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The Comedy of Errors

William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 1

page Act 1 Scene 1 Page 5

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Reft of his brother, but retained his name–
Might bear him company in the quest of him,
130Whom whilst I laboured of a love to see,
I hazarded the loss of whom I loved.
Five summers have I spent in farthest Greece,
Roaming clean through the bounds of Asia,
And, coasting homeward, came to Ephesus,
135Hopeless to find, yet loath to leave unsought
Or that or any place that harbors men.
But here must end the story of my life;
And happy were I in my timely death
Could all my travels warrant me they live.
name for himself–and go in search of him. I wanted to see my lost son as well, so I risked losing the one I loved in order to find the other. I’ve spent five years in the remotest parts of Greece and roaming all over Asia. On my way home, I came to Ephesus. I have no hope of finding my boys here, but I will check every place that is inhabited by men. But that is where the story of my life must end. I’d be happy to die if, in all my travels, I could prove that they are alive.


140Hapless Egeon, whom the fates have marked
To bear the extremity of dire mishap,
Now, trust me, were it not against our laws,
Against my crown, my oath, my dignity,
Which princes, would they, may not disannul,
145My soul would sue as advocate for thee.
But though thou art adjudgèd to the death,
And passèd sentence may not be recalled
But to our honour’s great disparagement,
Yet will I favor thee in what I can.
150Therefore, merchant, I’ll limit thee this day
To seek thy life by beneficial help.
Try all the friends thou hast in Ephesus;
Beg thou, or borrow, to make up the sum,
And live. If no, then thou art doom’d to die.–
155Jailer, take him to thy custody.


Poor Egeon! Fate has decreed that you must endure the extremes of terrible misfortune. Believe me, if it weren’t against the law, my crown, my duty, and my position (which princes cannot disobey, not matter how they feel), my very soul would argue your case. But you are sentenced to death, and changing a sentence that’s already been passed would dishonor my title. However, I’ll do what I can for you. I will allow you one day to look for help in Ephesus. Call any friends you have. Beg or borrow to come up with the ransom. If you can, you live. If not, you are doomed to die. Jailer, take him into custody.


I will, my lord.


I will.


Hopeless and helpless doth Egeon wend,
But to procrastinate his lifeless end.


Hopeless and helpless, I go my way, merely putting off my fatal end.
They exit.

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