• The Comedy of Errors is one
of William Shakespeare's earliest
• It is his shortest and one of his
most farcical comedies, with a
major part of the humor coming
from slapstick and mistaken
identity, in addition
to puns and word play.
• Charles Whitworth, in his edition of
the play, argues that The Comedy of
Errors was written "in the latter
part of 1594."
• The play was not published until it
appeared in the First Folio in 1623.
• Key plot elements are taken from
two ancient Roman comedies
• 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
• From Amphitryon 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
• The frame story of Egeon and Emilia
derives from Apollonius of Tyre, also
a source for Twelfth
Night and Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
• The story takes place in
Ephesus, on the west coast
of Asia Minor (where
modern-day Turkey is).
• There has been a long-
standing battle between
Syracuse on the east coast
of Sicily and Ephesus.
• This sets up part of the
tension in the plot, with
three characters from
Syracuse sneaking into
Ephesus to set the story in
• Solinus – Duke of Ephesus
• Egeon – a merchant of Syracuse
• Emilia – 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
• Luciana – her sister
• Egeon, a merchant of Syracuse, is condemned to death in Ephesus for violating the ban
against travel between the two rival cities.
• As he is led to his execution, he tells the Ephesian Duke, Solinus, that he has come to
Syracuse in search of his wife and one of his twin sons, who were separated from him
25 years ago in a shipwreck.
• The other twin, who grew up with Egeon, is also traveling the world in search of the
missing half of their family. (The twins, we learn, are identical, and each has an
identical twin slave named Dromio.)
• The Duke is so moved by this story that he grants Egeon a day to raise the thousand-
mark ransom that would be necessary to save his life.
• Meanwhile, unknown to Egeon, his son Antipholus of Syracuse (and Antipholus' slave Dromio) is
also visiting Ephesus--where Antipholus' missing twin, known as Antipholus of Ephesus, is a
prosperous citizen of the city.
• Antipholus of Ephesus' wife, mistakes Antipholus of Syracuse for her husband and drags him home
for dinner, leaving Dromio of Syracuse to stand guard at the door and admit no one.
• Shortly thereafter, Antipholus of Ephesus (with his slave Dromio of Ephesus) returns home and is
refused entry to his own house.
• Meanwhile, Antipholus of Syracuse has fallen in love with Luciana, Adriana's sister, who is appalled
at the behavior of the man she thinks is her brother-in-law.
Dromio of Syracuse
Dromio of Ephesus
• Add to this a gold chain given to one of the Dromio’s (the wrong one) – leading to:
• An angry merchant; a mistaken arrest,
• Culminating in a surprise appearance by a wayward nun, as things get wackier and
• Of course, being a comedy, it all ends happily for everyone.
Dromio of SyracuseDromio of Ephesus
• Most people think of
Shakespeare as “heavy” or
“serious” or “intellectual”, but
The Comedy Of Errors shows
that Shakespeare understood
how to make a fast-paced,
funny comedy, that everyone
• It uses the same time-worn
techniques that comedians have
used for centuries: slapstick,
pratfalls, and mistaken
identities, all doubled, due to
the use of two sets of twins!
• There have been several adaptions
of the play into various formats,
including opera, musicals, film, and
• There was a popular 1938 Broadway
musical called The Boys From
Syracuse written by Rodgers & Hart.
(click here for sample)
• There was also a 1988 movie called
Big Business based on the play.
• The popular TV show The X-
Files features an episode called
"Fight Club", the story of which
heavily parallels many elements
from this play.
A Nutsy the Squirrel Production
Copyright 2012 Oak Hills Media Center
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