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TIE COMEDY OF ERRORS.
First printed in the folio of 1623.-It would appear that this play was acted at Gray's Inn in December 1594 ; for the following notice in the Gesta Grayorum* can hardly be referred to any other piece; “ After such sports, a Comedy of Errors (like to Plautus his Menechmus) was played by the players : so that night was begun, and continued to the end, in nothing but confusion and errors; whereupon it was ever afterwards called The Night of Errors," p. 22, ed. 1688. The second notice of it is in Meres's Palladis Tamia, &c. 1598, where it is mentioned as Shakespeare's Errors" (see the Memoir of Shakespeare): and from the Accounts of the Revels at Court, &c. we learn that it was performed before King James, December 28th, 1604 (see ibid.), on which occasion we may be sure the passage about the “barrenness” of Scotland (act iii. sc. 2) was omitted. — The Comedy of Errors is evidently one of our author's earliest contributions to the stage. " The only note of time that occurs in this play is found in the following passage [act iii. sc. 2];
Ant. S. Where France?
Dro. S. In her forehead; armed and reverted, making war against her hair.' I have no doubt that an equivoque [first pointed out by Theobald ad l.] was here intended, and that, beside the obvious sense, an allusion was intended to King Henry IV. the heir of France, concerning whose succession to the throne there was a civil war in that country, from August 1589, when his father was assassinated, for several years. Henry, after struggling long against the power and force of the League, extricated himself from all his difficulties by embracing the Roman Catholic religion at St. Denis, on Sunday the 25th of July 1593, and was crowned King of France in Feb. 1594 ; I therefore imagine this play was written before that period (written in 1592]. In 1591 Lord Essex was sent with 4000 troops to the French King's assistance, and his brother Walter was killed before Rouen in Normandy. From that time till Henry was peaceably settled on the throne, many bodies of troops were sent by Queen Elizabeth to his aid: so that his situation must then have been a matter of notoriety, and a subject of conversation in England. . . . . I formerly supposed that it [The Comedy of Errors] could not have been written till 1596, because the translation of the Menachmi of Plautus [by W. W., i.e. William Warner), from which the plot appears to have been taken, was not published till 1595. But on a more attentive examination of that translation, I find that Shakespeare might have seen it before publication ; for from the printer's advertisement to the reader, it appears that, for some time before, it had been handed about in Ms. among the translator's friends.” Malone's Life of Shakespeare, p. 321. In another place the same commentator remarks : “ It has been said that Shakespeare has not taken a single name, line, or word, from the translated Menachmi of Plautus; which may be liter
• Gesta Grayorum : or, The History of the High and mighty Prince, Henry Prince of Purpoole, Arch-Duke of Stapulia and Bernardia, Duke of High and Nether Holborn, Marquis of St. Giles and Tottenhum, Count Palatine of Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell, Great Lord of the Cantons of Isling. ton, Kentish-Town, Paddington and Knights-bridge, Knight of the most Heroical Order of the Helmet, and Sovereign of the Same; Il'ho Reigned and Died, A.D. 1594. Together with A Vasque, as it was presented (by His Highness's Command) for the Entertainment of Q. Elizabeth; roho, acith the Vobles of bwth Courts, was present thereat. London, dc. 1088, 4to.
ally true, but is not easily reconcilable to an observation made by Mr. Steevens, in which he seems to think that our author's description of the cheating mountebanks and pretended conjurers who infested Epidamnum (see the concluding speech of act i.] was taken from thence. The truth, however, is, that he had no occasion to consult Warner's translation of the Menachmi for this or any other purpose; for it is extremely probable that he was furnished with the fable of the present comedy by a play on a similar subject, from which he might have derived the very description above alluded to; and there also he might have found the designations of surreptus and erraticus, of which some traces are exhibited in the original copy of this play. [In the folio of 1623, act i. sc. 2, we have “Enter Antipholis Erotes," i.e. Antipholus of Syracuse (again in act ii. sc. 2, “ Enter Antipholis Errotis”), and in act ii. sc. 1, “Enter Adriana, wife to Antipholis Sereptus,” i. e. Antipholus of Ephesus.] Of this piece no mention is made in any dramatic history that I have seen, nor in any of the fugitive pamphlets of ancient days; but the notice concerning it which I discovered not long after my former edition of these plays was published, furnishes us with decisive evidence on this subject; for the piece in question was acted before Queen Elizabeth in the year 1576-7, when our poet was in his thirteenth year. In the Historical Account of the English Stage [by Malone] may be found a list of the various performances exhibited before her Majesty during the Christmas festivities of the year above mentioned, among which is the following piece:
«« The Historie of Error, shewn at Hampton Court on New yeres daie at night (1576-7], enacted by the children of Pawles.' [See Malone's Shakespeare, by Boswell, vol. iii. 387.] As the dramas acted by the singing boys of St. Paul's Cathedral were generally founded on classical stories, it may be presumed that this ancient piece was in a good measure founded on the comedy of Plautus; and doubtless thus the fable was transmitted to Shakespeare.” Prelim. Remarks on The Comedy of Errors. The same piece was played at Windsor on Twelfth-Night 1582-3;
“ A Historie of Ferrar [read A Historie of Error], shewed before her Matie at Wyndesor, on Twelf daie at night, enacted by the Lord Chamberlaynes servaunts,” &c. : see Malone's Shakespeare, by Boswell, vol. iii. 406. (Warner's translation of the Menachmi is reprinted by Steevens among Sir Old Plays on which Shakespeare founded, &c., 1779.)
SOLINUs, duke of Ephesus.
Æmilia, wife to Ægeon, an abbess at Ephesus.
Gaoler, Officers, and other Attendants.
• In the folio this vame is spelt both “Antipholis" and "Antipholus." I may notice
that the only form in ancient authors is “Antiphilus.”
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS.
SCENE I. A hall in the Duke's palace. Enter Duke, EGEON, Gaoler, Officers, and other Attendants.
Æge. Proceed, Solinus, to procure my fall,
Duke. Merchant of Syracusa, plead no more;