Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Shakespeare
Editor: Matthew Steggle
Not Peer Reviewed

The Comedy of Errors (Folio 1, 1623)


1
Actus primus, Scena prima.
Enter the Duke of Ephesus, with the Merchant of Siracusa,
Iaylor, and other attendants.
Marchant.
5Proceed 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
10Sprung 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:
15For 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:
20Nay 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,
25Vnlesse 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.
30Mer. 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.
35Mer. 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.
40In 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
45To 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
50The 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:
55And, 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:
60Those, 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.
65A 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,
70Did 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,
75And 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,
80And 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,
85Whil'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,
90Was 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
95Two 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,
100For 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,
105Which 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,
110Her 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.
115At 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;
120And 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,
125Doe 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
130That 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.
135Fiue 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:
140But 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:
145Now 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,
150And 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,
155Try 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.
160Merch. Hopelesse and helpelesse doth Egean wend,
But to procrastinate his liuelesse end.
Exeunt.