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* COMEDY OF ERRORS.] Shakspeare might have taken the general plan of this comedy from a translation of the Menechmi of Plautus, by W. W. i. e. (according to Wood) William Warner, in 1595, whose version of the acrostical argument hereafter quoted, is as follows:
“ Two twinne borne sonnes a Sicill marchant had,
" The first his father loft, a little lad;
" This (growne a man) long travell took to seeke
« Where th’ other dwelt inricht, and him so like, “ That citizens there take him for the same:
• Father, wife, neighbours, each miftaking either,
“ Much pleasant error, ere they meet togither.” Perhaps the last of these lines suggested to Shakspeare the title for his piece.
See this translation of the Menachmi, among fix old Plays on which Shakspeare founded, &c. published by S. Leacroft, Charingcross.
At the beginning of an address Ad Liflorem, prefixed to the crrata of Dekker's Satiromastix, &c. 1602, is the following passage, which apparently alludes to the title of the comedy before us.
“ In steed of the Trumpets founding thrice before the play begin, it shall not be amisle (for him that will read) first to beholde this short Comedy of Errors, and where the greatest enter, to give them initead of a hisse, a gentle correction." STEEVENS.
I suspect this and all other plays where much rhime is used, and especially long hobbling verfes, to have been among Shakspeare's more early productions. BLACKSTONE.
I am possibly singular in thinking that Shakspeare was not under the slightest obligation, in forming this comedy, to Warner's tran. slation of the Menæchmi. The additions of Erotes and Sereptus, which do not occur in that translation, and he could never invent, are, alone, a sufficient inducement to believe that he was no way indebted to it. But a further and more convincing proof is, that he has not a name, line or word, from the old play, nor any one incident but what must, of course, be common to every translation. Sir William Blackstone, I observe, suspects “ this and all other plays where much rhime is used, and especially long hobbling verses, to have been among Shakspeare's more early productions." But I much doubt whether any of these “ long hobbling verses" have the honour of proceeding from his pen; and, in fact, the superior elegance and harmony of his language is no less distinguishable in his earliest than his latest production. The truth is if any inference can be drawn froin the most friking diffimilarity of stile, a tillue as different as silk and worsted, that this comedy though boasting the embellishments of our author's genius, in additional words, lines, speeches, and scenes, was not originally his, but proceeded from soine inferior playwright, who was capable of reading the Mrachmi without the help of a translation, or, at least, did not make use of Warner's. And this I take to have been the case, not only with the three parts of K. Henry i'l. as I think a late editor (O'fi fc omnin!) has satisfactorily proved, but with The Two Genslemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Loft, and K. Richard II. in all which pieces Shakspeare's new work is as apparent as the brightest touches of Titian would be on the poorest performance of the veriest canvass-spoiler that ever handled a brush. The originals of these plays (except the second and third parts of K. Henry VI.) were never printed, and may be thought to have been put into his hands by the manager for the purpose of alteration and improvement, which we find to have been an ordinary practice of the theatre in his time. We are therefore no longer to look upon the above “ pleasant and fine conceited comedie," as intitled to a situation among the “ fix plays on which Shakspeare founded his Meafure for Measure, &c.” of which I should hope to see a new and improved edition. Ritson.
This comedy, I believe, was written in 1593. See An Attempe to ascertain the order of Shakspeare's Plays, Vol. 1. MALONE.
Solinus, Duke of Ephesus.
Twin Brothers, and Sons
} to Ægeon and Æmilia, Dromio of Ephesus, 7 Twin Brothers, and Attendants Dromio of Syracuse, S on the two Antipholus's, Balthazar, a Merchant. Angelo, a Goldsmith. A Merchant, Friend to Antipholus of Syracuse. Pinch, a Schoolmaster, and a Conjurer. Æmilia, Wife io Ægeon, an Abbess at Ephesus. Adriana, Wife to Antipholus of Ephesus. Luciana, ber Sister. Luce, ber Servant. A Courtezan. Gaoler, Officers, and other Attendants.
* In the old copy, these brothers are occasionally styled, Antipho. lus Erotes, or Errotis; and Antipholus Sereptus; meaning, perhaps verraticus, and furreptus. One of these twins wandered in search of his brother, who had been forced from Æmilia by fishermen of Corinth. The following acrostic is the argument to the Menecimi of Plautus : Delph. Edit. p. 654.
Mercator Siculus, cui erant gemini filii,
Ii fe cognofcunt fratres poftremò invicem. The translator, W. W. calls the brothers, Menæchmus Soficles, and Menachmus the traveller. Whencesoever Shakspeare adopted erraticus and furreptus (which either he or his editors have mis-/pelt) these distinctions were soon dropped, and throughout the rest of the entries the twins are styled of Syracuse or Ephesus. Steevens.