The Comedy of Errors

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

DUKE

Well, Syracusian, say in brief the cause
Why thou dep-artedst from thy native home
30And for what cause thou camest to Ephesus.

DUKE

Well, Syracusian, tell us–briefly–why you left your hometown and came to Ephesus.

EGEON

A heavier task could not have been imposed
Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable;
Yet, that the world may witness that my end
Was wrought by nature, not by vile offense,
35I’ll utter what my sorrow gives me leave.
In Syracusa was I born, and wed
Unto a woman happy but for me,
And by me, had not our hap been bad.
With her I lived in joy. Our wealth increased
40By prosperous voyages I often made
To Epidamnum, till my factor’s death
And the great care of goods at random left
Drew me from kind embracements of my spouse;
From whom my absence was not six months old
45Before herself–almost at fainting under
The pleasing punishment that women bear–
Had made provision for her following me
And soon and safe arrivèd where I was.
There had she not been long but she became
50A joyful mother of two goodly sons,
And, which was strange, the one so like the other
As could not be distinguished but by names.
That very hour, and in the selfsame inn,
A meaner woman was deliverèd
55Of such a burden, male twins, both alike.
Those, for their parents were exceeding poor,
I bought and brought up to attend my sons.
My wife, not meanly proud of two such boys,
Made daily motions for our home return.
60Unwilling, I agreed. Alas, too soon
We came aboard.

EGEON

Asking me to speak of my unspeakable griefs–that’s the hardest task you could impose on me. But I’ll do it so that the world can see that it was natural emotion, and not a desire to break the law, that brought me to this fate. I’ll tell you whatever my sorrow permits me to say. I was born in Syracuse, and I married a woman–a fortunate woman, except for having been married to me. And yet I would have made her happy had our luck not been so bad. I lived with her in joy, and our wealth increased from the prosperous journeys I frequently made to Epidamnum. Then my agent died and, obligated to care for my now untended goods abroad, I was drawn away from my wife’s fond embraces. I hadn’t been gone for six months when my wife, almost fainting with the pains of pregnancy, made arrangements to follow me, and she soon arrived safely where I was. She hadn’t been there very long before she became the joyful mother of twin boys. It was strange: they looked so much alike that the only way to tell them apart was by their names. In the same hour, and in the same inn, a poor woman also delivered identical twin boys. Their parents had very little, so I bought the boys and raised them as companions and servants for our twin sons. My wife was more than a little proud of our two boys, and every day she would press me to return home. Reluctantly, I agreed–alas! Too quickly, we boarded a ship.