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The Comedy of Errors | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Comedy of Errors | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Act 1

Egeon, a Syracusian merchant, has been arrested in Ephesus for violating a ban on visitors from his city. Now he must pay a large sum of money to secure his release, or he will be executed before the end of the day. When asked why he came to Ephesus, Egeon tells of his family, which was split apart by a storm at sea. Egeon and one of his twin sons, Antipholus of Syracuse, returned home, but they have no idea what happened to Egeon's wife and his other son. Some years ago, Antipholus left home to seek his brother and mother, and Egeon decided to follow suit.

That same day Antipholus of Syracuse arrives in Ephesus, looking for his twin brother. He sends his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, to stow his money and secure lodging at a nearby inn. Antipholus of Syracuse is startled and angered when Dromio soon returns without the money, spouting nonsense about a mistress and a dinner invitation. Believing himself to be the target of a practical joke, Antipholus of Syracuse chases Dromio away with blows and insults. Unbeknownst to him, the Dromio he has just seen is not his own servant (Dromio of Syracuse), but his twin brother (Dromio of Ephesus). The errors begin.

Act 2

Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, is frustrated by her husband's lack of interest in their marriage. Her sister Luciana attempts to comfort her, but then Dromio of Ephesus shows up and reports his strange encounter with Antipholus. Thinking this Antipholus is her husband, Adriana becomes upset and orders Dromio to bring him home immediately. She then goes out into the streets of Ephesus herself and encounters Antipholus of Syracuse, whom she chides for being a cruel and inattentive spouse. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio of Syracuse are perplexed and frightened by this strange woman who knows their names. They agree, however, to return home with her to dinner.

Act 3

Antipholus of Ephesus comes home with his business associates Angelo and Balthasar, whom he invites to dine with him. He finds, however, his servants will not admit him, since they believe their master is already inside. Antipholus of Ephesus becomes enraged, but his friends persuade him to dine elsewhere, then come back later to figure out what is going on at home. He agrees, but to spite Adriana, he instructs Angelo to deliver a gold chain to a local courtesan, whom Adriana believes to be having an affair with her husband. After dinner, Antipholus of Syracuse confesses his love for Luciana and once more denies being Adriana's husband. He meets Angelo in the street and takes the gold chain even though he does not know why Angelo gives it to him.

Act 4

Angelo, thinking he has delivered the chain to Antipholus of Ephesus when he really gave it to Antipholus of Syracuse, guarantees an arrest for Antipholus of Ephesus for refusal to pay. Antipholus of Ephesus sends Dromio of Syracuse to his home to collect bail money; there, Dromio of Syracuse meets Adriana and Luciana and tells them of Antipholus's arrest. Convinced Antipholus is mad, Adriana hires an exorcist, Pinch the schoolmaster, and goes to the jail to free Antipholus of Ephesus. The exorcism is a sham, but Pinch does succeed in having Antipholus of Ephesus tied up and carted back home. Meanwhile, Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Syracuse are now completely certain Ephesus is a haven for evil magicians. Adriana spots them running through the city, their swords drawn to protect them from witches and sorcerers.

Act 5

Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Syracuse are chased into an abbey. Adriana follows Antipholus there, but the abbess refuses to release him, so Adriana seeks the duke's intervention. While the duke is listening to Adriana's request, Antipholus of Ephesus and Dromio of Ephesus appear, making it seem as though Antipholus and Dromio are in two places at once. As everyone is trying to figure out what has happened, the Syracusians come out of the abbey and finally meet their twins face-to-face. The abbess turns out to be Egeon's wife Emilia, bringing the entire family together for the first time in over 20 years. Egeon is pardoned, and Emilia invites everyone to a feast to celebrate the joyful reunion.

The Comedy of Errors Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Egeon arrives in Ephesus and is arrested.

Rising Action

2 Antipholus of Syracuse comes to Ephesus, seeking his twin.

3 The Antipholus twins are repeatedly mistaken for each other.

4 Antipholus of Ephesus is locked out of his house.

5 Antipholus of Ephesus is arrested and "exorcised."

6 Antipholus of Syracuse seeks shelter in an abbey.


7 The Antipholus twins meet face to face.

Falling Action

8 Egeon is pardoned.


9 Emilia invites everyone to a celebratory feast.

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