The Comedy of Errors
by William Shakespeare
Presented by Paul W. Collins
© Copyright 2011 by Paul W. Collins
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Note: Spoken lines from Shakespeare’s drama are in the public domain, as is the Globe edition (1864) of his plays, which provided the basic text of the speeches in this new version
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Student, beware: This is a presentation, not a scholarly work, so you should be sure your teacher, instructor or professor considers it acceptable as a reference before quoting characters’ comments or thoughts from it in your report or term paper.
Welcome to Ephesus
During an age of splendor in the wide Mediterranean basin of times long past, a white-bearded prisoner—his sallow, furrowed face and sagging demeanor conveying such deep dejection as almost to parody sorrow—stands one morning before the Duke of Ephesus in his grand palace.
“Proceed, Solinus, to procure my fall,” the weary traveler tells the duke sadly, “and by the doom of death, end woes and all.”
This powerful dominion on the Aegean Sea is more than three hundred leagues east of the condemned man’s home in Sicily. Solinus is perturbed: the arrest has put the benevolent ruler in a very unpleasant position. “Merchant of Syracuse, plead no more,” he says. “I am not disposed to dismiss our laws.
“The enmity and discord sprung of late from the rancorous outrage of your duke toward merchants—our well-dealing countrymen who, lacking guilders to redeem their lives, have sealed his rigorous statutes with their blood!—exclude all pity from our threatening looks!
“For, since the deep and mortal jarring ’twixt thy strict countrymen and us, it hath in solemn synods been decreed, both by the Syracusans and ourselves, to admit no traffic to our adverse towns.
“Moreover: if any born at Ephesus be seen at any Syracusan mart or fair; again, if any Syracusan born come to the bay of Ephesus—he dies, his goods confiscate to the duke’s dispose, unless a thousand marks be levied to ’quit the penalty, and to ransom him!
“Thy substance, valued at the highest rate, cannot amount unto a hundred marks; therefore by law thou art condemned to die.”
Signior Egeon nods. “Yet this is my comfort when your words are done: my woes end likewise, with the evening sun.”
The duke is a kindly man, and the prisoner’s clothes and bearing bespeak more prosperous days. Solinus is not as ready to kill as the old nobleman is to die. “Well, Syracusan, say in brief the cause why thou departed’st from thy native home, and for what cause thou camest to Ephesus.”
Egeon groans. “A heavier task could not have been imposed than for me to speak my griefs unspeakable! But so that the world may witness that my end was wrought by Nature, not by vile offence, I’ll utter what my sorrow gives me leave.
“In Syracuse was I born, and wed unto a woman—fortunate, but for me!—and beside me, had not our hap been bad!
“With her I lived in joy. Our wealth increased, by prosperous voyages I often made to Epidamnum,” a Greek realm northeast of Sicily on the Adriatic Sea, “till my factor’s death, when the great care of goods left at random drew me from kind embracements of my spouse.
“From whom my absence was not six months old before she, almost at fainting under the pleasing punishment that women bear,”—pregnancy, “had made provision for following me herself, and soon had safe arrivèd where I was. There had she not been long but she became the joyful mother of two goodly sons!—the one so like the other they could not be distinguished but by names.
“My wife, proud of two such boys, made daily motions for our return home. Unwillingly I agreed.
“What was unusual: that very hour, and in the self-same inn, a lowly woman was delivered of such a burden—male twins, both alike! Those, for their parents were exceedingly poor, I bought, to be brought up attending my sons.
“Alas, too soon we came aboard! But a league from Epidamnum had we sailed before the always wind-obeying deep gave any hint of our tragic harm; not much longer did we retain hope—for what obscurèd light the heavens did grant but conveyed unto our fearful minds undoubted warrant of immediate death!
“Which, though myself would gladly have embraced,” the stoic tells the duke, “yet the incessant wailings of my wife, weeping before for what she saw must come, and piteous ’plainings of the pretty infants—that mourned for fashion, ignorant of what to fear—forced me to seek delays for them and me.
“But, as other means was none, the sailors sought for safety by our boat!—and left the ship, then sinking-ripe, to us!
“Thus it was that my wife, more careful for her latter-born, had fastened him unto a small, spare mast, such as seafaring men provide for storms; to him one of the other twins was bound, whilst I had been alike heedful of their brothers.
“The children thus disposed, my wife and I, fixing our eyes on whom our care was fixèd, fastened ourselves with them at either end of the mast; and, floating obedient to the stream, it was carried straight south—towards Corinth, we thought.
“At length the sun, gazing upon the earth, dispersed those vapours that offended us, and by the benefit of his wishèd light, the seas waxed calm, and we discovered, from afar, two ships making amain to us: of Corinth that, this of Epidaurus.” The northern port is about forty leagues of Epidamnum. “But ere they came—
“Oh,” he sobs, “let me say no more! Gather the sequel by what went before!”
“Nay, forward, old man!” urges the duke, “Do not break off so, for we may pity, though not pardon thee.”
“Oh, had the gods done so, I had not now worthily termed them merciless to us!” says Egeon. “For ere the ships could meet us by half a league, we encountered a mighty rock! Being violently borne upon it, our helpful ‘ship’ was splitted in the midst!—so that, in this unjust divorce of us, Fortune had left to both of us alike what to delight in, what to sorrow for!
“Her part, poor soul, seeming as burdened with lesser weight, but not with lesser woe, was carried with more speed before the wind—and in our sight, they three were taken up by fishermen—of Corinth, I thought.
“At length, another ship had seized on us, and, knowing whom it was their hap to save, gave healthful welcome to their shipwrecked ‘guests’—and would have reft the fishers of their prey, had not their own bark been very slow of sail.
“And therefore homeward did they bend their course.
“Thus have you heard me severed from my bliss!—how by misfortunes was my life prolongèd to tell sad stories of my mishaps.”
Duke Solinus regards him. “And for the sake of them thou sorrowest for, do me the favour of relating at full what hath befall’n them and thee till now.”
Egeon pauses for a moment to remember the time after his return to Syracuse. “My younger boy, and yet my eldest care, at eighteen years became inquisitive after his brother, and importuned me that his attendant—as his case was alike, bereft of his brother, knowing but his name—might bear him company in a quest for them.
“So whilst I laboured for love to see one, I hazarded the loss of another whom I loved!
“Five summers I spent, in the farthest holdings of Greece, and roaming to the bounds of Asia; then, coasting homeward, I have come to Ephesus, hopeless of finding, yet loath to leave them unsought, in this or any place that harbours men!
“But here must end the story of my life. And happy were I in my timely death, could all my travels but warrant me that they live!” he says, wiping away tears.
Duke Solinus is moved. “Hapless Egeon, whom the Fates have markèd 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, even would they, may not disannul—my 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 I will favour thee in what I can. Therefore, merchant, I’ll permit thee this day to seek thy health 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 doomed to die.
“Jailer, take him away in thy custody.”
The warden bows. “I will, my lord.”
Head hanging, the pathetic prisoner is to seek great charity among strangers. “Hopeless and helpless doth Egeon wend, but to procrastinate his lifeless end!”
Just before noon that same day, in a busy city market not far from the water, a tall man, an Ephesian fleet owner, urges the wealthy young shipper who has just arrived from the grain-rich farming land of Sicily to exercise caution. “Therefore give out that you are from Epidamnum, lest your goods soon be confiscated, too! This very day a Syracusan merchant is apprehended for arrival here—and, not being able to buy out his life according to the statute of the town, dies ere the weary sun sets in the west!”
He offers the handsome traveler a heavy leather pouch. “There is your money that I had in keeping.”
Antipholus does not intend to return to his father’s Sicilian estate until he has searched this place, too, for his lost relatives. He turns to his servant and hands him the bag of gold. “Go, bear it to The Centaur, where we hostel, and stay there, Dromio, till I come to thee.”
He looks around the sunny square. “Within this hour it will be dinner-time. Till that, I’ll view the manners of the town, peruse the traders, gaze upon the buildings, and then return and sleep within mine inn, for with long travel I am stiff and weary.” He smiles as Dromio carefully ties the sack of coins to the leather belt at his waist. “Get thee away.”
The servant, a lifelong companion, is also tired, and he looks forward to a nap. But Dromio grins, noting the heft of the gold. “Many a man would take you at your word, and go indeed, having so good a means!” He heads off toward the inn.
Antipholus laughs. “A trusty villain, sir,” he tells the magnate, “who very oft, when I am dull with care and melancholy, lightens my mood with his merry jests!
“What now?—will you walk with me about the town, and then go to my inn and dine with me?”
The Ephesian demurs. “I am invited, sir, to certain merchants with whom I hope to make much benefit! I crave your pardon; as soon as five o’clock, please it you, I’ll meet you upon the mart, and afterward consort with you till bed-time. My present business calls me from you now.”
“Farewell till then! I will go lose myself, and wander up and down to view the city.”
“Sir, I commend you to your own contentment.” The taller gentleman bows and starts down a long cobblestone street between shops, offices and warehouses, to his luncheon meeting.
He that commends me to mine own satisfaction commends me to the very thing I cannot get! thinks Antipholus wistfully, surveying the wide prospect of the vast, thriving seaport. I to the world am like a drop of water that in the ocean seeks another drop!—who, falling there to find forth his fellow, as an unseen inquisitive confounds himself!
So I, to find a mother and a brother, in unhappy quest of them do lose my self!
Here comes the almanac of my true date, thinks Antipholus, as a servant born on the same day as he hurries toward him—obviously agitated. “What, now?—how chance it thou art returnèd so soon?”
“Returned so soon!” gasps the man, nearly out of breath. “Rather approach too late! The capon burns, the pig falls from the spit! The clock hath strucken twelve upon the bell—but my mistress made it one upon my cheek!
“She is so hot because the meat is cold; the meat is cold because you come not home; you come not home because you have no stomach; you have no stomach, having broken your fast. But we who know what ’tis to fast and pray are penitent for your default today!”
“Stop-in your wind, sir!” says Antipholus, noticing the man’s pouchless belt. “Tell me this, I pray: where have you left the money that I gave you?”
The servant shrugs. “Of sixpence that I had o’ Wednesday last to pay the saddler for my mistress’ crupper, the saddler had it all, sir; I kept it not.” This fellow, in his dark, undistinguished garb, looks exactly like Dromio—and is in fact that man’s twin brother, who has grown to young manhood here in Ephesus.
“I am not in a sportive humour now!” says Antipholus. “Tell me, and dally not: where is the money? We being strangers here, how darest thou trust so great a charge out of thine own custody?”
Strangers? Sixpence a great charge? But the servant wants to continue this odd talk with his master at home, over the midday meal. “I pray you, sir: ask as you sit at dinner! I from my mistress come to you in post; if I return alone I shall be post indeed, for she will score your fault upon my pate!”—add to the tally on his scalp. “Methinks your maw,”—hunger, “should be your clock like mine, and strike you home without a messenger!”
Antipholus frowns. “Come, Dromio, come, these jests are out of season!—reserve them till a merrier hour than this. Where is the gold I gave in charge to thee?”
His gold is still with Dromio—Dromio of Syracuse. In the confusion of the long-ago storm at sea, after their wave-tossed mast was split, each of the parents believed the infant boys at hand to be the younger son, Antipholus, and his servant-to-be, Dromio. And although the two Syracusans have searched diligently—asking for men with two other names, those given to their older twins at birth—the sought-for brothers had long ago been settled here.
“To me, sir? Why, you gave no gold to me.”
“Come on, Sir Knave, have done with your foolishness, and tell me how thou hast disposèd thy charge!”
“My charge was but to fetch you from the mart, home to your house, The Phoenix, sir!—to dinner! My mistress and her sister await you!”
Antipholus has lost patience. “In what safe place have you bestowed my money? Say, or I shall break that merry sconce of yours, that stands on tricks when I am undisposed! Where is the thousand marks thou hadst of me?”
Dromio is baffled. “I have some marks of yours upon my pate, and some of my mistress’ marks upon my shoulders, but not a thousand marks between you both! If I should pay Your Worship those again, perchance you would not bear them patiently!”
“Thy mistress’ marks? What mistress, slave, hast thou?” The Sicilians are both bachelors.
“Your Worship’s wife—my mistress at The Phoenix,” replies Dromio, now quite flustered. “She that doth fast till you come home to dinner, and prays that you will hie you home to dinner!”
Antipholus is irked. “What, wilt thou flout me thus unto my face, despite being forbid?” He swats at Dromio’s head with his feathered hat. “There, take you that, Sir Knave!”
Dromio ducks. “What mean you, sir? For God’s sake, hold your hands!” He backs away as Antipholus swings again. “Nay, if you will not, sir, I’ll take my heels!” He runs toward the home of his master, Antipholus of Ephesus.
Antipholus of Syracuse is sorely troubled. Upon my life, by some device or other the villain is wrought out of all my money! They say this town is full of cozenage—by nimble jugglers that deceive the eye, dark-working sorcerers that alter the mind, soul-killing witches that deform the body, disguisèd cheaters, prating mountebanks, and many such-like libertines of sin! If it prove so, I will be gone the sooner!
I’ll go to The Centaur, to seek this slave! I greatly fear my money is not safe!
At the mansion of Antipholus of Ephesus, his wife, Adriana, asks her sister, who is waiting in the kitchen, “Neither has returned?—my husband nor the slave that in such haste I sent to seek his master? Surely, Luciana, it is two o’clock!”
It is not quite one, and the blonde lady is calm. “Perhaps some merchant hath invited him, and from the mart he’s somewhere gone to dinner. Good sister, let us dine and never fret. Men are masters of their liberty—but Time is their master, and when they see the time, they’ll go or come. And so be patient, sister.”
“Why should their liberty than ours be more?”
“Because their business lies ever out o’ door.”
“Note when I serve him so, he takes it ill!”
“Ah, understand: he’s a bridle to your will.”
Adriana scoffs. “There’s none but asses will be bridled so!”
But Luciana believes in domestic accommodation. “Well, headstrong liberty is lashèd with woe!
“There’s nothing situate under heaven’s eye but hath its covenant, on earth, in sea and sky. The beasts, the fishes, and the wingèd fowls are their males’ subjects, and under their controls.
“Men, the masters of all those—more divine, lords of the wide world and wild, watery seas, of more preeminence than fish and fowl—endued with intellectual sense and souls, are masters to their females, and their lords.” She regards her contentious sibling. “Then let your will attend on their accords.”
Adriana is disgusted. “This servitude makes to keep you unwed!”
“Not that,” Luciana counters pointedly, “but troubles of the marriage bed!” Adriana and her husband are often at odds.
“But, were you wedded, you would bear some sway….”
Luciana shakes her head. “Ere I learn love, I’ll practise to obey.”
Silent for a moment, Adriana stares down at her wringing hands. “How if your husband start some other where?”
“Till he come home again, I would forbear.”
“‘Patience’”—the statue—“unmovèd! No marvel that she pause!” cries Adriana angrily. “They can be meek who have no other cause!”—motive purpose. “A wretched soul, bruisèd with adversity, we bid be quieted when we hear it cry; but were we burdened with like weight of pain, as much or more would we ourselves complain! So thou, that hast no unkind mate to grieve thee, by urging helpless patience wouldst relieve me!
“But if thou live to see like nights bereft, this fool-begged patience in thee will be left!”
“Well,” says Luciana, “I will marry one day, if only to find out!” She looks toward the door; the servant has returned. “Here comes your man; now is your husband nigh?”
“Say: is your tardy master now at hand?” demands Adriana.
Says Dromio, “Nay, he’s at two hands with me!—and that my two ears can witness!” They’re still red from the cuffing.
“Say: didst thou speak with him? Know’st thou his mind?”
“Aye, aye, he told his mind—upon mine ear! Beshrew his hand, I scarce could understand it!”
She frowns. “Spake he so doubtfully thou couldst not feel his meaning?”
“Nay, he struck so plainly I could too well feel his blows!—withal so doughty that I could scarce stand under them!”
“But say, I prithee: is he coming home?” She adds, sourly, “It seems he hath great care to please his wife!”
Dromio shakes his head. “Why, mistress, surely my master is gone mad!”
Adriana’s fear is aroused: “Horn-mad, thou villain?”
“I mean not cuckold-mad!—but he is surely stark mad! When I desired him to come home to dinner, he asked me for a thousand marks in gold!
“‘’Tis dinner-time,’ quoth I. ‘My gold,’ quoth he. ‘Your meat doth burn,’ quoth I. ‘My gold!’ quoth he. ‘Will you come home?’ quoth I. ‘My gold!’ quoth he. ‘Where is the thousand marks I gave thee, villain?’ ‘The pig,’ quoth I, ‘is burned!’ ‘My gold!’ quoth he! ‘My mistress, sir—’ quoth I. ‘Hang up thy mistress! I know not thy mistress; out upon thy mistress!’”
Luciana stares. “Quoth who?”
“Quoth my master! ‘I know,’ quoth he, ‘no house, no wife, no mistress!’
“So that my errand, due only from my tongue, thanks to him I bear home upon my shoulders!—for, in conclusion, he did beat me there!”
“Go back again, thou slave,” commands Adriana, “and fetch him home!”
“Go back again and be newly beaten home?” cries Dromio. “For God’s sake, send some other messenger!”
“Back, slave, or I will break thy pate across!”
“And he will bless that cross with another beating!” wails Dromio. “Between you I shall have a holy head!”
“Hence, prating peasant! Fetch thy master home!”
“Am I as round with you as you are with me?—that like a foot-ball you do spurn me thus! You spurn me hence, and he will spurn me hither!
“If I last in this service, you must case me in leather!” he grumbles, going unwillingly.
Luciana hopes to soothe her sister. “Fie, how impatience loureth in your face!”
But Adriana is near tears. “His company must do his minions grace, whilst I at home starve for a merry look!
“Hath homely age the alluring beauty taken from my poor cheek? Then he hath wasted it!
“Are my discourses dull?—barren my wit? If voluble and sharp discourse be marred, unkindness blunts it more than marble hard!
“Do their gay vestments his affections bait? That’s not my fault: he’s master of my state!
“What ruins can be found in me that are not by him ruinèd?
“Then, as he’s the ground of my defeature, my decayèd fair a sunny look of his would soon repair! But, too-unruly deer, he breaks from the pale and feeds away from home—poor I am but his stale!”
“Self-harming jealousy!” warns Luciana. “Fie, beat it hence!”
But Adriana is inconsolable. “Unfeeling fools can with such wrongs dispense! I know his eye doth homage otherwhere!—or else what’s met but that he would be here?”
She thinks, trying to answer her own question. “Sister, you know he promised me a chain”—a necklace. “I would that that alone, alone him would detain; thus would he keep fair quarter with his bed!
“I see that while the best-enamelled jewelry will lose its beauty, yet the gold that others touch abides ever warm.
“And if often-touching will wear on gold, yet no man that hath a name, by falsehood and corruption doth it shame!
“Since that my beauty cannot please his eye, I’ll weep away what’s left—and weeping die!” Sobbing, she storms from the kitchen.
Luciana shakes her head. “How many fond fools serve mad Jealousy!”
Antipholus of Syracuse comes out of his lodging onto the avenue. The gold I gave to Dromio is, by computation, laid up safe here at The Centaur; and the heedful slave is, by mine host’s report, wandered forth in care to seek me out.
Still, he is annoyed. I could not reason with Dromio after first I sent him from the mart! He looks down the busy street. See, here he comes!
Walking calmly toward him is Dromio of Syracuse.
Antipholus confronts him: “How now sir! Is your merry humour altered? As you love strokes, so jest with me again! You know no Centaur!—you received no gold! Your mistress sent to have me home to dinner—my house was at ‘The Phoenix!’” He glares. “Wast thou mad, that thus so madly thou didst answer me?”
“What answer, sir? When spake I such a word?”
“Even now, even here, not half an hour since!”
Dromio is puzzled. “I did not see you since you sent me hence, home to The Centaur, with the gold you gave me.”
“Villain, thou didst deny the gold’s receipt,” says Antipholus heatedly, “and told’st me of a mistress and a dinner—for which, I hope, thou felt’st I was displeasèd!”
Dromio laughs. “I am glad to see you in this merry vein! What means this jest? I pray you, master, tell me!”
“Yet dost thou jeer, and flout me in the teeth? Think’st thou I jest? Take thou that,” he cries, boxing the servant’s ear, “and that!”
“Hold, sir, for God’s sake! Now your jest is earnest!”—sincere, or a first payment. “Upon what contract do you give it me?”
Antipholus scowls. “Because I sometimes do use you familiarly as my fool, and chat with you, will Your Sauciness graze upon my love, and make a village common of my serious hours?
“When the sun shines, let foolish gnats make sport—but creep in crannies when it hides its beams! If you will jest with me, know my aspect, and fashion your demeanor to my look—or I will beat this method into your sconce!”
“‘Sconce,’ you call it? So that you would leave off battering, I had rather have it a ‘head!’ If you use these blows for long, I must get a sconce for my head!—and ensconce it, too!—or else I shall seek my wit in my shoulders! But, I pray, sir, why am I beaten?”
“Dost thou not know?”
“Nothing, sir, but that I am beaten!”
“Shall I tell you why?”
“Aye, sir—and wherefore; for they say every why hath a wherefore.”
“Why, first: for flouting me; and then wherefore: for urging it the second time to me!”
Dromio feels frustration. “Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season?—when in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason!” He shakes his head. “Well, sir, I thank you.”
“Thank me, sir? For what?”
“Marry, sir, for this something that you gave me for nothing!”
“I’ll correct that next—by giving you nothing for something! But say, sir: is it dinner-time?”
“No, sir; I think the meat lacks what I have….”
His anger is abating, but Antipholus’s look advises caution. “In good time, sir, what’s that?”
“Basting!”—also a wry term for smiting.
Antipholus chuckles. “Well, sir, then ’twill be dry.”
“If it be, sir, I pray you eat none of it.”
“Lest it make you choleric, and purchase me another dry basting!”
Antipholus has calmed. “Well, sir, learn to jest in good time! There’s a time for all things.”
Dromio eyes him. “I durst have denied that, before you were so choleric….”
“By what rule, sir?”
“Marry, sir, by a rule as plain as the plain pate of Father Time himself.”
Antipholus smiles. “Let’s hear it.”
“There’s no time for a man who grows bald by nature to recover his hair.”
“May he not do it by fine and recovery?”—by lawsuit for the impalpable, or by pulling it from his comb.
“Yes—for a fine periwig—and recover the lost hair of another man!”
Antipholus laughs; but then he seems to consider: “Why is Time such a niggard of hair, being as it is so plentiful an excretion?”
Dromio shrugs. “Because it is a blessing that he bestows on beasts; what he hath scanted men in hair, he hath given them in wit!”
“There’s many a man hath more hair than wit!”
“And not a man among those with ‘enough wit to lose his hair’!”—any good sense.
“Why, dost thou conclude that hairy men are plain dealers, without wit?”
Dromio nods. “The sooner it’s lost, the plainer the dealer!”—plain can also mean shaven. “Yet he loseth it in a kind of jollity!”—by contracting syphilis; its treatment causes hair loss.
“For what reason?”
“For two—and sound ones, too!”
“Nay, not sound I pray you!” A syphilitic’s testicles are not healthy.
“Sure ones, then.”
“Nay, not sure, with a thing failing!” Thing can mean penis.
“Certain ones then.”
“Name them!” demands Antipholus.
Dromio offers a man’s reasons for losing hairs: “The one, to save the money that he spends in trimming; the other, that at dinner they should not drop in his porridge.”
Antipholus is amused, but he challenges his man’s initial argument: “You would, all this time, have proven there is not ‘a time for all things’….”
“Marry, and did, sir!—namely, no time to recover hair lost by nature.”
Antipholus squints an eye at him. “But your reason was not substantial; why is there no time to recover?”
Dromio shrugs. “Thus I’ll mend it: Time himself is bald—and therefore to the world’s end will have bald followers!”
Antipholus laughs. “I knew ’twould be a bald conclusion!
“But, soft! who wafts us yonder?” He has spotted two beautiful ladies approaching—and waving to hail the men.
Cries Adriana angrily, “Aye, aye, Antipholus!—look strange, and frown!” He steps back warily, but she seizes his arm. “Some other mistress hath thy sweet aspects!
“Now I am not Adriana—nor thy wife!” she says bitterly. “The time was, once, when thou un-urgèd wouldst vow that never were words music to thine ear, that never was object pleasing in thine eye, that never was touch welcome to thy hand, that meat never savored sweetly to thy taste, unless I spake or looked or touched or carved for thee!
“Then thou’ld call me thy dear self who was better than thy self’s incorporate, undividable part. How comes it, my husband, oh how comes it now, that thou art estrangèd from thyself?”
The Syracusan—confounded at hearing a stranger call him by name—pulls his arm free.
“Ah, do not tear away thyself from me!” she pleads. “For know, my love, as easily mayest thou let fall a drop of water into the breaking gulf and take again that same drop, unmingled, without addition or diminishing, as take me from thyself and not thee too!
“How dearly would it touch thee—cut to the quick!—shouldst thou but hear I were licentious, and that this body, consecrated to thee, by ruffian lust should be contaminated! Wouldst thou not spit at me and spurn me, and hurl the name of ‘hussy’ in my face, and tear the stainèd skein”—veil—“off my harlot brow?—and from my false hand pull the wedding ring, and break it with a deep, divorcing vow!
“I know thou canst—but therefore see that thou do it not! I am possessed of an adulterate blot—my blood is mingled with the crime of lust!—for if we two be one and thou play false, I do digest the poison of thy flesh—become strumpeted by thy contagion!”
Tears well in her eyes. “Keep then fair league and truce with thy true bed, and I live unstainèd, thou undishonoured!”
Antipholus blinks, amazed. “Plead you to me, fair dame? I know you not! In Ephesus I am but two hours old, as strange unto your town as to your talk!—one who, having scanned every word with all my wit, lacks wit to understand a word of it!”
“Fie, brother-in-law!” cries Luciana. “How the world is changèd with you! When were you wont to use my sister thus? By Dromio she sent for you, home to dinner—”
“By Dromio?” asks Antipholus of Syracuse.
“By me?” asks Dromio of Syracuse.
“By thee!” Adriana tells him angrily. “And this thou didst return from him: that he did buffet thee—and, with his blows, denied my house for his, me for his wife!”
Antipholus regards his man. “Did you converse, sir, with this gentlewoman? What is the course and drift of your compact?”
“I, sir? I never saw her till this time!”
“Villain, thou liest!—for even her very words didst thou deliver to me at the mart!”
“I never spake with her in all my life!” insists Dromio.
“How can she thus then call us by our names?—unless it be by inspiration!”—supernatural intervention.
Adriana glares at Antipholus. “How ill agrees it with your gravity to counterfeit thus grossly with your slave, abetting him to thwart me in my mood! Be it my wrong, you are from me exempt—but wrong not that wrong with a more contempt!
“Come, I will fasten on this sleeve of thine! Thou art an elm, my husband, I a vine, whose weakness, married to thy stronger state, makes me with thy strength commensurate,” she says gently, trying to sound more agreeable. “If aught recess thee from me, it is dross!—usurping ivy, brier, or idle moss; all infect thy sap by intrusion—and for want of pruning, live on my confusion!”
Antipholus stares. To me she speaks! She moves me for her themes! What?—was I married to her in my dreams? Or sleep I now, and think I hear all this. What error drives our eyes and ears amiss?
Until I know this sure uncertainty, I’ll entertain the offered fallacy. He allows himself to be tugged along toward the mansion they call The Phoenix.
Luciana is leading the way. “Dromio, go bid the servants spread for dinner,” she tells him.
But the man is trembling—and mumbling: “Oh, for my beads! I cross me for a sinner! This is the fairy land!—we talk with goblins, owls and elves! Oh, the spite of sprites!—if we obey them not, this will ensue: they’ll suck our breath, or pinch us black and blue!”
“Why pratest thou to thyself and answer’st not?” demands Luciana. “Dromio—thou, Dromio!—thou sot, thou slug, thou snail!”
Her terms imply—to him—that he’s been bewitched so. “I am transformèd, master!—am I not?” he asks, wide-eyed.
Antipholus shakes his head. “I think thou art in right mind—and so am I.”
“Nay, master—neither in mind nor in my shape!”
Says Antipholus, “Thou hast thine own form.”
“No,” says the servant, looking at Luciana, “I am an ape!”
Luciana, annoyed, pushes him forward. “If thou art changed to aught, ’tis to an ass!”
Thinks Dromio: ’Tis true: she rides me, and I long for grass! ’Tis so!—I am an ass!—else it could never be but that I would know her as well as she knows me!
And so the Syracusans soon enter the tall house of the Ephesian Antipholus and his worried wife.
Adriana, at home again, regains her composure—and annoyance. “Come, come, no longer will I be a fool, to put the fingers over eyes and weep whilst man and master laugh my woes to scorn! Come, sir, to dinner. Dromio, keep the gate.” She heads toward the front stairs. “Husband, I’ll dine above with you today—and shrive you of these thousand idle pranks!
“Sirrah,” she tells Dromio, left to wait by the door, “if any ask you for your master, say he dines forth, and let no creature enter! Come, sister. Dromio, play the porter well!”
Antipholus wonders: Am I on earth, in heaven, or in hell? Sleeping or waking? Mad or well-advisèd? Known unto these, and to myself disguisèd?
I’ll say as they say, and persever so, and in this mist to all adventures go!
Dromio—hungry—protests: “Master, shall I be porter at the gate?”
Adriana answers. “Aye!—and let none enter, lest I break your pate!” She climbs the stairs.
The gentleman observes lovely Luciana closely as she raises the hem of her soft gown a little at the first step.
“Come, come, Antipholus,” she says, smiling, “we dine too late!”
Even when she chides she is charming. He follows her up the stairs—again watching.
Within and Without
Now, at half past one, Antipholus and his man come home for the midday meal. With them are a renowned Ephesian goldsmith and a rotund Epidamian nobleman, whose interests in Mediterranean commerce are varied, and some of them quite remote.
Antipholus tells the slender old jeweler, “Good Signior Angelo, you must provide the excuse for us all; my wife is shrewish when I keep not hours. Say that I lingered with you at your shop to see the making of her carcanet,”—the gold necklace, embedded with precious stones, he has promised to Adriana, “and that tomorrow you will bring it here!”
He frowns at Dromio. “But there’s the villain that would face me down—say he met me on the mart, and that I beat him!—and charged him with a thousand marks in gold!—and that I did deny my wife and house!
“Thou drunkard, thou, what didst thou mean by this?”
Dromio resents the accusation. “Say what you will, sir, but I know what I know!
“That you beat me at the mart, I’d have your hand show: if skin were parchment and the blows you gave were ink, your hand’s own ‘writing’ would tell you what I think!”
Antipholus scoffs: “I think thou art an ass!”
“Marry, so it doth appear!—by the wrongs I bear and the blows I stand for! I should kick when kicked; and, being at that pass, you’d keep away from my heels—and beware of thy ass!”
Antipholus dismisses the complaint with a wave, and turns again to his guests. “You’re solemn, Signior Balthazar; pray God our cheer”—dinner fare—“may answer my good will and your good welcome here!”
The fat merchant would be just as courteous: “I hold delicacies cheap, sir, but your welcome dear!”
“Oh, Signior Balthazar, either at flesh or fish, a tableful of welcome makes scarcely one dainty dish,” says Antipholus, the modest host.
The guest tries, if ineptly, for the last polite comment: “A good meal, sir, is common; that every table affords.”
“And welcome more common; for that’s nothing but words,” says Antipholus.
“Small cheer and great welcome make a merry fest!”
“Aye—to a niggardly host, and more sparing guest!” counters Antipholus, as he goes to the entrance. “But though my cakes be plain, take them in good part; better cheer you may have—but not with better heart!
“But, soft— my door is locked.” He orders Dromio, snappishly, “Go bid them let us in.” He steps back.
The servant, still peeved, approaches the door and bellows out, “Maud, Bridget, Marian, Cicel, Gillian, Ginn!”—the female servants.
Inside, Syracusan Dromio, waiting crossly at the porter’s post—usually occupied by his locked-out brother—calls back: “Minim, malt-horse, capon, coxcomb, idiot, patch! Either get thee from the door, or sit down at the latch!” The Sicilian rustic is wary of famously corrupt city people. “Dost thou conjure for wenches, that thou call’st for such a store? Then one is one too many! Go, get thee from the door!”
Outside his house, Dromio is irked. “What puppet’s made our porter? My master stays in the street!” he shouts.
“Then let him walk whence he came, lest he catch cold in’s feet!” is the rejoinder.
Antipholus moves closer to the entrance. “Who talks within there? Ho!—open the door!”
“Right, sir!” laughs the new porter. “I’ll tell you when, if you tell me wherefore.”
“Wherefore? For my dinner! I have not dined today!”
“And here today you must not,” calls the mocking man. “Come again when you may.”
Antipholus is angry now. “Who art thou that keepest me out of the house I own?”
“The porter for this time, sir; and my name is Dromio.”
Outside, Dromio of Ephesus fumes. “Oh, villain!—thou hast stolen both mine office and my name! The one ne’er got me credit, the other too much blame. If thou hadst been Dromio today in my place, thou wouldst have exchanged again: thy name for ‘an ass,’ and thy face for a plain!”
Inside, a comely young kitchen-maid has heard the disturbance and has come to the front door. “What a coil is there, Dromio! Who are those at the gate?”
Dromio, outside, hears her. “Let my master in, Luce!” he calls.
But the fair girl, sure her master is dining upstairs, hears the voice of an impostor. “I’ faith, no! He’s come too late—and so tell your master!” she adds, defiantly.
Dromio of Ephesus has sparred with her before. “Oh, Lord, I must laugh! Have at you with a proverb: ‘Shall I set in my staff?’”—make camp here; also a crude meaning.
“Have at you with another,” replies Luce. “That’s: ‘When? Can you not tell?’”—clearly, never.
Dromio of Syracuse is impressed with the saucy young woman at his side. “If thy name be called Luce, thou hast answered him loose as well!”
But the lord of the mansion is furious. “Do you hear, you minion! You’ll let us in, I hope!”
Luce torments him: “I thought to have asked you….” she says mildly, as if considering.
Syracusan Dromio laughs, watching her. He tells those outside. “But you said ‘No!’”
“So,” mumbles Ephesian Dromio. “Some help!” he calls, and strikes the door angrily with a fist; when his brother pounds it in return, he taunts “Well struck! There was blow for blow!”
Antipholus is now banging on the door. “Thou baggage, let me in!” he roars.
Luce asks the stranger, “Can you tell for whose sake?”
Outside, Ephesian Dromio, vexed, hopes to attract the attention of another householder, Nell, who is affianced to him. “Master, pound it hard!”
“Let him beat it till it ache,” says pert Luce. The “porter” laughs at the ribaldry.
Antipholus is livid. “You’ll cry for this, minion, if I beat the door down!”
“What needs I fear that?—we have a pair of stocks in the town!” She doubts that the would-be intruder will break into a wealthy man’s home in afternoon sunshine.
Now Adriana, drawn downstairs by the commotion, joins Luce and Dromio. “Who is that at the door that makes all this noise?”
Says the new porter, “By my troth, your town is troubled with unruly boys!”
“Are you there, wife?” cries Antipholus. “You might have come before!”
Adriana, having, in her view, just left her husband at the table, frowns. “Your wife, Sir Knave? Go!—get you from the door!”
“If you took in pain, master,” says Ephesian Dromio, “that knave would go away sore!”
The goldsmith is aware of his foreign business associate’s growing impatience—and he wants to eat lunch. “Here is no cheer, sir, nor welcome; we would fain have either….”
The portly gentleman concurs. “Debating which was better, we shall depart with neither.”
Urges locked-out Dromio, “They stand at the door, master!—bid them welcome thither.”
Antipholus turns apologetically to his guests. “There is something in the wind, such that we cannot get in.”
“You would say that, master, if your garments were thin,” says the servant sourly. “Your cake is warm within; you stand here in the cold! It makes a man mad as a buck, to be so bought and sold!”
“Go fetch me something!” growls Antipholus. “I’ll break ope this gate!”
Inside Dromio warns: “Break out any breaking here and I’ll break your knave’s pate!”
“A man may break his word with you, sir,” calls his counterpart, “for your words are but wind!” He laughs. “Aye—aye, and break it in your face, if he break it not behind!”—as in break wind.
Porter Dromio is defiant. “It seems thou want’st breaking! Out upon thee, hind!”
“There’s too much ‘out’ upon thee!—I pray thee let me in!”
Behind the strong, barred door, Dromio only laughs. “Aye—when fowls have no feather and fishes have no fin!”
Antipholus is irate. “Well, I’ll break in! Go borrow me a crow!”
“A crow without feathers!” says his man angrily. “Master, mean you so? For the fish there within is foul without fin!” He warns the new porter: “If a crow help us in, sirrah, we’ll pluck a crow!”
Antipholus waves him away. “Go, get thee gone! Fetch me an iron crow!”
“Have patience, sir,” says the portly trader, Balthazar; he has had his fill of this domestic disputation, and he sees that Antipholus fully intends to assault a door—in public. “Herein you war against your reputation!—and draw within the compass of suspicion the unviolated honour of your wife! Oh, let it not be so! Once this—”
Balthazar lifts a palm gently to calm red-faced Antipholus. “Your long experience of her wisdom, her sober virtue, years and modesty,” he persists, “plead on her part some cause to you unknown! And doubt not, sir, but that she will well explain why at this time the doors are made against you.
“Be ruled by me: depart in patience, and let us all go to The Tiger for dinner. Then, about evening, come yourself here alone, to know the reason for this strange restraint.
“If by strong hand you offer to break in now, in the stirring passage of the day the vulgar’s comment will be made on it!—and something supposèd by the common rout against your yet-ungallèd estimation that may with foul intrusion enter it, and dwell upon your grave when you are dead! For slander lives upon succession, forever housed where it gets possession.”
Antipholus nods grudging agreement. “You have prevailed: I will depart in quiet; and, in despite of wrath, I mean to be merry!”
Still, he craves retaliation for Adriana’s rude rejection. “I know a wench of excellent discourse, pretty and witty—wild, and yet, too, gentle. There will we dine.
“This woman that I mean, my wife hath oftentimes upbraided me withal—but, I protest, without my deserving. To her will we for dinner!”
He addresses Angelo, the goldsmith. “Get you home and fetch the chain; by now, I know, ’tis made. Bring it, I pray you, to The Porpentine, for there’s a house. That chain will I bestow—be it for nothing but to spite my wife—upon mine hostess there!
“Good sir, make haste. Since mine own doors refuse to entertain me, I’ll knock elsewhere, to see if they’ll disdain me!”
The necklace is a very costly piece of custom work, so the hungry jeweler bows. “I’ll meet you at that place an hour hence.”
“Do so.” Looking back at his house as they leave, Antipholus frowns again. “This ‘jest’ shall cost me some expense!”
Within The Phoenix, Luciana has come down the stairs with her brother-in-law—as she believes the fine-looking gentleman to be. Her unhappy sister has been left alone after dining—and once again near tears.
Luciana takes him to task. “May it be that you have quite forgotten a husband’s office, Antipholus? Even in the spring of love, shall thy love-springs rot?—shall love-in-building grow so ruinous?
“If you did wed my sister for her wealth, then for her wealth’s sake use her with more kindness! Or if you like elsewhere, do it by stealth—muffle your false love with some show of blindness: let not my sister read it in your eye!
“Look fair, be sweet; in a becoming disloyalty, apparel Vice like Virtue’s harbinger. Bear a fair presence, though your heart be tainted; teach sin the carriage of a holy saint; be secretly false! ’Tis a double wrong, being truant from your bed and letting her read it in thy looks at board!
“Be not thy tongue thy shame’s orator! What need she be acquainted? What simple thief brags, to his own attaint? Shame hath a bastard: fame well managed!—for ill deeds are doubled by an evil word!
“Alas, poor women! Make us, being compounded of credit,”—credulous by constitution, “but believe that you love us! Though others have the arm, show us the sleeve!—we in your motion turn, and so you may move us.
“Then, gentle brother, get you in again!—comfort my sister, cheer her—call her wife! ’Tis holy sport to offer a little artifice, when the sweet breath of flattery conquers strife!”
The Syracusan is enchanted by his lovely new tutor—but not by her argument. “Sweet mistress—what your name is else, I know not, nor by what wonder you do know mine—in your knowledge and your grace you show not less than our earth’s wonder—more than earth: divine!
“Teach me, dear creature, how to think and speak,” he says, as he gazes into her blue eyes. “Lay open to my earthly, gross perception—smothered in errors, feeble, shallow, weak—the folded meaning in your words—on deceit!”
He frowns. “Against my soul’s pure truth, why labour you to make it wander in an unknown field? Are you a god?—would you create me anew?
“Transform me, then, and to your power I’ll yield! But if I am I, then well know that your weeping sister is no wife of mine, nor to her bed do I owe any homage!
“Far more, far more, to you do I incline! Oh, urge me not, with thy sweet mermaid notes, to drown me in thy sister’s flood of tears! Sing, siren, for thyself, and I will dote! Spread o’er those silver waves thy golden hairs, and as a bed I’ll take them, and there lie”—instead of lying to Adriana. “And in that glorious supposition, think he gains by death, who hath such means to die!
“Let Love, being light,”—Cupid, open to suggestion, “be drownèd if I sink!”
Luciana is taken aback. “What?—are you mad, that you do reason so?”
“Not mad, but mated!—how, I do not know.”
“It is a fault that springeth from your eye!”
“For gazing into your beams, fair sun, being by!”
“Gaze where you should, and that will clear your sight!”
“As good to close eyes, sweet love, as look on night.”
“Why call you me love?” asks Luciana, more alarmed. “Call my sister so!”
“Thy sister’s sister.”
“That’s my sister.”
“No—it is thyself!—mine own self’s better part, mine eye’s clear eye, my dear heart’s dearer heart!—my food, my fortune and my sweet hope’s aim!—my earth’s sole heaven, and my heaven’s claim!”
“All this my sister is—or else should be!”
“Call thyself sister, sweet!—I am for thee!” insists Antipholus. “Thee will I love, and with thee lead my life! Thou hast no husband yet, nor I no wife! Give me thy hand!”
Luciana, distraught. frowns at the gentleman—who is, she realizes uncomfortably, quite handsome. She tells him, with harsh sarcasm, “Oh, soft, sir, hold you still; I’ll fetch my sister—to get her good will!”—permission.
She storms away, to Adriana.
Dromio of Syracuse, abandoning his post at the door, has wandered farther into the house to look for the lithe and lively Miss Luce; he was fed in the kitchen—but soon fled from Ephesian Dromio’s corpulent wife-to-be, Nell. He sees his perplexed master coming down the stairs, ruminating on the day’s strange happenings.
“Why, how now, Dromio!” says Antipholus. “Where run’st thou so fast?”
“Do you know me, sir?—am I Dromio? Am I your man? Am I myself?”
“Thou art Dromio, thou art my man, thou art thyself.”
“I am an ass!” groans the servant. “I am a woman’s man!—only besides my self.”
Antipholus frowns. “What woman’s man?—and how besides thy self?”
“Marry, sir, I am beside my self to be due to a woman!—one that claims me, one that haunts me, one that will have me!” he cries fearfully.
“What claim lays she to thee?”
“Marry, sir, such claim as you would lay to your horse!—and she would have me as a beast!” He amends: “Not that she would have me be a beast, but that she, being a very beastly creature, lays claim to me!”
“What is she?”
Dromio spreads his fingers widely, holding both cupped hands before his chest in awe. “A very reverent body!—aye, such a one as a man may not speak of without he does it reverence!” He wags his head, though. “I’d have but lean luck in the match, even if is she a wondrous fat marriage!”
“How dost thou mean a fat marriage?”
“Marry, sir, she’s the kitchen wench, and all grease! I know not what use to put her to but to make a lamp of her!—and run from her by her own light! I warrant that her rags and the tallow in them will burn for a Poland winter! If she live till doomsday, she’ll burn a week longer than the whole world!”
“What complexion is she of?”
“Swart, like my boot, but her face kept nothing half so clean! As for why: she sweats!—a man may sink shoes in the grime of it!”
Antipholus shrugs. “That’s a fault that water will mend.”
“No, sir, ’tis ingrained!—Noah’s flood could not do it!”
“What’s her name?”
“Nell, sir. But her name and three quarters will measure her from hip to hip—that’s ‘an ell and three quarters!’” He exaggerates, of course: her circumference is not seventy-eight inches.
“Then she bears some breadth!”
“And no longer from head to foot than hip to hip; she is spherical, like a globe!—I could find out countries on her!”
Antipholus laughs. “In what part of her body stands Ireland?”
“Marry, in her buttocks—I found it out by the bogs!”—by reek.
“I found it by the barrenness—my hand in the palm of her hand!”
“In her forehead—bristling and revolting, making war against her hair!” The French recently opposed a royal heir’s ascension.
“I looked at the chalky cliffs,”—broken upper teeth, “but could find no whiteness in them. From the salt rheum”—effluent—“that ran between her eyes and chin, I’d guess it stood in it.”
“I’ faith, I saw it not—but I felt it—hot in her breath!”
“Where America, the Indies?”
Droll Dromio pictures a thin-line, tinted map of new-world lands. “Oh, sir, upon her nose!—all o’er embellished with rubies, carbuncles, sapphires, descending in their rich aspect past the hot breath of Spain,”—it’s a long nose, “and sent to balance before whole armadoes of brown boats”—moles—“below!”
Antipholus grins. “Where stood the Netherlands?”
The man laughs. “Oh, sir!—I did not look that low”—a play on low lands; much of the country is below sea level. “To conclude, this drudge, or diviner,”—she has inexplicable knowledge of him, “laid claim to me!—called me Dromio, swore I was betrothed to her—told me what privy marks I had about me—as the bruises on my shoulders, a mole on my neck, a great wart on my arm—such that, amazèd, I ran from her as from a witch!
“And I think if my chest had not been made of faith and my heart of steel,”—a comical reversal of the customary phrase, “she’d have transformed me into a curtal dog!—and made me turn the wheel!”—walk in a circle, tied so as to revolve a spit on which meat is roasting.
Antipholus has heard enough about weirdness in Ephesus; he finds the city increasingly perilous. “Go, hie thee immediately, run to the sea! If the wind blows any way from shore, I will not harbour in this town tonight! If any bark is to put forth, come to the mart, where I will walk till thou return to me.
“When everyone knows us and we know none, ’tis time, I think, to trudge!—pack and be gone!”
Dromio agrees—and heartily. “As from a bear a man would run for life, so fly I from her that would be my wife!” He hurries away on his mission.
His Syracusan master, too, leaves the house, following the man past the heavy front door, now unlocked. There’s none but witches do inhabit here, and therefore ’tis high time that I were hence!
She that doth call me husband, my soul doth not for a wife adore. But her fair sister, possessed with such a gentle, sovereign grace!—of such enchanting presence and discourse!—hath almost made me traitor to my self! But, lest myself be guilty of self-wrong, I’ll stop mine ears against the mermaid’s song!
Just down the street, he encounters a relieved Signior Angelo—whom he does not know.
“Aye, that’s my name….”
“I know it well, sir! Lo, here is the chain!” He hands Antipholus a beautiful gold necklace, sparkling with jewels. “I thought to have taken it to you at The Porpentine, but the chain, unfinished, made me stay thus long.”
Antipholus holds the up piece, admiring its quality and excellent workmanship. “What is your will that I shall do with this?”
Angelo smiles. “What please yourself, sir!—I have made it for you.”
“Made it for me, sir? I bespoke it not.”
Angelo laughs. “Not once, nor twice, but twenty times you have! Go home with it, and please your wife withal,” he advises kindly, “and soon at supper-time I’ll visit you, and receive then my money for the chain.” He bows and turns away.
Antipholus admires the necklace, but he certainly wouldn’t steal it; he offers to pay the goldsmith. “I pray you, sir, receive the money now, for fear you see neither money nor chain again!”
“You are a merry man, sir!” chuckles Angelo. “Fare you well!” His visitor is waiting; he turns and hurries back down the avenue toward his shop.
Antipholus, amazed, examines the still-warm gold. What I should think of this, I cannot tell! But this I do think: there’s no man so plain he would refuse so fair an offered chain! I see a man here need not live by shifts, when in the streets he meets such golden gifts!
He lays the elegant piece upon his chest and reaches back to close the clasp; the metal gleams against his black doublet.
I’ll to the mart, and there for Dromio stay; if any ship put out—then straight away!
Charges and Bonds
At the door of his shop, Angelo encounters Balthazar, the Ephesian merchant—who is accompanied by a constable.
The portly trader tells the goldsmith, “You know that since Pentecost the sum is due, and since then I have not much importuned you—nor would I now, but that I am bound for Persia, and need guilders for my voyage. Therefore make immediate satisfaction, or I’ll attach you by this officer.”
Angelo smiles and nods. “Even just the sum that I do owe to you is owed to me by Antipholus,” he assures his supplier, “and in the instant I met with him, he had from me the chain! At five o’clock I shall receive the money for the same. If it pleaseth you to walk with me down to his house, I will discharge my bond—and thank you too!”
The officer points. “That labour you may save; see where he comes.”
Two other Ephesians, Antipholus and Dromio, are emerging from The Porpentine, an inn, and the busy abode of a woman of considerable—and widely enjoyed—charms.
Antipholus, still angry, hands Dromio a silver coin. “While I go to the goldsmith’s house, go thou and buy a rope’s end”—used for punishing. “That will I bestow among my wife and her confederates for locking me out of my doors today!
“But, soft… I see the goldsmith. Get thee gone; buy thou a rope and bring it home to me.”
Dromio goes, thinking, unhappily, If I buy a penny rope, I buy a thousand marks a year!
Antipholus shows his annoyance as Angelo approaches him, along with the merchant and the officer. “A man’s trust in you is well held up!”—delayed, as opposed to upheld, he says sourly. “I promised your presence and the chain—but neither chain nor goldsmith came to me!”
He knows the graybeard disapproves of his acquaintance with the hostess of The Porpentine. “Belike you thought our love would last too long if it were chained together, and therefore came not!”
Angelo—having delivered the necklace, however late—cheerfully hands him a paper. “Saving your merry humour, here’s the note of how much your chain weighs, the fineness of the gold, to the utmost carat, and the charge for fashioning.
“Which doth amount to three-odd ducats more than I stand indebted to this gentleman; I pray you, see him presently dischargèd, for he is bound to sea, and stays but for that.”
“I am not presently furnished with the money,” says Antipholus. “Besides, I have some business in the town. Good signior, take the stranger to my house, and with you take the chain, and bid my wife disburse the sum on the receipt thereof. Perchance I will be there as soon as you.”
“Then you will bring the chain to her yourself?” asks Angelo.
“No, bear it with you, lest I come not in time enough.”
“Well, sir; I will.” He regards the Antipholus expectantly. “Have you the chain about you?”
“If I have not, sir, I hope you have!—or else you may return without your money!”
“Nay, come, I pray you, sir, give me the chain!” pleads Angelo. “Both wind and tide stay for this gentleman, and I, to my blame, have held him here too long!”
Says Antipholus wryly, “Good Lord!—you used dalliance”—also a term for an affair—“to excuse your breach of the promise to come to The Porpentine! I should have chid you for not bringing it but, like a shrew, you first begin to brawl!”
Says the foreign merchant testily, “The hour steals on….”
Angelo tells Antipholus, “I pray you, sir, dispatch!—you hear how he importunes me!” He holds out a hand. “The chain.”
Antipholus frowns. “Well, give it to my wife, and fetch your money!”
“Come, come, you know I gave it to you even now! Either send the chain with me, or send some token—”
“Fie! Now you run this humour out of breath!”—take the prank too far. “Where’s the chain?” demands Antipholus. “I pray you, let me see it!”
But Angelo’s creditor is out of time. “My business cannot brook this dallying! Good sir, say whether you’ll answer me or no,” Balthazar tells Antipholus. “If not, I’ll leave him to the officer!”
“I answer you! What should I answer you?”
“The money that you owe me for the chain!” cries Angelo.
“I owe you none till I receive the chain!”
“You know I gave it to you half an hour since!”
“You gave me none!” says Antipholus. “You wrong me much to say so!”
“You wrong me more, sir, in denying it! Consider how it stands upon my credit!”
“Well, officer, arrest him, at my suit,” says Balthazar.
“I do,” says the constable, “and charge you in the duke’s name to obey me,” he tells Angelo, grasping his arm.
The goldsmith is angry. “This touches me in reputation!” he tells Antipholus. “Either consent to pay this sum for me, or I attach you by this officer!”
“Consent to pay thee for what I never had? Arrest me, foolish fellow, if thou darest!”
From his leather purse, Angelo draws money; he hands it to the constable. “Here is thy fee; arrest him, officer! I would not spare my brother in this case, if he should scorn me so flagrantly!”
“I do arrest you, sir. You hear the suit.”
Antipholus is livid, but he nods to the constable. “I do obey thee, till I give thee bail.” He glares at Angelo. “But, sirrah, you shall pay for this sport as dear as all the metal in your shop will answer!”
“Sir, sir, I will have law in Ephesus!—to your notorious shame, I doubt it not!” cries the goldsmith.
They are interrupted by Dromio of Syracuse, returning from his visit to the docks in search of passage from Ephesus. He approaches the gentleman he thinks sent him to find a departing vessel.
“Master, there is a bark of Epidamnum that stays but till her owner comes aboard; and then, sir, she bears away!” Dromio is pleased with his accomplishments. “Our luggage, sir, I have conveyed aboard, and I have bought the oil, the balsamum, and aqua vitae!”—to soothe a voyager’s stomach, freshen a dank cabin, and lift the spirits. Dromio rubs his hands together happily. “The ship is in her trim; a merry wind blows fair from land; they stay for nought at all but for their owner, master, and yourself!”
Antipholus stares at him. “How now?—a madman! Why, thou bleating sheep, what ship of Epidamnum stays for me?”
“The ship you sent me to to hire waftage.”
“Thou drunken slave, I sent thee for a rope!—and told thee to what purpose and what end!” he adds, with a menacing look.
Cries Dromio, “You’d as soon send me to a rope’s end!”—to hang. “You sent me to the bay, sir, for a ship!”
Antipholus has a more immediate concern. “I will debate this matter at more leisure, and teach your ears to listen with more heed!
“To Adriana, villain, hie thee straight! Give her this key, and tell her that, in the desk that’s covered o’er with a Turkish tapestry, there is a purse of ducats; let her send it!
“Tell her I am arrested in the street, and that that shall bail me! Hie thee, slave—be gone!
“On, officer, to prison till it come,” says the gentleman. The constable, the merchant and Angelo follow him.
Poor Syracusan Dromio, now totally perplexed, simply gapes as Antipholus of Ephesus strides away angrily.
The servant sees his escape escaping. To Adriana!—that is where we dined—where ‘Dowsabel’ did claim me for her husband! She is too big, I hope, for me to compass!
He moans. Thither I must, although against my will, for servants must their masters’ minds fulfil.
He trudges back toward The Phoenix—where further mystery and trouble loom.
Adriana’s sister has told her about the conversation with—she thinks—her brother-in-law. “Oh, Luciana!—did he tempt thee so? Mightst thou perceive plainly in his eye that he did plead in earnest? Yea or no? Looked he flushed, or pale?—serious, or merry? What observation madest thou? Is this a case of his heart—or but meteors’ tilting in his fate!”—bad astrology.
“First he denied!—said you had in him no right.”
“He meant he did me none!—the more my spite!”
“Then swore he that he was a stranger here.”
“And truly he swore, though yet forsworn he were!” says Adriana bitterly.
“Then pleaded I for you.”
“And what said he?”
“That love I begged for you he begged of me!”
“With what persuasion did he tempt thy love?”
“With words that in an honest suit might move,” Luciana admits. “First he did praise my beauty, then my speech.”
“Didst speak him fair?” asks Adriana sharply.
Luciana, unoffended, touches her sister’s hand. “Have patience, I beseech….”
“I cannot, nor I will not hold me still!—my tongue, though not my heart, shall have its will!” She thinks of her husband. “He is deformèd—crooked, old and sere; ill facèd, worse bodied, shapeless everywhere!—vicious, ungentle, foolish, blunt, unkind!—stigmatical in making, worse in mind!”
Luciana smiles gently. “Who would be jealous, then, of such a one? No evil lost is bewailèd when it is gone.”
Despite her fears, Adriana loves her husband. “Oh, I think him better than I say—and yet would that in others’ eyes he were worse! Far from her nest away, a wavering lapwing cries; my heart prays for him, though my tongue do curse.”
Dromio of Syracuse arrives, gasping. “Here! Go—the desk, the purse!” He wipes sweat from his face with a sleeve. “Sweet now!—make haste!”
Luciana’s eyes narrow at his urgent demand for money. “How hast thou lost thy breath?” she asks.
“By running fast!” he wheezes.
“Where is thy master, Dromio?” asks Adriana. “Is he well?”
“No, he’s in Tartar limbo—worse than Hell! A devil in an everlasting garment hath him!—one whose hard heart is buttoned up with steel!—a fiend!—a Fury, pitiless and rough!—a wolf!
“Nay, worse: a fellow all in buff!—a back-friend, a shoulder-clapper!”—a law officer who feigns good will to make arrests; Dromio despises constables, who are protected by tan-leather coats, as predatory. “One that countermands passage through alleys, creeks and narrow lands!”—skulking. “A hound that runs counter, and yet draws Dryfoot well!”—betrays other commoners. “One that before the Judgment carries poor souls to hell!”—a term for prison.
Wide-eye, Adriana demands, “Why, man, what is the matter?”
Dromio takes that as a legal question: “I do not know the matter”—the facts. “He is arrested on the charge!”—accusation.
“What?—is he arrested? Tell me at whose suit!”
“At whose suit he is arrested I know not well; but he’s in a suit of buff who ’rested him, that I can tell!” He peers at the lady. “Will you send him redemption mistress?—the money in his desk!”
Adriana nods. “Go fetch it, sister!” Luciana looks for the sack of angels—gold coins, so called because of the image stamped on each. “This I wonder at, that he, unknown to me, should be in debt! Tell me, was he arrested on a band?”—for a bond obligation.
“Not a band but a stronger thing: a chain, a chain!” He looks around sharply. “Do you not hear it ring?”
“What, the chain?”
“No, no, the bell: ’tis time that I were gone! It was two ere I left him, but now the clock strikes one!”
“The hours come back?—that did I never hear!”
“Oh, yes!—if any hour meet a sergeant, it turns back for very fear!”
The gentlewoman scoffs. “As if Time were in debt! How foolishly thou dost reason!”
“Time is a wary bankrupt, and owes more than he’s worth to each season! Aye, he’s a thief, too!—have you not heard men say that time comes stealing on, by night and day? If Time be in debt and theft, and a sergeant is in the way, hath he not reason to turn back an hour in a day?”
Luciana returns with a leather purse fat with gold.
Adriana hands it to the man. “Go, Dromio! There’s the money; bear it straight!—and bring thy master home immediately!
“Come, sister. I am pressed down by conceits”—imaginings. She wonders about the promised gold chain—and for whom it is now intended. “Conceits for my comfort, and my injury!”
Waiting eagerly on the street for word about his hoped-for voyage to anywhere away from ominous Ephesus, Syracusan Antipholus continues to marvel at how oddly he—a stranger—has been greeted here.
There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me as if I were his well-acquainted friend—and every one doth call me by my name! Some tender money to me; some invite me; some others give me thanks for kindnesses; some offer me commodities to buy!
Even now a tailor called me into his shop and showed me silks that he had bought for me!—and therewithal took measure of my body!
Surely these are but imaginative wiles, and northern sorcerers inhabit here!
He is relieved when Dromio of Syracuse runs up to him, again gasping for breath.
“Master, here’s the gold you sent me for!” He is surprised to find Antipholus free—and wearing a neck chain. “What?—have you appareled anew the picture of old Adam?”
His master, too, is puzzled. “What gold is this?” He stares at the disheveled, sweating servant. “What Adam dost thou mean?”
“Not that Adam that kept the Paradise, but the Adam that keeps the prison!—he that goes about in the calf’s skin that was killed for the Prodigal!—he that came up behind you, sir, like an evil angel, and bid you forsake your liberty!”—the deputy who arrested Ephesian Antipholus.
“I understand thee not….”
“No? Why, ’tis a plain case: he went like a bass viol”—Dromio pronounces it base, vile—“in a case of leather!—the man, sir, that, when gentlemen are tired, gives them a sop—then ’rests them! He, sir, that takes pity on decayèd men by giving them suits—of durance! He that sets up his rest, doing more exploits with the mace than a morris-pole!”—capturing more men with his club than the festive staff lures dancers, sometimes to their arrest.
“What?—meanest thou an officer?”
Dromio nods vigorously. “Aye, sir, sergeant of the band,”—deputies, not musicians, “but he that brings any man to answer for it who breaks his band!”—fails to satisfy his bond. “One that thinks a man is always going to bed—and so says, ‘God give you good ’rest!’”
“Well, sir, there arrest your foolery!” says Antipholus impatiently. “Is there any ship puts forth tonight? May we be gone?”
Dromio frowns. “Why, sir, I brought you word an hour ago that the bark Expedition puts forth tonight!—but then you, tarried for the ship’s delay, were hindered by the sergeant.
“Here are the angels that you sent me for to deliver you”—from the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus.
Antipholus takes the proffered pouch of coins, thinking it his own gold, but he is increasingly uneasy. The fellow is distracted, and so am I! He looks around fearfully at the sordid city streets. Here we wander in illusions! Some blessèd power deliver us from hence!
At that very moment, a colorfully accoutered courtesan emerges from the nearby Porpentine. Believing she sees acquaintances, she ambles toward the men. Her gown reveals, as intended, buxom bounty. “Well met, well met, Master Antipholus!” She looks at his chest; he reciprocates. “I see, sir, you have found the goldsmith now!” She smiles. “Is that the chain you promised me today?”
Her appearance proclaims her profession; Syracusan Antipholus edges away. “Satan, avoid! I charge thee, tempt me not!”
Dromio asks, “Master, is this Mistress Satan?”
“It is the Devil!”
“Nay, she is worse!—she is the Devil’s dam!”—his mother. “She comes here disguised as a light wench—and thereof comes what these wenches say: ‘I’ll be dammed!’—as much as to say ‘God made me a light wench!’” He chews his lip, pondering the woman’s obvious attractions. “It is written that they appear to men like angels of light; light is an effect of fire, and fire will burn; ergo, light wenches will burn!”—produce a painful symptom of venereal affliction. “Come not near her!”
The hostess laughs at what she takes to be wry gibes. “Your man and you are marvellous merry, sir!” She motions toward her house; her earlier repast, with Ephesian Antipholus, was marred by the goldsmith’s failure to appear. “Will you go with me? We’ll mend our dinner there!”
“Master, if you do, expect spoon meat, and bespeak a long spoon!”
He cites the proverb: “Marry, ‘He who would dine with the Devil must have a long spoon!’”
Antipholus, growing more worried, waves the woman away. “Avoid, then, fiend! What tell’st thou me of supping?” He thinks of the sisters with whom he dined. “Thou art a sorceress!—as are you all! I conjure thee to leave me, and be gone!”
She only smiles, reasonably, and holds out a hand. “Give me the ring of mine you took at dinner, or the chain you promised for that diamond; then I’ll be gone, sir, and not trouble you.”
Dromio is impressed. “Some devils ask for but the paring of one’s nail—a rush, a hair, a drop of blood—a pin, a nut, a cherry-stone—but she, more covetous, would have a chain!
“Master, be wise! If you give it to her, this devil will shake her chain,”—rattle it, as do ghosts, “and fright us with it!”
The woman is no longer amused. “I pray you, sir, my ring, or else the chain.” She moves closer. “I hope you do not mean to cheat me so!”
“Avaunt, thou witch!” cries Antipholus. “Come, Dromio, let us go!” Wholly convinced, now, that Ephesus is a dangerously unpredictable place, he quickly strides away.
Dromio nods, following. “‘Fly, pride,’ says the peacock!”—its display falling. “Mistress, that you know!”
The courtesan, perturbed, watches the men, both looking around warily as they go, hands at their rapiers’ hilts. Out of doubt, now, Antipholus is mad, else would he never so demean himself!
A ring he hath of mine worth forty ducats, and for the same he promised me a chain! Both one and other he denies me now!
The reason that I gather he is mad—besides this present instance of his rage—is the mad tale he told today at dinner of his own doors’ being shut against his entrance! Belike his wife, acquainted with his fits, so purposèd to shut their doors against his way!
She thinks for a moment.
My way now is to go to hie home to his house and tell his wife that, being lunatic, he rushed into my house and perforce took away my ring!
This course is the fittest I can choose—forty ducats is too much to lose!
Antipholus of Ephesus would reassure the constable, who is well aware of the wealthy citizen’s eminence, but weary of waiting. “Fear me not, man; I will not break away! I’ll give thee, ere I leave thee, as much money to warrant thee as I am attachèd for.
“My wife is in a wayward mood today,” he explains, “and will not lightly trust the messenger’s word that I should be arrested in Ephesus! I tell you, ’twill sound harshly in her ears!”
He sees his own Dromio approaching, and carrying a piece of rope. “Here comes my man!—I think he brings the money! How now, sir! Have you what I sent you for?”
Dromio nods, waggling the length of twined hemp. “Here’s that which, I warrant you, will pay them all!”
Antipholus, taking it, frowns. “But where’s the money?”
“Why, sir, I gave the money for the rope.”
“Five hundred ducats, villain, for a bit of rope?”
“Sir, I’ll bring you five hundred ropes at that rate!”—and keep considerable change.
Antipholus glares. “To what end did I bid thee hie thee home?”
“To bring a rope’s end, sir; and with that end am I returnèd.”
“And with that end, sir, I will welcome you!” cries Antipholus, swinging the rope so its stiff, twine-wrapped end strikes Dromio’s turned back, as he turns and ducks.
The constable intercedes: “Good sir, be patient!”
Cries Dromio, “Ay!—’tis for me to be patient! I am in adversity!”
The officer of the peace frowns at the servant. “Good man, now hold thy tongue!”
“Nay, rather persuade him to hold his hands!”
Antipholus swings the rope again. “Thou whoreson, senseless villain!”
“I would I were senseless, sir, that I might not feel your blows!”
“Thou art sensible in nothing but blows—as is an ass so!”
“I am an ass, indeed!—you may prove it by my long ears!”—wrung too often, complains the man, moving away. He tells the constable, “I have served him from the hour of my nativity to this instant, and have nothing at his hands for my service but blows!
“When I am cold, he heats me with beating; when I am warm, he cools me with beating! I am waked with it when I sleep, raised with it when I sit, driven out of doors with it when I go from home, welcomed with it when I return! I bear it on my shoulders as a beggar is wont to do with her brat! Aye, and I think that, when he hath lamed me, I shall beg with it—beaten from door to door!”
Antipholus waves aside the ridiculous exaggerations, and points. “Come, go along,” he tells the officer, “my wife is coming yonder!” He is eager to be released from custody.
At the courtesan’s urging, Adriana and Luciana have left the mansion and gone with her to find the gentleman who, all three have concluded, is alarmingly distraught. Following them are Master Pinch—a sallow, erstwhile schoolmaster; the women think his knowledge of some Latin may be of help in exorcizing Antipholus’s supposed demons—and several more of The Porpentine’s hard-drinking regulars.
Dromio, remembering having been locked out, warns Adriana: “Mistress, ‘Respice finem!’ Respect your ends!—or, rather, a prophecy like the pirate’s: ‘Beware the rope’s end!’”
“Wilt thou still talk?” cries Antipholus angrily, twisting Dromio’s ear—to howls.
The hostess looks meaningfully at Adriana. “How say you now? Is not your husband mad?”
The gentlewoman must concur. “His incivility confirms no less! Good Doctor Pinch, you are a conjurer—establish in him his true sense again, and I will please you with what you will demand!”
“Alas, how fiery and how sharp he looks!” says Luciana, backing away from Antipholus, who, still shaking with anger, straightens to his full height.
“Mark how he trembles in his ecstasy!” says the courtesan.
Pinch approaches Antipholus. “Give me your hand and let me feel your pulse.”
Antipholus is furious. “There is my hand—and let it feel your ear!” he cries, thwacking the pale scholar’s head.
Pinch, raising his hands in defense, pulls back. He declaims, loudly, “I charge thee, Satan, housèd within this man, to yield possession under my holy prayers—and to thy state of darkness hie thee straight! I conjure thee by all the saints in heaven!”
Antipholus shouts, “Peace, doting wizard, peace! I am not mad!”
“Oh, that thou wert not, poor distressèd soul!” moans Adriana, as passersby, stopping to hear the confrontation, gather around them.
“You minion, you,” cries her husband, “are these your customers? Did this companion with a saffron face revel and feast it at my house today?—whilst upon me the guilty doors were shut, and I was denied to enter my own house!”
“Oh, husband, God doth know you dined at home!—where I would you had remained until this time, free from these slanders and this open shame!”
“Dined at home!” cries Antipholus. He grabs Dromio’s shirt-front with a fist. “Thou villain, what sayest thou?”
“Sir, sooth to say, you did not dine at home.”
“Were not my doors locked up, and I shut out?”
“Perdie, your doors were locked, and you shut out.”
“And did not she herself revile me there?”
“Sans fable, she herself reviled you there.”
“Did not her kitchen-maid rail, taunt, and scorn me?”
“Certes, she did—the kitchen-vestal scorned you!”
“And did not I in rage depart from thence?”
“In verity you did!” Dromio regards the others. “My bones bear witness, that since have felt the vigour of his rage!”
Adriana chides the cowering Dromio. “Is’t good to soothe him in these contraries?”
“It is no shame,” says Pinch, eyeing the gentleman. “The fellow finds his vein, and, yielding to it, humours well his frenzy!”
Antipholus’s face reddens; he tells his wife, “Thou hast suborned the goldsmith to arrest me!”
“Alas, I sent you money to redeem you!—by Dromio here, who came in haste for it!”
Ephesian Dromio is aghast. “Money sent with me! Heart and good will, you might—but surely, master, not a bag full of money!”
Antipholus challenges angrily: “Went’st thou not to her for a purse of ducats?”
“He came to me,” Adriana confirms, “and I delivered it!”
Luciana nods, “And I am witness with her that she did!”
“God and the rope-maker bear me witness!” cries Dromio, “that I was sent for nothing but a rope!”
Pinch raises a thin hand of slender authority. “Mistress, both man and master are possessèd!—I know it by their pale and deadly looks. They must be bound, then laid in some dark room!”—the usual treatment for insanity.
Antipholus is nearly choking with fury. “Say wherefore thou didst lock me forth today!” he demands of his wife. “And why dost thou deny me the bag of gold?” he asks his man.
“I did not, gentle husband, lock thee forth!”
“And, gentle master, I received no gold!” says Dromio—hastily adding, “but I confess, sir, that we were locked out!”
“Dissembling villain,” cries Adriana, “thou speak’st false in both!”
Antipholus glares at her. “Dissembling harlot, thou art false in all!—and art confederate with a damnèd plot to make a loathsome, abject scorn of me!” He starts toward her. “But with these nails I’ll pluck those false eyes that would behold in me this shameful sport!”
Several bystanders grab his arms.
“Oh, bind him, bind him!” cries Adriana. “Let him not come near me!”
Pinch calls for help. “More company! The fiend is strong within him!”
Says Luciana, as Antipholus grinds his teeth, “Ay, me!—poor man, how pale and wan he looks!”
“What, will you murder me?” he growls at his captors. He calls to the constable. “Thou, jailer!—thou! I am thy prisoner!—wilt thou suffer them to make a rescue?”
The officer tells the men, “Masters, let him go! He is my prisoner, and you shall not have him!”
“Go bind this man,” cries Pinch, pointing to Dromio, “for he is frantic too!” Two of the passers-by seize the servant; they pinion his arms while he tries to wriggle free.
“What wilt thou do, thou peevish officer?” demands Adriana, scolding the constable. “Dost thou delight to see a wretched man in discomposure do outrage to himself?”
“He is my prisoner; if I let him go, the debt he owes will be required from me!”
The gentlewoman is not concerned about money: “I will discharge thee ere I go from thee! Bear me forthwith unto his creditor, and, once knowing how the debt grows, I will pay it!” The officer bows.
“Good master doctor,” Adriana tells Pinch, “see him safely conveyed home to my house! Oh, most unhappy day!”
“Oh, most unhappy strumpet!” calls Antipholus from among those restraining him.
Raising his cord-tied wrists, Dromio says, wryly, “Master, I am here entered in bonds for you!”
“Out on thee, villain!” yells Antipholus. “Wherefore dost thou provoke me?”
Now the wealthy gentleman’s servant is indignant. “Will you to be bound for nothing? Be mad, good master!—cry like the devil!’”
Luciana shakes her head. “God help them, poor souls; how idly do they talk!”
“Go, bear him hence,” Adriana tells those holding Antipholus. “Sister, go you with me.”
The citizens move away, hauling the madmen to The Phoenix.
Adriana turns to the officer. “Say now: at whose suit is he arrested?”
“One Angelo, a goldsmith. Do you know him?”
“I know the man. What is the sum he owes?”
“Two hundred ducats.”
“Say how grows it due.”
“Due for a chain your husband had of him.”
“He did bespeak a chain for me,” says Adriana, “but had it not.”
The courtesan reports, “When your husband, all in a rage, today came to my house, and took away my ring—the ring I saw upon his finger just now—straight after did I see him with a chain!”
“It may be so, but I did never see it,” says Adriana. “Come, jailer, bring me where the goldsmith is. I long to know the truth hereof enlargèd.”
And then they are startled to spot two men approaching—slowly, with drawn rapiers.
“God, lend thy mercy!—they are loose again!” cries Luciana, starting to run.
“And come with naked swords,” says Adriana. “Let’s call more help to have them bound again!” She quickly follows Luciana out of the square.
The officer is already scuttling down the street. “Away! They’ll kill us!”
Watching their fitful flight, the Syracusans—for it is they—are more eager than ever to be at sea.
“I see these witches are afraid of swords!” says Antipholus with contempt.
“She that would be your wife now ran from you!” notes Dromio.
Antipholus heads toward the inn. “Come to The Centaur! Fetch our baggage from thence; I long that we were safe and sound aboard!”
Dromio goes with him, but now he is less fearful. “I’ faith, stay here this night; they will surely do us no harm. You saw: they speak us fair—give us gold! Methinks they are such a gentle nation that—but for the mountain of mad flesh that claims marriage of me—I could find in my heart to stay here still—and turn witch!”
“I will not stay tonight for all the town!” says devout Antipholus, gripping his weapon even more tightly. “Therefore away, to get our things aboard!”
Pigeons bob along on wide stone steps of the priory at the square’s far side, as Angelo walks past with the Epidamian trader. The purveyor of precious metals and gemstones must wait yet another day to set sail for Persia.
“I am sorry, sir, that I have hindered you,” says the goldsmith, “but, I protest, he had the chain of me, though most dishonestly he doth deny it!”
“How is the man esteemèd here in the city?”
“Of very reverent reputation, sir,” says Angelo, “highly belovèd, of credit infinite, second to none that lives here in the city! His word might bear my wealth at any time.” He shakes his head, still puzzled.
The heavy man looks up the street. “Speak softly!—yonder, as I think, he walks!”
Their blades now sheathed, Antipholus and Dromio are returning from The Centaur, and heading toward the bay.
The goldsmith points. “’Tis so—and with that self-same chain, which he most monstrously forswore having, about his neck!
“Good sir, draw near to me,” says old Angelo, summoning his courage. “I’ll speak to him!”
As the Syracusans approach, he begins. “Signior Antipholus, I wonder much that you would put me to this shame and trouble!—and, not without some scandal to yourself, so to deny, with circumstance and oath, this chain which now you wear so openly! Beside the charge, the shame, imprisonment—you have done wrong to this my honest friend, who, but for staying on our controversy, had hoisted sail and put to sea today!
“This chain you had from me!” he says, pointing. “Can you deny it?”
Antipholus frowns at the man who refused to accept payment. “I think I had!” he says, facing yet another irrational Ephesian. “I never did deny it.”
“Yes, that you did, sir!” protests the trader, “and forswore it, too!”
Antipholus has lost patience. “Who heard me to deny it or forswear it?”
“These ears of mine thou know’st did hear thee!” says Balthazar. “Fie on thee, wretch! ’Tis pity that thou livest to walk where any honest men resort!”
“Thou art a villain to impeach me thus!” Antipholus touches the hilt of his sword. “I’ll prove mine honour and mine honesty against thee immediately, if thou darest stand!”
“I dare!—and do defy thee for a villain!”
The gentlemen draw their rapiers and square off—just as Adriana and Luciana, with the constable and four servants, round a corner, coming to find the goldsmith.
“Hold!—hurt him not, for God’s sake!” cries Adriana, “he is mad!” She motions to the servants. “Some get between them!—take his sword away! Bind Dromio, too, and bear them to my house!”
“Run, master, run,” cries Dromio, “for God’s sake, take a-house!” He starts toward the church’s open doors. “This is some priory—in, or we are spoiled!”
As the Syracusans dash into the house of worship, they pass the abbess, who is emerging to learn what the hubbub is about. She comes forward to stop those starting up the broad stone steps. “Be quiet, people,” she says calmly. “Wherefore throng you hither?”
Adriana steps forward. “To fetch my poor distracted husband hence! Let us come in, that we may bind him fast, and bear him home for his recovery!”
“I knew he was not in his perfect wits!” says Angelo.
Balthazar sheathes his sword. “I am sorry now that I did draw on him.”
“How long hath this possession held the man?” asks the abbess, who knows, or has heard about, most inhabitants of the parish.
The wife replies. “This week he hath been heavy, sour, sad, and much different from the man he was; but till this afternoon his passion ne’er did break into extremity of rage.”
The abbess, Lady Emilia, asks, “Hath he lost much wealth by wreck at sea? Buried some dear friend? Or hath his eye strayèd his affection in unlawful love?—a sin prevailing much in youthful men, who give their eyes the liberty of gazing.
“Which of these sorrows is he subject to?”
“To none of these,” says Adriana, flushing, “except it be the last—namely, some love that drew him oft from home!” she adds angrily.
“You should for that have reprehended him,” says the abbess quietly.
“Why, so I did!”
“Aye… but not roughly enough.”
“As roughly as my modesty would let me!”
“Perhaps in private—”
“And in assemblies, too!” says Adriana.
“Aye, but said not enough….”
“It was the topic of all our conference!” insists Adriana. “In bed he slept not for my urging it! At board he fed not for my urging it! Alone with him, it was the subject of my theme; in company I often glancèd it!—ever did I tell him it was vile, and bad!”
The abbess’s point has been made. “And thereof came it that the man was mad: the venomous clamours of a jealous woman—poisons more deadly than a mad dog’s tooth!
“It seems his… sleeps were hindered by thy railing, and therefore comes it that his head is light”—light as in libidinous.
“Thou say’st his meat was sauced with thy upbraidings; unquiet meals make ill digestions. Thereof the raging fire of fever bred—and what’s a fever but a fit of madness?
“Thou say’st his sports were hindered by thy brawls; sweet recreation barred, what doth ensue but moody and dull melancholy?—kinsman to grim and comfortless despair! And at its heels, a huge, infectious troop of pale distemperatures and foes to life!
“To be disturbed in food, in sport and life-preserving rest would make man or beast mad! The consequence, then, is that thy jealous fits have scared thy husband from the use of wits!”
Luciana defends her sister: “She never reprehended him but mildly, even when he demeaned himself rough, rude and wildly!” She turns to Adriana. “Why bear you these rebukes, and answer not?”
Adriana blushes. “She did betray me to my own reproof.” Still, she tells her servants. “Good people, enter and lay hold of him.”
The abbess lifts a palm to bar them. “No!—not a creature enter in my house!”
“Then let your servants bring my husband forth.”
“Neither! He took this place for sanctuary, and it shall privilege him from your hands till I have brought him to his wits again, or lost my labour in assaying it.”
“I will attend my husband, be his nurse, diet his sickness—for it is my office!” insists Adriana. “I will have no attorney but myself! And therefore let me have him home with me!”
Lady Emilia shakes her head. “Be patient, for I will not let him stir till I have used the approvèd means I have, with wholesome syrups, drugs and holy prayers, to make of him a normal man again. It is a branch and parcel of mine oath, a charitable duty of my order,” says the nun. “Therefore depart, and leave him here with me.”
“I will not hence and leave my husband here!” cries Adriana hotly. “And ill it doth beseem your holiness to separate the husband and the wife!”
“Be quiet and depart,” says the abbess. “Thou shalt not have him.” She goes into the priory, and pulls the doors closed after her.
“Complain unto the duke of this indignity!” says Luciana.
Adriana nods agreement. “Come,” she says, looking toward the palace, “I will fall prostrate at his feet, and never rise until my tears and prayers have won his grace to come in person hither and take, perforce, my husband from the abbess!”
Luciana starts to go with her, but Balthazar approaches them. “By now, I think, the dial points at five; anon I’m sure the duke comes this way himself—to the melancholy vale, the place of death in sorry execution, behind the ditches of the abbey, here.”
“Upon what cause?” asks Angelo.
“To see a reverend Syracusan merchant, who put unluckily into this bay against the laws and statutes of this town, beheaded publicly for his offence.” Commoners are hanged; nobles are privileged to lose their heads.
Angelo points. “See where they come. We will behold his death.”
Luciana urges her sister, “Kneel to the duke before he passes the abbey!”
A procession of stern-faced men enters the square: Duke Solinus, with his retinue of liveried attendants; old Signior Egeon, bareheaded, lugubrious as ever—and, behind the prisoner’s guards, the stolid headsman; on the ax he carries is a gleaming, newly sharpened blade.
But the crowd following them, drawn to the anticipated event, is quite jolly. Among them are several garish women from The Porpentine, and, alive to opportunity, two pickpockets.
Solinus pauses in the square as they near the church. “Yet once again I proclaim it publicly: if any friend will pay the sum for him, he shall not die,” he says hopefully. “So much we tender him.”
Adriana approaches the duke and kneels. “Justice, most sacred duke, against the abbess!”
Solinus frowns. “She is a virtuous and a reverend lady!—it cannot be that she hath done thee wrong!”
“May it please Your Grace,” says Adriana, rising. “Antipholus, my husband—whom I made lord of me and all I had at your importuning letters—this ill day a most outrageous fit of madness took him, such that desperately he hurrièd through the street!—with him his bondman, all as mad as he!—doing displeasure to the citizens by rushing into their houses, and bearing from thence rings, jewels, anything his rage did like!
“I did get him bound, and sent him home, whilst at once, to make order for the wrongs, I went here and there where his fury had committed them.
“Anon, I wot not by what strong escape, he broke from those that had the guard of him! Then his mad attendant and himself, each one in ireful passion, met us again, with drawn swords!—and, madly bent on us, chased us away!—till, after raising more aid, we came again to bind them.
“Then they fled into this abbey, whither we pursued them!
“And here the abbess shuts the gates on us, and will not suffer us to fetch him out, nor send him forth so that we may bear him hence!
“Therefore, most gracious duke, with thy command let him be brought forth, and borne hence for help!”
Duke Solinus knows the gentleman well. “Long since, thy husband served me in my wars; and I to thee engaged a prince’s word, to do him all the grace and good I could, when thou didst make him master of thy bed.
“Go, some of you,” he tells his attendants, “knock at the abbey gate, and bid the Lady Emilia come to me. I will determine this before I stir.”
Now a frantic servant, pushing through the crowd, and glancing back over his shoulder, reaches Adriana. “Oh, mistress, mistress, shift and save yourself! My master and his man are both broke loose!—beat the maids away with a rope, and bound the doctor!—whose beard they have singed off with brands of fire!—and when it blazed, they threw on him great pails of puddled mire”—street slime—“to quench the whiskers!
“My master preaches patience to him!—while his man with scissors hacks off his hair like a fool’s! And surely, unless you send some present help, between them they will kill the exorcist!”
Adriana scowls. “Peace, fool! Thy master and his man are here!—and that is false thou dost report to us!”
“Mistress, upon my life, I tell you true,” insists the wide-eyed youth. “I have not breathed, almost, since I did see it! He calls for you—and vows, if he can take you, to scorch your face, and to disfigure you!”
An angry yell announces a man’s approach; the servant points. “Hark, hark! I hear him, mistress! Fly!—be gone!” He backs away, trembling.
Solinus tells Adriana, “Come, stand by me; fear nothing. Guard with halberds!” he orders his soldiers.
“Ay, me, it is my husband!” gasps Adriana, from behind the troops’ tall row of raised weapons. “Witness you that he is borne about invisible! Even now we housed him in the abbey here!—and now he’s there!—past human thought or reason!”
The two Ephesians, having reproved the officious Doctor Pinch, now seek wider retribution. Antipholus kneels before Solinus. “Justice, most gracious duke, oh, grant me justice! Even for the service that long since I did thee, when I bestrid thee in the wars and took deep scars to save thy life!—even for the blood that then I lost for thee!—now grant me justice!”
Behind the duke, the Syracusan prisoner, Egeon, has looked up from his sorrowful musings—and been startled. Unless the fear of death doth make me dote, I see my son Antipholus!—and Dromio!
Antipholus of Ephesus, facing the duke, rises. “Justice, sweet prince, against that woman there!—she whom thou gavest to me to be my wife!—who hath abusèd and dishonoured me, even to the strength and height of injury! Beyond imagination is the wrong that she this day hath shamelessly thrown upon me!”
Solinus is doubtful. “Reveal how, and thou shalt find me just….”
“This day, great duke, she shut the doors upon me, while she, with harlots, feasted in my house!” He is sure the scheme against him was devised over lunch.
The duke knows The Porpentine’s reputation; its denizens are unlikely companions for the gentlewoman—even if one is a friend of her husband’s. “A grievous fault.” Solinus looks at Adriana. “Say, woman: didst thou so?”
“No, my good lord!” she protests. “Myself, he and my sister today did dine together! As I speak let to my soul befall! This is false he burdens me withal!”
Says Luciana, “Ne’er may I look on day nor sleep at night but that she tells Your Highness simple truth!”
“Oh, perjured women!” cries Angelo. “They are both forsworn!” he tells the duke. “In this the madman justly chargeth them!”
“My liege,” says Antipholus gravely, barely suppressing his anger, “I am advisèd in what I say, neither disturbed with the effect of heady wine, nor rash or provokèd with raging ire—albeit my wrongs might make one wiser mad!
“This woman locked me out this day from dinner. That goldsmith there, were he not compacted with her, could witness it, for he was with me then!—and parted from me to go fetch a chain, promising to bring it to The Porpentine, where Balthazar and I did dine together.
“Our dinner done, but he not coming thither, I went to seek him; in the street I met him, and in his company that gentleman. There did this perjured goldsmith swear me down, that I this day from him received a chain—which, by God, he knows I saw not!
“For the which he did arrest me by an officer! I did obey, and sent my peasant home for certain ducats. He with none returned!” he says, glaring at Dromio. “Then fairly I bespoke the officer to go in person with me to my house.
“Along the way we met my wife, her sister, and more—a rabble of vile confederates! With them they brought one Pinch—a hungry lean-faced villain, a mere anatomy, a mountebank, a threadbare juggler and fortune-teller, a seedy, hollow-eyed, sharp-looking wretch, a dead-looking man! That pernicious slave, forsooth, took it upon him to be a conjurer, and, gazing into mine eyes, feeling my pulse—and with no face, as ’twere, outfacing me, cried out I was possessèd!
“Then all together they fell upon me, bound me, bore me thence, and in a dark and dankish vault at home, there left me and my man, both bound together!—till, gnawing with my teeth my bonds in sunder, I gained my freedom, and immediately ran hither to Your Grace—whom I beseech to give me ample satisfaction for these deep shames and great indignities!”
Angelo steps forward. “My lord, in truth I witness thus far with him: that he dined not at home, but was locked out.”
“But had he such a chain of thee, or no?” asks Duke Solinus.
“He had, my lord!” Angelo points to the abbey. “And when he ran in there, these people saw the chain about his neck!”
Adds Balthazar, facing Antipholus, “Besides, I will be sworn these ears of mine heard you confess you had the chain from him, after you first forswore it on the mart! And thereupon I drew my sword on you; and then you fled into this abbey, here—from whence, I think, you are come by miracle!”
Antipholus stares at him, astonished. “I never came within these abbey walls!—nor ever didst thou draw thy sword on me! I never saw the chain, so help me Heaven! All this is false you burden me withal!”
Solinus frowns and shakes his head. “Why, what an intricate impeaching is this! I think you all have drunk of Circe’s cup!” The goddess could turn people into beasts, as she did the men of Odysseus.
The duke considers. Looking at Adriana, he points to be abbey. “If here you housed him, here he would have been! If he were mad, he would not plead so coldly. You say he dined at home; the goldsmith here denies that saying!”
Solinus turns to Dromio. “Sirrah, what say you?”
Dromio looks at the courtesan. “Sir, he dined with her, there, at The Porpentine.”
“He did,” she confirms, “and from my finger snatched that ring!” She points to Antipholus’s right hand.
“’Tis true, my liege, that this ring I had from her,” says the gentleman.
The duke asks the woman, “Saw’st thou him enter at the abbey here?”
“As surely, my liege, as I do see Your Grace!”
Duke Solinus is very puzzled. “Why, this is strange!
“Go, call the abbess hither,” he tells an attendant, more firmly this time. He regards his petitioners and witnesses, suspecting some sort of conspiracy. “I think you are all mated—or stark mad!”
Egeon. facing his own imminent execution, steps away from his guards and calls out. “Most mighty duke, vouchsafe me speak a word! Perhaps I see a friend who will save my life, and pay the sum that may deliver me!”
“Speak freely, Syracusan, what thou wilt,” says Solinus, eager for some sensible distraction.
Egeon—his thin hands bound before him, wispy white hair wavering in the soft breeze—comes forward. “Is not your name, sir, called Antipholus? And is not that your bondman Dromio?”
“Within this hour I was his bonds man, sir,” Dromio replies, “but he, I thank him, gnawed my cords in twain!—now am I Dromio and his man un-bound!”
Egeon smiles at the travelers. “I am sure you, both of you, remember me!”
“Ourselves we do remember, sir, by you,” Dromio tells him, “for lately we were bound as you are now.” He squints, suspicious. “You are not Pinch’s patient,”—a lunatic, “are you, sir?”
“Why look you strangely on me?” demands the father. “You know me well!”
Antipholus is exasperated even further. “I never saw you in my life till now!”
Egeon moans. “Oh, grief hath changed me since you saw me last, and with Time’s hand, care-filled hours have written strangely formèd features on my face! But yet tell me, dost thou not know my voice?”
Antipholus is certain. “Neither.”
“Dromio, nor thou?”
“No; trust me, sir, nor I.”
“I am sure thou dost!”
“Aye, sir—but I am sure I do not!” says Dromio. He quips: “And whatever a man may deny, you are now bound to believe him!”
Egeon persists. “Not know my voice? O time’s extremity, hast thou so cracked and splitted my poor tongue in seven short years, that here my only son knows not my feeble, untunèd key of cares?
“Though now this grainèd face of mine be hid in sap-consuming winter’s drizzled snow,”—his white beard, “and all the conduits of my blood frozen up, yet hath my night of life some memory!—my wasting lamps”—eyes—“some fading glimmer left; my dull, deaf ears a little yet to hear!
“All these old witnesses tell me thou art my son Antipholus! I cannot err!”
Says Ephesian Antipholus sadly, “I never saw my father in my life.”
“Only seven years since, boy, thou know’st we parted in Syracuse!” Egeon glances at the guards, aware of his wretchedness. “But perhaps, my son, thou shamest to acknowledge me in misery….”
Antipholus is firm. “The duke and all that know me in the city can witness with me that it is not so. I ne’er saw Syracuse in my life.”
Duke Solinus addresses the prisoner. “I tell thee, Syracusan, twenty years have I been patron to Antipholus, during which time he ne’er saw Syracuse.
“I see thine age and dangers make thee dote,” he says, not unkindly.
And then all are startled: the abbess emerges from the church with Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Syracuse. She approaches Egeon and cries, “Most mighty duke, behold a man much wronged!”
Rejoin and Rejoice
The stunned observers press closer to gape at both pairs of twins.
“I see two husbands,” cries Adriana, “or mine eyes deceive me!”
Duke Solinus looks back and forth between the Antipholuses and the Dromios. “One of these men is essence to the other—and so of these! Which is the natural man, and which the spirit? Who deciphers them?”
“I, sir, am Dromio!” the man from Syracuse tells his master. “Command him away!”
“I, sir, am Dromio,” his twin tells his gentleman. “Pray, let me stay!”
But then the Syracusans move past the abbess to stare, amazed, at the condemned prisoner. “Egeon!—art thou not?” asks Antipholus, staring. “Or else his ghost!”
“Oh, my old master!” cries Dromio tearfully, kneeling before him. “Who hath bound him here?” he demands angrily.
“Whoever bound him, I will loose his bonds,” cries the abbess, “and gain a husband by his liberty!
“Speak, old Egeon, if thou be’st the man that hadst a wife once called Emilia, who bore thee, at one burden, two fair sons! Oh, if thou be’st the same Egeon, speak!—and speak unto the same Emilia!”
Duke Solinus smiles. “Why, except that she tells of her wreck at sea, here begins his morning story’s night! These two Antipholuses, these two so like, and these two Dromios, as one in semblance—
“These are the parents to these children who together are accidentally met!”
Tears of joy fill Egeon’s eyes. “If I dream not, thou art Emilia! If thou art she, tell me: where is that son that floated with thee on the fatal raft?”
The abbess explains: “He and I, and the twin Dromio, all were taken up by men of Epidaurus. By and by, though, rude fishermen of Corinth took Dromio and my son from them—by force! But me they left with those of Epidaurus.
“What then became of them I cannot tell,” says the abbess. “I came to this fortune that you see me in.”
Says Solinus, “Antipholus, thou first camest from Corinth!”
“No, sir, not I,” says the visitor. “I came from Syracuse!”
“Stay!—stand apart,” the duke directs. “I know not which is which!”
The Ephesian pair goes to stand beside the abbess.
Says the local Antipholus, “I came from Corinth, my most gracious lord,—”
“And I with him!” his Dromio interjects.
“—brought to this town by that most famous warrior, Duke Menaphon, your most renownèd uncle.”
Adriana is beginning to understand. “Which of you two did dine with me today?”
“I, gentle mistress,” says the Syracusan.
“And are not you my husband?” she asks.
“No!—I say nay to that!” cries her husband.
“And so do I,” says the visitor, “yet did she call me so!
“And this fair gentlewoman, her sister here, did call me brother-in-law.” He smiles warmly at Luciana—who blushes happily. “What I told you then, I hope I shall have leisure to make good, if this be not a dream I see and hear!”
Angelo goes to the Syracusan Antipholus. “That is the chain, sir, which you had of me!”
The gentleman nods, still ready to pay. “I think it be, sir! I deny it not.”
Antipholus of Ephesus now understands too. “And you, sir, for that chain arrested me!”
“I think I did, sir,” says Angelo sheepishly. “I deny it not.”
Adriana looks at her husband. “I sent you money, sir, to be your bail, by Dromio; but I think he brought it not.”
Dromio of Ephesus again insists, “No, none by me!”
Antipholus of Syracuse, untying a pouch at his waist, tells Adriana, “This purse of ducats I received from you; and Dromio—my man—did bring them to me.” He hands the gold to his brother. “I see that we kept meeting each the other’s man,” he tells the duke, “and I was ta’en for him, and he for me!—and thereupon these errors arose!”
Antipholus of Ephesus offers the gold to the duke. “These ducats I pawn for my father, here!”
Duke Solinus beams, delighted. “It shall not be needed!” The family of an Ephesian are exempt from the proscription. “Thy father hath his life!”
The courtesan approaches her neighbor. “Sir, I must have that diamond from you.”
Antipholus returns the ring gladly. “There, take it!—and much thanks for my good cheer!”
“Renownèd duke,” says Lady Emilia, now happy on her husband’s arm, “vouchsafe to take the pains to go with us into the abbey, and hear at large discoursèd all our fortunes!
“And all that are assembled in this place who, sympathizèd in this one day’s errors, have suffered wrongs, go keep us company, and we shall make full satisfaction!”
The abbess grins up at the tall twin gentlemen. “Thirty-three years have I gone in travail for you, my sons, but till this present hour my heavy burden was ne’er deliverèd!”—a prolonged pregnancy indeed.
“The duke, my husband, and my children both—and you, the calendars of their nativity,” she tells the Dromio brothers, “come to a gossips’ feast!—and after so long a grief, in such festivity go with me!”
Duke Solinus bows to her. “With all my heart, I’ll gossip at this feast!”
The people eagerly follow the duke, Lord Egeon and Lady Emilia up the steps and into the church.
As the twin pairs come together, Dromio of Syracuse is thinking fondly of Miss Luce. “Master, shall I fetch your trunks from shipboard?”
But he has asked the local Antipholus—who replies, “Dromio, what of mine hast thou embarked?”
“Your goods that lay at host, sir—in The Centaur.”
Antipholus of Syracuse laughs. “He speaks to me! I am your master, Dromio!
“Come, go with us,” he says, clapping an arm around his own brother’s shoulders. “We’ll look to that anon!
“Embrace thy brother there,” he tells his Dromio, “rejoice with him!”
The Antipholuses walk together into the church, already deep in conversation.
Syracusan Dromio eyes the other. “There is a fat friend at your master’s house who kitchened me for you today at dinner; she now shall be my sister-in-law, not my wife!” He is much relieved—and very eager to meet again with the wry wit of pert and pretty Luce.
“Methinks you are my mirror and not my brother!” says his companion. He grins. “I see by you I am a sweet-faced youth!
“Will you walk in to see their gossiping?” He gestures politely, indicating that the other should lead the way.
The newcomer demurs. “Not I, sir: you are my elder.”
“That’s a question!—how shall we try it?”
Dromio thinks. “We’ll draw cuts”—from a pack of cards—“for the senior! Till then, lead thou first.”
The Ephesian laughs, and clasps the other man’s hand heartily in his. “Nay, then!—thus we came into the world like brother and brother—and now let’s go hand in hand, not one before another!”
And so they, too, enter the sanctuary—together again at last.