The Comedy of Errors Plot Analysis
By: Christina Caravelli
William Shakespeare’s play The Comedy of Errors starts out with the cities of Syracuse and Ephesus being openly hostile towards one another. Egeon is captured in Ephesus and is condemned to death by the duke. Egeon proclaims that he has a life story that is so sad that he would rather die than live it any longer. So the Duke urges him to tell him of his misfortunes and the audience is informed of how Egeon was separated from his wife, Emilia, his identical twin boys, both named Antipholus, and identical twin slaves, both named Dromio, in a shipwreck. The audience learns that on son and slave survived with Egeon, however, they are unsure if the others survived. When Antipholus of Syracuse, the twin that stayed with Egeon, turned eighteen, his father gave him permission to go and search for the rest of his family, which is how they ended up in Ephesus.
Antipholus of Syracuse is conflicted about his lost of family. He has so far been unable to locate the rest of his family and in this process of searching for them he seems to have lost himself as well. Additionally, Antipholus of Syracuse is confused by all the people in Ephesus who claim to know him because he has no idea who they are. This caused for more loss of self within Antipholus of Syracuse and he is oblivious to the fact that his twin brother is living in the same city, Ephesus.
More complication arises when Antipholus of Syracuse is taken to what is supposed to be his house where is wife is. However, it is actually his twin brother, Antipholus of Ephesus’s, house and wife. This causes Antipholus of Ephesus to be locked out of his own house and for more confusion as well as chaos to arise. Because he believes his wife has locked him out of their home, Antipholus of Ephesus is convinced that his wife is being unfaithful to him and that everyone around him has gone crazy. On the other hand, his wife, Adriana, is convinced that her husband has gone crazy and must be possessed by some supernatural element.
The plot thickens with more confusion and mishaps when Angelo sells a gold chain that was meant for Antipholus of Ephesus to Antipholus of Syracuse. Angelo then demands money from Antipholus of Ephesus, thinking that he was the twin he gave the chain to. This ultimately leads to Antipholus of Ephesus’s arrest. At this point in the play, everyone thinks that everyone has basically mad and everyone is seeking some sort of justice from someone else.
Finally, the Duke arrives who is in the middle of carrying out the law again Egeon, who is the father of the Antipholus twins. In this moment, the abbess is called, who is actually Emilia, the wife of Egeon, and emerges with Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse. This is the first time in the play where both sets of twins are in the same place at the same time and everyone finally realizes the source of all the madness. With everyone finally face to face, the Duke releases Egeon and the play concludes in a happy ending with the family reunited. To add to this happy reunion, Antipholus of Ephesus confirms his commitment to his wife, Adriana, Antipholus of Syracuse expresses his love for Luciana, and Egeon is reunited with his wife Emilia. After much confusion and chaos, all the pairs are matched, the family is reunited, and a happy ending is created.
For a better understanding of the plot line click the diagram below:
“The Comedy of Errors Plot Analysis.” Shmoop: Homework Help, Teacher Resources,
“MonkeyNotes Study Guide Summary-The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Free Book Notes/Chapter Summary.”460+ Free Book Summaries and Study
Shakespeare, William, et al. “The Comedy of Errors.” The Norton Shakespeare, 3rd ed.,
W.W. Norton, 1997, pp. 745-798.