The Comedy of Errors

by: William Shakespeare

Act 1 Scene 1

page Act 1 Scene 1 Page 1

Original Text

Modern Text

Enter the DUKE, EGEON, JAILER, and other attendants
The DUKE, EGEON, and the JAILER enter, with other attendants.


Proceed, Solinus, to procure my fall,
And by the doom of death end woes and all.


Continue, Solinus, and bring on my downfall. Give me the death sentence and end all my troubles.


Merchant of Syracuse, plead no more.
I am not partial to infringe our laws.
5The enmity and discord which of late
Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your duke
To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen,
Who, wanting guilders to redeem their lives,
Have seal’d his rigorous statutes with their bloods,
10Excludes all pity from our threatening looks.
For, since the mortal and intestine jars
'Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us,
It hath in solemn synods been decreed
Both by the Syracusians and ourselves,
15To admit no traffic to our adverse towns.
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,
20His goods confiscate to the Duke’s dispose,
Unless a thousand marks be levièd
To quit the penalty and to ransom him.
Thy substance, valued at the highest rate,
Cannot amount unto a hundred marks;
25Therefore by law thou art condemned to die.


Merchant of Syracuse, stop your begging: I’m not inclined to bend our laws. The hatred and discord between our two cities is the result of the bitter offenses your duke has perpetrated against the merchants of Ephesus, our well-behaved countrymen. Lacking the money to ransom themselves, these merchants were executed under your duke’s harsh laws, and this has erased all looks of pity from my face. Ever since these deadly conflicts erupted between your violent countrymen and ours, both you Syracusians and we Ephesians have held serious councils and decided not to permit any travel between our two hostile towns. No–the law goes further: if anyone born in Ephesus is seen in Syracuse’s marketplaces or if anyone born in Syracuse comes to Ephesus, that man dies, and his possessions will be confiscated by the Duke, unless he can raise a thousand marks to pay the penalty and ransom himself. Your possessions, even if we calculate their worth very generously, don’t even add up to a hundred marks. Therefore, by law, you are condemned to die.


Yet this my comfort: when your words are done,
My woes end likewise with the evening sun.


At least I have this comfort: when you finish speaking, my troubles will also end, at sundown.

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