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Shakespeare's Works
• The Plays
The Comedy of Errors

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The Comedy of Errors

... they say every why hath a wherefore.
Act 2, scene 2, line 45–46

There is something in the wind
Act 3, scene 1, line 107

Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors is the slapstick farce of his youth. In it, the lost twin sons of the old merchant Egeon—both named Antipholus—find themselves in Ephesus, without either one even knowing of the other's existence. Meanwhile, Egeon has arrived in search of the son he thinks is still alive—and has been sentenced to death for the "crime" of being from Syracuse.

To add to the confusion, the two Antipholuses have twin servants, both named Dromio. As the four men unwittingly encounter each other, the play is crammed with wildly escalating misunderstandings before the truth emerges and Egeon is pardoned.

Shakespeare bases his story on Plautus’s Menaechmi, a play about identical twins who accidentally meet after a lifetime apart. He borrows from another Plautus play by having Adriana, the wife of one Antipholus, entertain the other. The spirited Adriana often gives speeches evoking strong emotions—as do other characters at times. Even here, Shakespeare suggests complexities beyond the farce.

The Comedy of Errors was performed in late 1594, and Shakespeare probably wrote it between 1592 and 1594. The play was published in the 1623 First Folio.

Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 1996 Folger Shakespeare Library


Further reading
T.G. Bishop. Shakespeare and the Theatre of Wonder. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Robert S. Miola, ed. Comedy of Errors: Critical Essays. New York: Garland Publishing, 1997.

Wolfgang Riehle. Shakespeare, Plautus, and the Humanist Tradition. Rochester, NY: D.S. Brewer, 1990.

Related movie
The Boys from Syracuse (1940, Universal Pictures). Directed by A. Edward Sutherland. Based on the stage musical inspired by The Comedy of Errors. Cast includes Allan Jones, Irene Hervey, and Martha Raye.
The Comedy of Errors

Folger Theatre

On Stage: The Comedy of Errors

Inside the Collection

Folios from the Collection: The Comedy of Errors

Teacher Resources

Teaching The Comedy of Errors

Insider's Guide: The Comedy of Errors

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