' crupper.
The saddler had it, sir. I kept it not.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
I am not in a sportive humour now.
Tell me, and dally not: where is the money?
We being strangers here, how darest thou trust
So great a charge from thine own custody?

DROMIO OF EPHESUS
I pray you, jest, sir, as you sit at dinner.
I from my mistress come to you in post.
If I return I shall be post indeed,
For she will score your fault upon my pate.
Methinks your maw, like mine, should be your clock
And strike you home without a messenger.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
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?

DROMIO OF EPHESUS
To me, sir? Why, you gave no gold to me!

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
Come on, sir knave, have done your foolishness,
And tell me how thou hast disposed thy charge.

DROMIO OF EPHESUS
My charge was but to fetch you from the mart
Home to your house, the Phoenix, sir, to dinner.
My mistress and her sister stays for you.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
Now, as I am a Christian, answer me
In what safe place you have bestowed my money,
Or I shall break that merry sconce of yours
That stands on tricks when I am undisposed.
Where is the thousand marks thou hadst of me?

DROMIO OF EPHESUS
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 OF SYRACUSE
Thy mistress' marks? What mistress, slave, hast thou?

DROMIO OF EPHESUS
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.

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
What, wilt thou flout me thus unto my face,
Being forbid? There, take you that, sir knave.
He beats Dromio

DROMIO OF EPHESUS
What mean you, sir? For God's sake hold your hands.
Nay, an you will not, sir, I'll take my heels.
Exit

ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE
Upon my life, by some device or other
The villain is o'er-raught of all my money.
They say this town is full of cozenage,
As nimble jugglers that deceive the eye,
Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind,
Soul-killing witches that deform the body,
Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks,
And many suchlike liberties of sin.
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
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