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Home > Comedy of Errors > ACT I - SCENE I. A hall in DUKE SOLINUS'S palace.

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ACT I, II (Next) >

ACT I - SCENE I. A hall in DUKE SOLINUS'S palace.
1    Proceed, Solinus, to procure my fall
2    And by the doom of death end woes and all.
3    Merchant of Syracuse, plead no more;
4    I am not partial to infringe our laws:
5    The enmity and discord which of late
6    Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your duke
7    To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen,
8    Who wanting guilders to redeem their lives
9    Have seal'd his rigorous statutes with their bloods,
10   Excludes all pity from our threatening looks.
11   For, since the mortal and intestine jars
12   'Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us,
13   It hath in solemn synods been decreed
14   Both by the Syracusians and ourselves,
15   To admit no traffic to our adverse towns Nay, more,
16   If any born at Ephesus be seen
17   At any Syracusian marts and fairs;
18   Again: if any Syracusian born
19   Come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies,
20   His goods confiscate to the duke's dispose,
21   Unless a thousand marks be levied,
22   To quit the penalty and to ransom him.
23   Thy substance, valued at the highest rate,
24   Cannot amount unto a hundred marks;
25   Therefore by law thou art condemned to die.
26   Yet this my comfort: when your words are done,
27   My woes end likewise with the evening sun.
28   Well, Syracusian, say in brief the cause
29   Why thou departed'st from thy native home
30   And for what cause thou camest to Ephesus.
31   A heavier task could not have been imposed
32   Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable:
33   Yet, that the world may witness that my end
34   Was wrought by nature, not by vile offence,
35   I'll utter what my sorrows give me leave.
36   In Syracusa was I born, and wed
37   Unto a woman, happy but for me,
38   And by me, had not our hap been bad.
39   With her I lived in joy; our wealth increased
40   By prosperous voyages I often made
41   To Epidamnum; till my factor's death
42   And the great care of goods at random left
43   Drew me from kind embracements of my spouse:
44   From whom my absence was not six months old
45   Before herself, almost at fainting under
46   The pleasing punishment that women bear,
47   Had made provision for her following me
48   And soon and safe arrived where I was.
49   There had she not been long, but she became
50   A joyful mother of two goodly sons;
51   And, which was strange, the one so like the other,
52   As could not be distinguish'd but by names.
53   That very hour, and in the self-same inn,
54   A meaner woman was delivered
55   Of such a burden, male twins, both alike:
56   Those,--for their parents were exceeding poor,--
57   I bought and brought up to attend my sons.
58   My wife, not meanly proud of two such boys,
59   Made daily motions for our home return:
60   Unwilling I agreed. Alas! too soon,
61   We came aboard.
62   A league from Epidamnum had we sail'd,
63   Before the always wind-obeying deep
64   Gave any tragic instance of our harm:
65   But longer did we not retain much hope;
66   For what obscured light the heavens did grant
67   Did but convey unto our fearful minds
68   A doubtful warrant of immediate death;
69   Which though myself would gladly have embraced,
70   Yet the incessant weepings of my wife,
71   Weeping before for what she saw must come,
72   And piteous plainings of the pretty babes,
73   That mourn'd for fashion, ignorant what to fear,
74   Forced me to seek delays for them and me.
75   And this it was, for other means was none:
76   The sailors sought for safety by our boat,
77   And left the ship, then sinking-ripe, to us:
78   My wife, more careful for the latter-born,
79   Had fasten'd him unto a small spare mast,
80   Such as seafaring men provide for storms;
81   To him one of the other twins was bound,
82   Whilst I had been like heedful of the other:
83   The children thus disposed, my wife and I,
84   Fixing our eyes on whom our care was fix'd,
85   Fasten'd ourselves at either end the mast;
86   And floating straight, obedient to the stream,
87   Was carried towards Corinth, as we thought.
88   At length the sun, gazing upon the earth,
89   Dispersed those vapours that offended us;
90   And by the benefit of his wished light,
91   The seas wax'd calm, and we discovered
92   Two ships from far making amain to us,
93   Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this:
94   But ere they came,--O, let me say no more!
95   Gather the sequel by that went before.
96   Nay, forward, old man; do not break off so;
97   For we may pity, though not pardon thee.
98   O, had the gods done so, I had not now
99   Worthily term'd them merciless to us!
100  For, ere the ships could meet by twice five leagues,
101  We were encounterd by a mighty rock;
102  Which being violently borne upon,
103  Our helpful ship was splitted in the midst;
104  So that, in this unjust divorce of us,
105  Fortune had left to both of us alike
106  What to delight in, what to sorrow for.
107  Her part, poor soul! seeming as burdened
108  With lesser weight but not with lesser woe,
109  Was carried with more speed before the wind;
110  And in our sight they three were taken up
111  By fishermen of Corinth, as we thought.
112  At length, another ship had seized on us;
113  And, knowing whom it was their hap to save,
114  Gave healthful welcome to their shipwreck'd guests;
115  And would have reft the fishers of their prey,
116  Had not their bark been very slow of sail;
117  And therefore homeward did they bend their course.
118  Thus have you heard me sever'd from my bliss;
119  That by misfortunes was my life prolong'd,
120  To tell sad stories of my own mishaps.
121  And for the sake of them thou sorrowest for,
122  Do me the favour to dilate at full
123  What hath befall'n of them and thee till now.
124  My youngest boy, and yet my eldest care,
125  At eighteen years became inquisitive
126  After his brother: and importuned me
127  That his attendant--so his case was like,
128  Reft of his brother, but retain'd his name--
129  Might bear him company in the quest of him:
130  Whom whilst I labour'd of a love to see,
131  I hazarded the loss of whom I loved.
132  Five summers have I spent in furthest Greece,
133  Roaming clean through the bounds of Asia,
134  And, coasting homeward, came to Ephesus;
135  Hopeless to find, yet loath to leave unsought
136  Or that or any place that harbours men.
137  But here must end the story of my life;
138  And happy were I in my timely death,
139  Could all my travels warrant me they live.
140  Hapless AEgeon, whom the fates have mark'd
141  To bear the extremity of dire mishap!
142  Now, trust me, were it not against our laws,
143  Against my crown, my oath, my dignity,
144  Which princes, would they, may not disannul,
145  My soul would sue as advocate for thee.
146  But, though thou art adjudged to the death
147  And passed sentence may not be recall'd
148  But to our honour's great disparagement,
149  Yet I will favour thee in what I can.
150  Therefore, merchant, I'll limit thee this day
151  To seek thy life by beneficial help:
152  Try all the friends thou hast in Ephesus;
153  Beg thou, or borrow, to make up the sum,
154  And live; if no, then thou art doom'd to die.
155  Gaoler, take him to thy custody.
156  I will, my lord.
157  Hopeless and helpless doth AEgeon wend,
158  But to procrastinate his lifeless end.

ACT I, II (Next) >
Scene Index

  • ACT II


  • ACT IV

  • ACT V

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