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The Comedy of Errors

Set in the city of Ephesus, The Comedy of Errors concerns the farcical misadventures of two sets of identical twins. Many years earlier, the Syracusan merchant Egeon had twin sons, both named Antipholus. At their birth, he bought another pair of newborn twins, both named Dromio, as their servants. In a shipwreck, Egeon lost his wife, one of his sons, and one of the Dromios. 

Egeon's remaining son, Antipholus of Syracuse, and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, come to Ephesus, where—unknown to them—their lost twins now live. The visitors are confused, angered, or intrigued when local residents seem to know them.

Similarly, Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus run into puzzling reactions from the people they know—who have been dealing, unwittingly, with the Syracusans. Antipholus of Ephesus's wife bars him from his house; he is jailed after a jeweler claims he owes money on a gold chain he never received.

When the four twins come together, all is finally resolved. In one last twist, their parents reunite as well.

Early printed texts

The Comedy of Errors was first published in the 1623 First Folio and that text serves as the source for all subsequent editions of the play.

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The opening of First Folio edition of Comedy of Errors
Item Title: 
Works. 1623] Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies : published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22273 Fo.1 no.68
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1623

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The opening of Comedy of Errors in the Second Folio
Item Title: 
Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares comedies, histories, and tragedies. : Published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22274 Fo.2 no.07
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1632

Picturing The Comedy of Errors

As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to The Comedy of Errors is shown below, with links our digital image collection. 

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Stuart Robson and William Crane as the two Dromios (Act 5, scene 1; 1888)
Stuart Robson and William Crane as the two Dromios (Act 5, scene 1; 1888)
Item Title: 
Robson and Crane as the two Dromios in the Comedy of errors, act V, scene 1 [graphic] / gravure, Gebbie & Husson Co. Ltd.
Item Call Number: 
ART File R667.3 no.7 copy 1 PHOTO (size S)
Item Creator: 
Gebbie & Husson Co., printmaker.
Item Date: 
[Philadelphia, Pa.] : Gebbie & Co., c1888.

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Mrs Inchbald in the role of the Lady Abbess (1806)

Elizabeth Inchbald in the role of the Lady Abbess (1806)

Item Title: 
Mrs. Inchbald in the character of Lady abbess [Aemilia in Shakespeare's Comedy of errors] [graphic] / Ramberg delt. ; C. Sherwin sculpt.
Item Call Number: 
ART File I37 no.10 (size XS)
Item Creator: 
Sherwin, Charles, 1764-1794, printmaker.
Item Date: 
London, Eng. : Printed for John Cawthorn, Sep. 27, 1806.

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Drawing by J. Coghlan of Antipholus of Ephesus, an officer, and Dromio of Ephesus (Act 4, scene 1; 1816)

Antipholus of Ephesus and Dromio of Ephesus, with an officer (Act 4, scene 1; 1816)

Item Title: 
[Comedy of errors, IV, 1, Antipholus of Ephesus, an officer and Dromio of Ephesus] [graphic] / J. Coghlan.
Item Call Number: 
ART Box C678 no.1 (size S)
Item Creator: 
Coghlan, J., active early 19th cent., artist.
Item Date: 
1816

More images of The Comedy of Errors can be seen in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)