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COMEDY OF ERRORS.
SCENE I. A Hall in the Duke's Palace.
Enter Duke, Ægeon, Gaoler, Officers, and other
Duke. Merchant of Syracusa, plead no more;
any, born at Ephesus, be seen
Thy substance, valued at the highest rate,
Duke. Well, Syracusan, say, in brief, the cause
I was wrought by nature, not by vile offence.] All his hearers understood that the punishment he was about to undergo was in consequence of no private crime, but of the publick enmity between two states, to one of which he belonged: but it was general superstition among the ancients, that every great and sudden misfortune was the vengeance of heaven pursuing men for their secret offences. Hence the sentiment put into the mouth of the speaker was proper: By my past life, (says he,) which I am going to relate, the world may understand, that my present death is according to the ordinary course of Providence, [wrought by nature,] and not the effects of divine vengeance overtaking me for my crimes, [not by vile offence.] WARBURTON.
The real meaning of this passage is much less abstruse than that which Warburton attributes to it. By nature is meant natural affection. Ægeon came to Ephesus in search of his son, and tells his story, in order to show that his death was in conséquence of natural affection for his child, not of any criminal intention.
Drew me from kind embracements of my spouse:
poor mean woman was delivered
Such as sea-faring men provide for storms;
Duke. Nay, forward, old man, do not break off
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 upon, 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 helpful welcome to their shipwreck’d guests; And would have reft the fishers of their
Had not their bark been very slow of sail,
Thus have you heard me sever'd from my bliss;
Æge. My youngest boy, and yet my eldest care, At eighteen years became inquisitive After his brother; and importun'd ine, That his attendant, (for his case was like, Reft of his brother, but 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,3 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 life; And happy were I in my timely death, Could all my travels warrant me they live.
My youngest boy, and yet my eldest care,] Shakspeare has here been guilty of a little forgetfulness. Ægeon had said, page 7, that the youngest son was that which his wife had taken care of:
“ My wife, more careful for the latter-born,
mast.' He himself did the same by the other; and then each, fixing their eyes on whom their care was fixed, fastened themselves at either end of the mast. M. Mason.
3 Roaming clean through the bounds of Asia,] In the northern parts of England this word is still used instead of quite, fully, perfectly, completely.