Skip to main content
Shakespeare's works /

The Comedy of Errors

A scene from The Comedy of Errors

Introduction to the play

Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors is the slapstick farce of his youth. In it, the lost twin sons of the old merchant Egeon—both named Antipholus—find themselves in Ephesus, without either one even knowing of the other’s existence. Meanwhile, Egeon has arrived in search of the son he thinks is still alive—and has been sentenced to death for the “crime” of being from Syracuse.

To add to the confusion, the two Antipholuses have twin servants, both named Dromio. As the four men unwittingly encounter each other, the play is crammed with wildly escalating misunderstandings before the truth emerges and Egeon is pardoned.

Shakespeare bases his story on Plautus’s Menaechmi, a play about identical twins who accidentally meet after a lifetime apart. He borrows from another Plautus play by having Adriana, the wife of one Antipholus, entertain the other. The spirited Adriana often gives speeches evoking strong emotions—as do other characters at times. Even here, Shakespeare suggests complexities beyond the farce.

Read full synopsis

Read the text
Cover of the Folger Shakespeare edition of The Comedy of Errors

The Folger Shakespeare

Our bestselling editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems

… they
say every why hath a wherefore.

Dromio Of Syracuse
Act 2, scene 2, line 45–46

There is something in the wind

Antipholus Of Ephesus
Act 3, scene 1, line 107

The Comedy of Errors in our collection

A selection of Folger collection items related to The Comedy of Errors. Find more in our digital image collection

Les méprises by Alexandre Bida.
Robson and Crane as the two Dromios in Act 5, scene 1
The ship split on a mighty rock. By Louis Rhead.
Act 5, scene 1: Merchant, Angelo, Lady Abbess, Adriana, etc. Painted by I. F. Rigaud; engraved by C.G. Playter.

Essays and resources from The Folger Shakespeare

The Comedy of Errors

Learn more about the play, its language, and its history from the experts behind our edition.

About Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors
An introduction to the plot, themes, and characters in the play

Reading Shakespeare’s Language
A guide for understanding Shakespeare’s words, sentences, and wordplay

An Introduction to This Text
A description of the publishing history of the play and our editors’ approach to this edition

Shakespeare and his world

Learn more about Shakespeare, his theater, and his plays from the experts behind our editions.

Shakespeare’s Life
An essay about Shakespeare and the time in which he lived

Shakespeare’s Theater
An essay about what theaters were like during Shakespeare’s career

The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays
An essay about how Shakespeare’s plays were published

Related blog posts and podcasts

Teaching The Comedy of Errors

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.