The Comedy of Errors



  • An early comedy by Shakespeare. It was probably first performedin 1594 at Gray's Inn Hall, London, where records refer to "acompany of base and common fellows" that probably included theBard. With 1777 lines, it is his shortest play. Theodore Komisarjevskydirected a modern-dress version at Stratford in 1938, while TrevorNunn mounted an acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company production atThe Warehouse in 1976. The play was made into a Broadway musical comedyin 1938 by George Abbott, Lorenz Hart, and Richard Rodgers as TheBoys from Syracuse.

    The plot derives from Plautus's Menaechmi, which was itselfbased on an earlier Greek model. The story begins when the elderly Aegeonfrom Syracuse puts ashore in Ephesus; because there is enmity between thecities, he is sentenced to die unless he finds the money for a ransom bynightfall. Asked why he came to Ephesus, Aegeon explains how he lost his wifeand one of their identical twin sons years ago in a storm at sea,together with one of a pair of twin servants. More recently, his remainingson and the remaining servant had set out to find their brothers onlyto go missing themselves. So Aegeon had followed. Unknown to him,both sons and both servants are now in Ephesus. The existence of twosets of twins with the same names in the same city causes multipleconfusions before the entire family is reunited and Aegeon is freed.