By Kristen Atkinson
Scholars believe that there were two major influences to this play. Platus’s Manaechemi was first published around 200 b.c.e, but not translated into english and published until 1595. It seem likely that is existed in manuscript for some time prior to this, and that is how Shakespeare would have encountered it. The Historie of Error was first performed at Hampton Court for the New Years Celebration in 1566.
First probable performance of The Comedy of Errors was on December 28, 1594 at Gray’s Inn. Although the records do not address the play by name, summaries of the plot and descriptions of the actors seem to point it out. The location of this performance is also telling, as Gray’s Inn was a center for the studying and practicing of law, but also known for rowdy scholars and boisterous celebrations. This coupled with the plot of the play revolving around identity and legality leads scholars to believe the play may have been written for this event.
Records show that this play was popularly played for some time, being performed during Christmas celebrations at court in 1604, and even at Drury Lane in 1741.
In more recent centuries the play has often been adapted as operas and musicals, which works with the comedic and dramatically flamboyant nature of many characters.
Within the last few decades we have two interesting adaptions. The USSR released a movie with the same title in 1978, while an adaptation involving sets of female twins, entitled “Big Buisness” was released in the US.
“The Comedy of Errors, Stage History.” Royal Shakespeare Company. 12 Dec. 2016
“A brief history and analysis of the play by William Shakespeare.” Dictionary of the Drama. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1904.