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MonkeyNotes-The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
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PLOT (Synopsis)

The plot is set is the city of Ephesus. The play opens with a conversation between Egeon, an old merchant from Syracuse, and Solinus, the Duke of Ephesus. In this conversation, Egeon reveals to the Duke the story of a fateful shipwreck, which provides necessary Background Information to the play.

The opening lines make it clear that the states of Syracuse and Ephesus have been at variance, and that, according to the law, any merchant from Syracuse seen in the city of Ephesus is to be put to death unless he can pay a thousand marks by way of ransom, in order to save his life. During the dialogue that follows, the Duke questions Egeon about his reasons for venturing into Ephesus, knowing well that death lurked around the corner. Egeon, being thus prompted by the Duke, relates the history of his life to him.

The Duke learns of the sad state of affairs that has brought Egeon to Ephesus in search of his family. Egeon begins his story at his birth. He says that he was born in Syracuse and brought up to become a merchant. Upon approaching the age of marriage, he was married to a fine lady, with whom he lived happily, until urgent business obliged him to go across to Epidamnum. Once there he realized he was to be detained for a long time; therefore, he sent for his wife. Shortly after her arrival she delivered two baby boys who were identical twins. Ironically, at that very same time, a poor woman living in the same inn as Egeon and his wife also delivered a set of identical twin boys. Since their parents were exceedingly poor, Egeon brought up the two boys, with the intention of raising them to become valets to his own two sons.


Egeon's wife became impatient about returning home, so Egeon agreed to depart. Before they had sailed a league from Epidamnum, a dreadful storm arose. The sea churned so violently that it was feared that the ship would sink. The sailors, fearing for their lives, departed in a smaller boat, and Egeon's family was left to its own resources. Egeon and his wife each took hold of one son and one slave and fastened them to the masts. No sooner was this done than the ship was split by a rock. Egeon was separated from his wife, son, and the slave boy, because they were on the other part of the ship and were carried away by the current. However, Egeon knew they were safe, for he saw his wife and the children being rescued by a boat of fisherman who, he supposed, were from Corinth. He and his other son were also rescued by sailors, who took them homeward to Syracuse.

His son, on turning eighteen years of age, left home with his attendant to search for his mother and twin. According to Egeon, that was seven years ago, and he himself has been traveling for the past five years in the hope of being reunited with his family. The duke, having learned of Egeon's misfortunes, takes pity on him. Though he cannot freely pardon him, he grants Egeon until the end of the day to collect the money to pay the fine; if he fails he is doomed to death.

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MonkeyNotes-The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare

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