by William Shakespeare | Grades: 9-12
About The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors is the slapstick farce of his youth. In it, the lost twin sons of the old merchant Egeon--both named Antipholus--find themselves in Ephesus, without either one even knowing of the other's existence. Meanwhile, Egeon has arrived in search of the son he thinks is still alive--and has been sentenced to death for the "crime" of being from Syracuse.
To add to the confusion, the two Antipholuses have twin servants, both named Dromio. As the four men unwittingly encounter each other, the play is crammed with wildly escalating misunderstandings before the truth emerges and Egeon is pardoned.
Shakespeare bases his story on Plautus's Menaechmi, a play about identical twins who accidentally meet after a lifetime apart. He borrows from another Plautus play by having Adriana, the wife of one Antipholus, entertain the other. The spirited Adriana often gives speeches evoking strong emotions--as do other characters at times. Even here, Shakespeare suggests complexities beyond the farce.
A Biographical Note About William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England's Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children--an older daughter Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare's only son, died in childhood.
The bulk of Shakespeare's working life was spent in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright and poet, but also as an actor and shareholder in an acting company.
Although some think that sometime between 1610 and 1613 Shakespeare retired from the theater and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616, others believe that he may have continued to work in London until close to his death.