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COMEDY OF ERRORS.

ACT I.

SCENE I. A Hall in the Duke's Palace.

Enter Duke, ÆGEON, Gaoler, Officer, and other

Attendants.

Ægeon.
PROCEED, Solinus, to procure my fall,
And, by the doom of death, end woes and all.

Duke. Merchant of Syracusa, plead no more;
I am not partial, to infringe our laws:
The enmity and discord, which of late
Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your duke
To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen,-
Who, wanting gilders to redeem their lives,
Have sealed his rigorous statutes with their bloods,
Excludes all pity from our threatning looks.
For, since the mortal and intestine jars
'Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us,
It hath in solemn synods been decreed,
Both by the Syracusans and ourselves,
To admit no traffick to our adverse towns :
Nay, more,
If any, born at Ephesus, be seen
At any Syracusan marts and fairs,

A gilder was a coin valued from one shilling and sixpence to two shillings.

1

are

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 condemn’d to die.
Æge. Yet this
my comfort; when

your

words done, My woes end likewise with the evening sun.

Duke. Well, Syracusan, say, in brief, the cause Why thou departedst from thy native home; And for what cause thou cam’st to Ephesus.

Æge. A heavier task could not have been imposed, Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable: Yet, that the world may witness, that my end Was wrought by nature, not by vile offence, I'll utter what my sorrow gives me leave. In Syracusa was I born: and wed Unto a woman, happy but for me, And by me too, had not our hap been bad. With her I liv’d in joy; our wealth increas'd, By prosperous voyages I often made To Epidamnum, till my factor's death; And the great care of goods at random left, Drew me from kind embracements of my spouse: From whom my absence was not six months old, Before herself (almost at fainting, under The pleasing punishment that women bear), Had made provision for her following me, And soon, and safe, arrived where I was. There she had not been long, but she became

2 i. e. natural affection. 3 The old copy reads he: the emendation is Malone's. It is a happy restoration; for the manner in which Steevens pointed this passage gave to it a confused if not an absurd meaning.

A joyful mother of two goodly sons ;
And, which was strange, the one so like the other,
As could not be distinguish'd but by names.
That very hour, and in the selfsame inn,
A poor* mean woman was delivered
Of such a burden, male twins, both alike:
Those, for their parents were exceeding poor,
I bought, and brought up to attend my sons.
My wife, not meanly proud of two such boys,
Made daily motions for our home return:
Unwilling I agreed; alas! too soon.
We came aboard:
A league from Epidamnum had we sail'd,
Before the always wind-obeying deep
Gave any tragick instances of our harm:
But longer did we not retain much hope;
For what obscured light the heavens did grant
Did but convey unto our fearful minds
A doubtful warrant of immediate death;
Which, though myself would gladly have embrac'd,
Yet the incessant weepings of my wife,
Weeping before for what she saw must come,
And piteous plainings of the pretty babes,
That mourn’d for fashion, ignorant what to fear,
Forc'd me to seek delays for them and me.
And this it was,- for other means was none.
The sailors sought for safety by our boat,
And left the ship, then sinking ripe, to us:
My wife, more careful for the latter-born,
Had fasten'd him unto a small spare mast,
Such as sea-faring men provide for storms;
To him one of the other twins was bound,
Whilst I had been like heedful of the other.

4 The word poor was supplied by the editor of the second folio. 5 Instance appears to be used here for symptom or prognostic. Shakspeare uses this word with very great latitude. VOL. IV.

N

The children thus dispos’d, my wife and I,
Fixing our eyes on whom our care was fix'd,
Fasten’d ourselves at either end the mast;
And floating straight, obedient to the stream,
Were carried towards Corinth, as we thought.
At length the sun, gazing upon the earth,
Dispers’d those vapours that offended us;
And, by the benefit of his wish'd light,
The seas wax'd calm, and we discovered
Two ships from far making amain to us,
Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this :
But ere they came,—0, let me say no more !
Gather the sequel by that went before.

Duke. Nay, forward, old man, do not break off so; For we may pity, though not pardon thee.

Æge. O, had the gods done so, I had not now Worthily term'd them merciless to us! For, ere the ships could meet by twice five leagues, We were encounter’d by a mighty rock; Which being violently borne upono, 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, as we thought. At length, another ship had seiz'd on us; And, knowing whom it was their hap to save, Gave healthful? welcome to their shipwreck'd guests;

6 The first folio reads • borne up.'

7 The second folio altered this to helpful welcome; but change was unnecessary. A healthful welcome is a kind welcome, wishing health to their guests. It was not a hepful welcome, for the slowness of their bark prevented them from rendering assist

ance,

bliss;

And would have reft the fishers of their prey,
Had not their bark been very slow of sail,
And therefore homeward did they bend their course.--
Thus have you heard me sever'd from my
That by misfortunes was my life prolong’d,
To tell sad stories of my own mishaps.

Duke. And for the sake of them thou sorrowest for,
Do me the favour to dilate at full
What hath befall’n of them, and thee, till now.

Æge. My youngest boy8, and yet my eldest care, At eighteen years became inquisitive After his brother; and importun'd me, That his attendant (for his case was like, Reft of his brother, but 10 retain'd his name), Might bear him company in the quest of him: Whom whilst I labour'd of a love to see, I hazarded the loss of whom I lov’d. Five summers have I spent in furthest Greece, Roaming clean through the bounds of Asia, And, coasting homeward, came to Ephesus; Hopeless to find, yet loath to leave unsought, Or that, or any place that harbours men. But here must end the story of my And happy were I in my timely death, Could all my travels warrant me they live. Duke.

Hapless Ægeon, whom the fates have

mark'd
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, would they, may not disannul,
My soul should sue as advocate for thee.

8 It appears, from what goes before, that it was the eldest, and not the youngest. He says, “My wife, more careful of the latter born,' &c.

9 The first folio reads so; the second for.

10 The personal pronoun he is suppressed: such phraseology is not unfrequent in the writings of that age.

life;

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