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  • Title: The Comedy of Errors (Folio 1, 1623)
  • Editor: Matthew Steggle

  • Copyright Matthew Steggle. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: Matthew Steggle
    Not Peer Reviewed

    The Comedy of Errors (Folio 1, 1623)


    The Comedie of Errors.

    1Actus primus, Scena prima.

    Enter the Duke of Ephesus, with the Merchant of Siracusa,
    Iaylor, and other attendants.

    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,