The Comedy of Errors condensed

Egeon, a man from Syracuse, a port city in Sicily, and his wife Emilia, have found themselves in Epidamium, a port city on the Adriatic Coast. She has just given birth to twin boys. He was there on business; she joining him just before the boys were born. He “bought” twin boys “for their parents where exceedingly poor” to “attend my sons.”  Their twin sons had the same name, Antipholus.  The twin boys he bought also had the same name, Dromio. They had a terrible accident at sea on their way back to Syracuse, Egeon, one son and one attendant son being able to find their way back to Syracuse. The other three ended up in Ephesus, but that’s getting ahead of the story. Egeon and one son, Antipholus of Syracuse, and his Dromio had lived together in Syracuse for many years when the son, then eighteen, had left Syracuse to find his brother, taking Dromio of Syracuse with him.  Five years after this son had left, having not returned, Egeon set out on a world search to find him. Egeon had for another five years wandered the earth “from Greece through the bounds of Asia” searching for Antipholus of Syracuse.  He has now arrived in Ephesus.  The Antipholus brothers must now be twenty-eight.

Act 1. Egeon is sent to jail the day he arrives in Ephesus, for Ephesus had a rule where “if any Syracusian born come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies.” He could buy his way out of his predicament, but he doesn’t have the funds.  He is to be put to death that night if he can’t “quit the penalty,” a thousand marks. By mere coincidence, Antipholus of Syracuse (AS) and Dromio of Syracuse (DS) also arrive that day in Ephesus. AS gives DS his gold currency, instructing him to “bear it to the Centaur, where we host, and stay there.”  By chance, Dromio of Ephesus (DE) rushes up to AS telling him he needs to get home for dinner, saying his wife is “so hot because the meat is cold; the meat is cold because you come not home.” AS is baffled, saying I don’t have a wife, and by the way “where is the money?”

Act 2. Adriana and Luciana, Antipholus of Ephesus’ (AE’s) wife and sister-in-law discuss the nature of men, mostly their shortcomings.  DE returns to Adriana telling her of the strange encounter with her husband. She says “go back again and fetch him home.”  AS meets up with DS; AS angrily saying what’s up, “thou didst deny the gold’s receipt and told’st me of a mistress and a dinner.”  Before DS has a chance to respond, an angry Adriana sees AS and says “Some other mistress has thy sweet aspects.”  But she soon calms down, saying come home with me, saying “thou art an elm, my husband, I a vine.” AS likes the attention offered.  He and DS go home with the women, DS instructed to “keep the gate” from above the door, hidden from view, letting no one in. 

Act 3. AE has had Angelo, a goldsmith, craft a gold chain for his wife. AE invites Angelo home for dinner. An unseen DS denies them access. An angry AE tells Angelo to go and get the gold chain; that he is going to give it to his mistress, the Courtesan. Back at the dinner table, charming Luciana captures AS’s heart, he telling her “your weeping sister is no wife of mine.”  AS, now believing the city is inhabited by sorcerers, instructs DS to book passage on any ship that’s about to leave town. Angelo retrieves the gold chain and hands it over, by mistake, of course, to AS. Knowing how angry AE now is, Angelo tells AS that he can pay him later. AS strolls about town, proudly displaying his gold chain, thinking maybe he doesn’t need to get out of town so fast after all.

Act 4. Being denied access to his home, a frustrated AE tells DE to buy a rope’s end and to bring it to him. About this time, a Second Merchant tells Angelo that he needs to be paid. Angelo happens to see AE and tells him that he now needs the funds for the gold chain. AE angrily erupts. Angelo has him arrested.  DS rushes up to AE to tell him that he’s made plans for them to sail out of town that very night. AE says wait a minute, I sent you for a rope’s end, but never mind, get to my home, have Adriana give you gold from my drawer “that shall bail me.” DS gets the funds from Adriana. At about this point, the Courtesan sees AS strolling about town with the gold chain and asks for it, AE having promised to give it to her. AS likes the chain and doesn’t know who she is; therefore refusing her request. The Courtesan rushes to Adriana, telling her what a dishonorable husband she has. By mistake, of course, DS gives AS the bail funds.  DE gives his purchased rope’s end to a loosely detained AE; AE beats him with the rope’s end, angry as he is, looking for his bail money. When Adriana and the Courtesan see AE beating DE, the Courtesan says to Adriana “Is not your husband mad?” They now have officers bind him and turn him over to Dr. Pinch, a schoolmaster and exorcist on the side. 

Act 5. AS and DS enter with swords drawn, but they meet up with Angelo, the Second Merchant and Adriana, all being seriously angry.  The three of them seek to have them arrested, believing AS and DS to be AE and DE, believing AE to have escaped Dr. Pinch, a reasonable thought, and joined back up with DE.  Frightened by all the commotion, AS and DS hide in a priory. Adriana demands the Abbess of the priory release them to her. The Abbess refuses. Evening has fallen and the Duke leads Egeon to the gallows.  Adriana pleads with the Duke to intervene with the Abbess and to release her husband.  A now escaped AE and DE enter, AE defending himself to Adriana’s charges, saying among other things that he is “not disturbed with the effect of wine.” Believing he sees AS, Egeon tells the Duke that he sees his son who can buy his way out of his predicament.  When asked about it by the Duke, AE responds “I never saw my father in my life.”  The Abbess enters with AS and DS.  All falls into place. Emilia, the Abbess, recognizing Egeon as her husband, cries out “If thou be’st the man that hadst a wife once called Emilia, if thou be’st the same Egeon, speak, and speak unto the same Emilia.”  Egeon responds “If I dream not, thou art Emilia.” AE and Adriana are reconciled. AS declares his love for Luciana. DE says to DS “we came into the world like brother and brother, and now let’s go hand in hand, not one before another.” A party begins. 

 

 

Copyright © 2010 Condensed Shakespeare

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