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In “ The IIistorie of Error," then, we have possibly the foundation of Shakespeare's “ Comedy of Errors,” and the source whence he adopted the designations erraticus and surreptus, which the players or printers corrupted into Erotes and Sereptus. * Mr. Halliwell has observed that the title of this comedy was either a common proverb, or furnished the subject of one; and in his magnificent edition of the great dramatist he adduces the following instances where it is mentioned by contemporary writers :-“ Anton, in his Philosophical Satires, 1616, p. 51, exclaims-What Comedies of Errors swell the stage !' So also Decker, in his Knights Conjuring, 1607— His ignorance, arising from his blindeness, is the onely cause of this Comedie of Errors ;' and previously, in his Satiro-mastix, 1602, he seems to allude to the play itself- Instead of the trumpets sounding thrice before the play begin, it shall not be amisse, for him that will read, first to behold this short Comedy of Errors, and where the greatest enter, to give them instead of a hisse, a gentle correction.' Again also, in the Meeting of Gallants at an Ordinarie, 1604,- This was a prettie Comedie of Errors, my round host.””
How long before the notice of it by Veres in 1598 the Comedy of Errors was acted, we can only conjecture from internal indications. The “ long hobbling verses," as Blackstone termed them, that are found in it, and which were a marked peculiarity in the old plays anterior to Shakespeare's day, would alone determine it to have been one of his youthful efforts. Theobald was of opinion, too, that Dromio's reply (Act III. Sc. 2), to the question where he found France in the “ globe”-like kitchen wench,
“In her forehead ; arm'd and reverted, making war against her heir,"
was an allusion to the civil wars in France upon the succession of Henry IV. of Navarre ; whose claim as heir was resisted by the States of France on account of his being a Protestant. If any such equivoque between hair and heir were really intended, which is fairly presumable, this passage would serve to fix the date of the play somewhere between 1589, when the war began, and 1593, the period of its termination.
Solinus, duke of Ephesus.
A Merchant, friend to ANTIPHOLUS of Syracuse. ÆGEON, a merchant of SYRACUSE.
A Merchant, trading with ANGELO.*
ADRIANA, wife to ANTIPHOLUS of EPHESUS.
| Gaoler, Officers, and other Alterdants.
* This personage, who plays no unimportant part in the founded with another character, in every list of the Dramatis drama, appears to have bren altogether forgotten, or con- | Persone of the play that has heretofore been published.
Nay, more: if any born at Ephesus be seen
At any Syracusian marts and fairs,—
Again, if any Syracusian born
Come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies,
Duke. Merchant of Syracusa, plead no more ; To quit the penalty, and to ransom him.
Thy substance, valued at the highest rate, The enmity and discord which of late
Cannot amount unto a hundred marks; Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your duke, Therefore, by law thou art condemn'd to die. To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen,
ÆGE. Yet this my comfort ; when your words Who, wanting guilders to redeem their lives,
are done, Have seald his rigorous statutes with their ! My woes end likewise with the evening sun. bloods,
DUKE. Well, Syracusian, say in brief the cause Excludes all pity from our threat’ning looks. Why thou departedst from thy native home, For, since the mortal and intestine jars
And for what cause thou cam'st to Ephesus. 'Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us,
ÆGE. A heavier task could not have been It bath in solemn synods been decreed,
impos’d, Both by the Syracusians and ourselves,
Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable. To admit no traffic to our adverse towns.
Yet, that the world may witness that my end
Was wrought by nature, not by vile offence, Had made provision for her following me;
And soon and safe arrived where I was.
There had she not been long, but she became Unto a woman, happy but for me,
A joyful mother of two goodly sons ; And by me too, had not our hap been bad. And, which was strange, the one so like the other, With her I liv’d in joy ; our wealth increas'd, As could not be distinguish'd but by names. By prosperous voyages I often made
That very hour, and in the self same inn, To Epidamnum, till my factor's death,
A poord mean woman was delivered And the great care of goods at random left,
Of such a burden-male twins, both alike. Drew me from kind embracements of my spouse: Those,—for their parents were exceeding poor,From whom my absence was not six months old, I bought, and brought up to attend my sons. Before herself (almost at fainting under
My wife, not meanly proud of two such boys, The pleasing punishment that women bear) Made daily motions for our home return.
a Was wrought by nature,-) Mr. Collier's corrector substitutes we have, “And he," &c. The emendation, which is easy and fortune for nature, a change which is unnecessary. The sense of happy, we owe to Malone. the original is clear enough :-“ My death was not a punishment
d A poor mean woman - Poor is an addition from the folio. for criminality, but brought about by the impulses of nature,
1632. It is questionable, however, whether this is the right which led me to Ephesus in search of my son."
word; for, as Malone observes, immediately below we have :b And by me too,-) The word too was added by the editor of the second folio. It was, no doubt, omitted by error in the
" — for their parents were exceeding poor." first.
Perhaps, instead of A mean woman, the line should read, c And the great care of goods at random left,-) In the original | “A moaning woman," i. e. a woman in labour.
Unwilling I agreed—alas ! too soon we came | And, in our sight, they three were taken up aboard :
By fishermen of Corinth, as we thought. A league from Epidamnum had we saild, At length another ship had seiz'd on us; Before the always-wind-obeying deep
And, knowing whom it was their hap to save, Gave any tragic instance of our harm;
Gave healthful welcome to their shipwreck'd guests ; But longer did we not retain much hope;
And would have reft the fishers of their prey, For what obscured light the heavens did grant Had not their bark been very slow of sail; Did but convey unto our fearful minds
And therefore homeward did they bend their course. A doubtful warrant of immediate death;
Thus have you heard me sever'd from my bliss ; Which, though myself would gladly have embracid, That by misfortunes was my life prolong'd, Yet the incessant weepings of my wife,
To tell sad stories of my own mishaps. Weeping before for what she saw must come, DUKE. And, for the sake of them thou sorAnd piteous plainings of the pretty babes,
rowest for, That mourn'd for fashion, ignorant what to fear, Do me the favour to dilate at full, Forc'd me to seek delays for them and me. What hath befalln of them and thee* till now. And this it was—for other means was none :
ÆGE. My youngest boy, and yet my eldest care, The sailors sought for safety by our boat,
At eighteen years became inquisitive And left the ship, then sinking-ripe, to us.
After his brother; and importund me My wife, more careful for the latter-born,
That his attendant (so a his case was like, Had fasten’d him unto a small spare mast,
Reft of his brother, but retain'd his name) Such as seafaring men provide for storms :
Might bear him company in the quest of him ; To him one of the other twins. was bound,
Whom, whilst I labour'd of a love to see,
Five summers have I spent in farthest Greece, Fixing our eyes on whom our care was fix'd, Roaming clean through the bounds of Asia, Fastend ourselves at either end the mast;
And, coasting homeward, came to Ephesus ; And, floating straight, obedient to the stream, Hopeless to find, yet loath to leave unsought Were carried towards Corinth, as we thought. Or that or any place that harbours men. At length the sun, gazing upon the earth,
But here must end the story of my life; Dispers'd those vapours that offended us ;
And happy were I in my timely death, And, by the benefit of his wished light,
Could all my travels warrant me they live. The seas wax'd calm, and we discovered
DUKE. Hapless Ægeon, whom the fates have Two ships from far, making amain to us,
mark'd Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this:
To bear the extremity of dire mishap ! But ere they came 0, let me say no more! Now, trust me, were it not against our laws, Gather the sequel by that went before.
Against my crown, my oath, my dignity, DUKE. Nay, forward, old man, do not break Which princes, would they, may not disannul, off so;
My soul should sue as advocate for thee. For we may pity, though not pardon thee. *But, though thou art adjudged to the death,
ÆGE. O, had the gods done so, I had not now And passed sentence may not be recall’d
But to our honour's great disparagement;
Therefore, merchant, I'll limit thee this day, Which, being violently borne upon,*
To seek thy hope by beneficial help: Our helpful ship was splitted in the midst;
Try all the friends thou hast in Ephesus ; So that, in this unjust divorce of us,
Beg thou, or borrow, to make up the sum, Fortune had left to both of us alike,
And live ; if no, then thou art doom'd to die :What to delight in, what to sorrow for.
Gaoler, take him to thy custody. Her part, poor soul ! seeming as burdened
I will, my lord. With lesser weight, but not with lesser woe,
ÆGE. Hopeless and helpless doth Ægeon wend, Was carried with more speed before the wind; But to procrastinate his liveless end. [Exeunt.
* First folio, they.
A So his case was like,-) The second folio substituted for in place of so, and has been followed by most of the subsequent editors. Those who adopt the original reading, “so his case was like," interpret it to mean, his case was so like. But does it not rather mean, “as his case was like,"? This use of so we meet again shortly after,--"Am I 80 round with you, as you with me?" &c. b To seek thy hope by beneficial help:) The folio, 1623, has help.
Pope, and many of the modern editors, read, “To seek thy life," &c. Steevens proposed reading :
“ To seek thy help by beneficial means." “ To seek thy fine" has also been suggested; and is a plausible conjecture: but as Ægeon is made to repeat the Duke's words in hope-less, help-less, and lire-less, I have no doubt hope, or holp, was what the poet wrote.
SCENE II.-A Public Place. 1 Ant. S. A trusty villain, eir; that very oft,
When I am dull with care and melancholy, Enter ANTIPHOLUS and DROMIO of Syracuse,
Lightens my humour with his merry jests. and a Merchant.
What, will you walk with me about the town, MER. Therefore, give out you are of Epidamnum, And then go to my inn, and dine with me? Lest that your goods too soon be confiscate.. MER. I am invited, sir, to certain merchants, This very day a Syracusian merchant
Of whom I hope to make much benefit ; Is apprehended for arrival here;
I crave your pardon. Soon, at five o'clock,' And, not being able to buy out his life,
Please you, I'll meet with you upon the mart, According to the statute of the town,
And afterward consort d you till bed-time: Dies ere the weary sun set in the west.
My present business calls me from you now. There is your money that I had to keep.
Ant. S. Farewell till then ; I will go lose myself, Ant. S. Go bear it to the Centaur, where we host, And wander up and down to view the city. And stay there, Dromio, till I come to thee. MER. Sir, I commend you to your own content. Within this hour it will be dinner-time;
[Exit Merchant. Till that, I'll view the manners of the town,
ANT. S. He that commends me to mine own Peruse the traders, gaze upon the buildings,
content, And then return, and sleep within mine inn; Commends me to the thing I cannot get. For with long travel I am stiff and weary.
I to the world am like a drop of water, Get thee away,
That in the ocean seeks another drop; DRO. S. Many a man would take you at your Who, falling there to find his fellow forth, word,
Unseen inquisitive ! o confounds himself :
So I, to find a mother and a brother,
Erotes, a Marchant, and Dromio."
D A trusty villain,-) A faithful bondman, or slave. By these appellations each Antipholus, throughout this Comedy, denominates the Dromio attached to him. So in our author's “Rape of Lucrece," where a Roman slave is mentioned :"The homely villain curt'sies to her low." -MALONE,
• Soon, at five o'clock,-) That is, about five o'clock.
d And afterward consort you-) Malone proposed to read. “consort with you;" but the original is probably right-consort you meaning companion you, accompany you.
e Unseen inquisitive !] This is invariably printed, “Unseen. inquisitive," &c. ; but inquisitive, I believe, is used here for inquisitor.