Here is a more detailed look at what happens in each scene of The Comedy of Errors, to help you look at the structure of the play and interrogate it.

As you look at each act we’ve included some things to notice. These are important character developments, or key questions that an acting company might ask when they first go through the play together at the start of rehearsal. If you work through these as you go, they will help you to make sense of the play. It’s a good idea to have a copy of the text nearby!

  • Act 1

    Act 1 Scene 1

    The play opens in Ephesus with Egeon, a merchant from Syracuse, being sentenced to death: ‘if any Syracusan born / Come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies’. Solinus, the Duke of Ephesus, asks Egeon why he is there. Egeon tells him the tragic tale of a shipwreck which separated him from one of his twin sons, both called Antipholus, and his wife. Another set of twins, both named Dromio and bought by him to be servants, were also separated that day. Egeon explains that his surviving son left home to search for his lost twin and mother but has since disappeared. Egeon is exhausted in his search and ready for death. The Duke pities Egeon but is bound by the law. He gives him a day to raise the money to save his life: ‘Beg thou or borrow to make up the sum, / And live. If no, then thou art doomed to die.'


    • Syracuse and Ephesus are enemies and the penalty for a Syracusan found in Ephesus is death.
    • The twins Egeon bought as servants for his sons are both called Dromio and are the same age as his twins.
    • Egeon’s remaining son left home seven years ago, aged 18, to find his twin brother, and Egeon has now been searching for him for five years.

    Act 1 Scene 2

    Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio of Syracuse arrive at Ephesus. Antipholus has been searching for his lost twin brother for so long, he feels lost himself: 'I to the world am like a drop of water / That in the ocean seeks another drop.' Antipholus gives a thousand gold marks to Dromio and tells him to take it to the Centaur pub where they will stay. Unbeknown to these new arrivals, their twin brothers have been living in Ephesus for years. Dromio of Ephesus enters and mistakes Antipholus of Syracuse for his master. Antipholus is not amused and asks him if he dealt with the gold. Dromio of Ephesus denies any dealings with gold and replies that Antipholus is late and his wife Adriana is waiting for him along with her sister Luciana. Confused, Antipholus of Syracuse denies being married. He gives Dromio of Ephesus a beating and heads off towards the Centaur.


    • By coincidence, master and servant Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse have also just arrived in Ephesus.
    • The lost twins (the other Antipholus and Dromio) have been living in Ephesus for years, also as master and servant.
    • Antipholus of Ephesus is married to a woman called Adriana.
    • People of Syracuse have heard rumours that Ephesus is a bewitched place, not to be trusted.

    Things to notice in Act 1

    • Notice the different reasons Duke Solinus gives for the Ephesians to be enemies of the Syracusans. What has caused this distrust? How much power does the Duke have?

    • Take note of how much information Egeon gives us in Act 1. Why does Shakespeare begin his comedy with such a tragic tale?

    • Look at how both Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus talk to the same Antipholus in the one scene. What is the potential for comedy in these mistaken identities?

    • Act 1 is important because it sets up the characters, with the framing of Egeon’s story and the two sets of twins. Although they are twins, are there differences between the two Antipholuses and Dromios? What do you think is the most important detail Shakespeare gives you about each character in this act of the play?

  • Act 2

    Act 2 Scene 1

    Adriana is at home with her sister Luciana, frustrated that her husband, Antipholus of Ephesus, is late for dinner again. Adriana questions how fair it is for husbands to have more freedom than wives. Luciana urges her to be patient and says that men are born to be obeyed: ‘The beasts, the fishes, and the wingèd fowls / Are their males’ subjects and at their controls.’ Luciana is unmarried so Adriana thinks she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Dromio of Ephesus returns and tells Adriana that her husband is mad and is denying she exists. Adriana accuses the absent Antipholus of neglect, but Luciana blames Adriana’s jealousy and says she’ll only hurt herself.


    • Luciana appears to be wary of marriage.
    • Antipholus of Ephesus is often late home and Adriana feels neglected by her husband.
    • Adriana beats the servants when they displease her.

    Act 2 Scene 2

    Antipholus of Syracuse has checked on his money at the Centaur pub and is satisfied it’s safe. Dromio of Syracuse enters and denies ‘joking’ with his master about a wife and dinner. Frustrated, Antipholus beats him. Then Adriana and Luciana enter. They assume Antipholus of Syracuse is Adriana’s neglectful husband and start scolding him: ‘Ay, ay, Antipholus, look strange and frown: / Some other mistress hath thy sweet aspects’. Antipholus of Syracuse is confused by their accusations and says he’s never met them before. Out of curiosity, he follows them home. Adriana orders Dromio to guard the door and let no one enter. Dromio of Syracuse is convinced the women are witches but dutifully follows his master.


    • Dromio of Syracuse appears to be an honest man.
    • Neither Adriana nor Luciana are afraid to tell a man how they feel.
    • Antipholus, without knowing it, is now going to his twin brother’s house.

    Things to notice in Act 2

    • Notice the domestic setting at the start of Act 2 and how it compares with the start of Act 1. What are the major differences in these two beginnings? What do you think Shakespeare might be suggesting about the world we’re in?

    • Compare how Adriana and Luciana talk about marriage. What are your first impressions of these two sisters?

    • Take note of what is said about Antipholus of Ephesus in this act, considering we haven’t met him yet. Why might Shakespeare be delaying his entrance?

    • Act 2 is important because it sets up conflict, letting us know that trouble lies ahead for Adriana and her husband. It also develops the complex web of mistaken identity, leading to comic moments. When might the comedy arise from what is said and when might it arise from what characters do? How does Shakespeare support the audience to understand what is happening in the most confusing moments?

  • Act 3

    Act 3 Scene 1

    We finally meet Antipholus of Ephesus, who arrives home with his servant, Dromio. He tells his friends Angelo and Balthazar to make up an excuse for him being out for so long. He finds his front door locked. Dromio of Ephesus calls to the servants to let them in but Dromio of Syracuse is on the other side of the door and refuses. Unaware they are talking to their own twin, the two Dromios exchange insults: ‘O, villain, thou hast stol’n both mine office and my name; / The one ne’er got me credit, the other mickle blame’. Even the housemaid, Luce, thinks her master is already in and eating supper so tells them to go away. When his wife refuses to let him in, Antipholus threatens to break his own door down but Balthazar talks him out of it, saying it will create ‘vulgar comment’. Antipholus had planned to give a gold chain to Adriana, but now decides to give it to the Courtesan instead.


    • Antipholus of Ephesus is an important and wealthy man with lots of servants.
    • Both Dromios are very loyal to their masters.
    • Antipholus of Ephesus has been visiting another woman as Adriana suspected but claims not to have been unfaithful.

    Act 3 Scene 2

    Luciana tries hard to convince Antipholus of Syracuse (who she believes is Antipholus of Ephesus) to comfort Adriana as she is so upset: ‘Or if you like elsewhere, do it by stealth: / Muffle your false love with some show of blindness’. As she pleads with him, Antipholus of Syracuse falls in love with her. He denies knowing Adriana but confesses his feelings for Luciana with passion and conviction. Horrified, Luciana goes to find her sister. Dromio of Syracuse runs in, terrified, as the kitchen maid, a very large woman called Nell, is claiming to be his wife. Master and servant decide that Ephesus is full of witchcraft. Antipholus tells Dromio to make plans to sail away as soon as possible. The goldsmith, Angelo, enters and gives the wrong Antipholus the chain, saying he’ll collect the money later. Antipholus takes the chain, utterly confused.


    • Luciana is loyal to her sister and wants her to be happy.
    • Dromio of Ephesus is married to a large kitchen maid called Nell.
    • Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse are planning to leave Ephesus as soon as they can.

    Things to notice in Act 3

    • Notice the language that Shakespeare gives Luciana and Antipholus in Scene 1. How are they using imagery to affect each other? What other language tools does Shakespeare use in their exchange?

    • Examine the word play between Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse in scene 2. How often do they repeat each other or pick up each other’s images? Why do you think we never meet Nell?

    • Take note of how many times the Syracusans talks about being bewitched. What does Shakespeare do to make them feel like outsiders? Who do we sympathise with most and why?

    • Act 3 is important because it is packed with verbal and physical comedy – by now we know more about the characters. Both sets of twins have been mistaken for each other and the farce is getting more complicated. How have your feelings changed towards certain characters? Where do your sympathies lie?

  • Act 4

    Act 4 Scene 1

    Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus return from the brothel. Antipholus sends Dromio off to fetch a rope to flog Adriana. Seeing Angelo, he asks where the chain is. Angelo thinks he’s joking and presents his bill, but Antipholus won’t pay for a chain he hasn’t seen. They argue and Antipholus of Ephesus is arrested in the street. Dromio of Syracuse enters to say he’s found them places onboard a ship but is speaking to the wrong master. Antipholus of Ephesus knows nothing about any ship and asks him where the rope is. Angry, Antipholus sends a confused Dromio to get bail money from Adriana.


    • Antipholus of Ephesus has visited the Courtesan.
    • Angelo demands payment for the gold chain because he faces jail if he can’t pay his own debts.
    • Antipholus is prepared to beat his wife and servant with a rope.

    Act 4 Scene 2

    Luciana has told Adriana about Antipholus’ declaration of love to her. Both sisters think it was Adriana’s husband, Antipholus of Ephesus, who was talking to her. Adriana is angry but still loves her husband: ‘I cannot, nor I will not, hold me still; / My tongue, though not my heart, shall have his will.’ Dromio of Syracuse enters with news of Antipholus’ arrest. Adriana gives him the bail money and tells him to bring Antipholus home.


    • Antipholus of Ephesus has been arrested.
    • Adriana still loves her husband despite his behaviour.
    • Dromio of Syracuse is given the bail money to release Antipholus.

    Act 4 Scene 3

    Antipholus of Syracuse is confused that everyone in Ephesus greets him ‘As if I were their well-acquainted friend’. He is convinced the place is enchanted. Dromio of Syracuse enters with the bail money, surprised to see Antipholus is free. Antipholus asks him if he’s found a ship for them to leave on. Dromio says he’s already told him this and Antipholus thinks they are going mad. The Courtesan enters and, believing Antipholus of Syracuse to be Antipholus of Ephesus, asks for the chain he’s promised her in exchange for a ring she gave him. Thinking she’s a witch, the men insult her and run off: ‘Thou art, as you are all, a sorceress; / I conjure thee to leave me and be gone.’ The Courtesan goes to tell Adriana that her husband has gone mad and stolen from her.


    • The Courtesan has given Antipholus of Ephesus a ring worth forty ducats.
    • The Courtesan is going to tell Adriana that her husband is mad.

    Act 4 Scene 4

    Dromio of Ephesus brings rope but not bail money to Antipholus of Ephesus, who then beats him. Adriana and Luciana arrive with the Courtesan and Pinch, a conjurer. Thinking her husband is possessed, Adriana asks Pinch to ‘Establish him in his true sense again’. When Pinch tries to exorcise him, Antipholus of Ephesus get violent and starts to believe his wife has deliberately caused the confusion. Adriana leaves Pinch to take her husband home and agrees to pay his debts. Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse then appear in the street, swords drawn. Everyone assumes they have escaped. Antipholus of Syracuse tells Dromio to fetch their stuff; they will leave Ephesus that night.


    • The Courtesan has told Adriana about her relationship with Antipholus of Ephesus.
    • Everyone believes Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus are possessed.
    • Adriana agrees to pay for the gold chain in order to release her husband.

    Things to notice in Act 4

    • Notice what is said about Antipholus of Ephesus in Scenes 1 and 4. What does this tell us about him and the people who know him?

    • Look for all the examples of violence in this act, in both language and action. How is Shakespeare trying to affect his audience? Do our sympathies change towards any of the characters?

    • Take note of how Shakespeare presents his female characters in this act. How do they respond to what happens? What does he want us to feel about them?

    • Act 4 is important because it is dramatic – the characters that we know and care about go through confusing events. How do we feel about the prison scene with Pinch? Does the comedy relieve the tension or make it worse?

  • Act 5

    Act 5 Scene 1

    Angelo spots Antipholus of Syracuse wearing the gold chain and demands his money, thinking he is Antipholus of Ephesus. As they argue, Adriana enters and tells Angelo that her husband has gone mad. They chase after Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse who take shelter in an abbey.

    Emilia, the woman in charge of the abbey, wants to know what has happened. When Adriana tries to explain, Emilia accuses her of driving her husband mad with her jealousy. Luciana defends her sister but Adriana says Emilia may be right. Emilia still won’t let Adriana in to find her husband and they argue about who can look after him best. Luciana tells Adriana to complain to the Duke, who is on his way to oversee the execution of a merchant called Egeon. Duke Solinus enters and asks if anyone will pay Egeon’s fine. Adriana asks the Duke to help her husband and he agrees.

    A messenger arrives with news that Antipholus and Dromio have escaped their imprisonment. Confused, Adriana says her husband is in the abbey. Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus enter and Antipholus asks the Duke to punish his wife and those that have mistreated him. Egeon thinks he sees the son he raised and is devastated when Antipholus does not recognise him: ‘In seven short years, that here my only son / Knows not my feeble key of untuned cares?’ Antipholus of Ephesus is confused, having not seen his father for many years.

    Then Emilia leads Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse out of the abbey. Everyone is amazed to see the two sets of twins. Emilia recognises Egeon as her husband and the two are reunited. Antipholus of Ephesus offers to pay Egeon’s fine and the family comes together at last. Antipholus of Syracuse hopes he and Luciana can be together. The play ends with the two Dromios, who walk off stage together.


    • Duke Solinus arranged the marriage of Adriana and Antipholus of Ephesus.
    • Antipholus of Ephesus fought beside the Duke in war and saved the Duke’s life. The Duke is now his patron.
    • Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus were brought to Ephesus by the Duke’s uncle, a famous warrior.
    • Antipholus of Ephesus is willing to pay his father’s fine.

    Things to notice in Act 5

    • Notice how the different plot lines come together in the last scene. What do you think is the effect of the revelations following on from each other so quickly? How well do you think Egeon’s story works as a framing device that starts and ends the play?

    • Examine the meeting of Emilia and the sisters in Act 5. Who do you think has the most important position in Ephesus out of the three? What impression do you gain of Emilia?

    • Take note of how Duke Solinus behaves in this act. What kind of a ruler is he? What do you think might happen to the characters after this story?

    • Act 5 is important because it resolves the drama – Egeon’s life is saved and the two sets of twins are brought together. Is everything resolved or are you left with any questions?