Synopsis of the Play
Take Two: A Double Act
The production of The Comedy of Errors that you and your students see in the park will be quite a different version to the one that was performed some four hundred years ago. Our comedy comes complete with references to popular Toowoomba establishments, changes in gender roles and the occasional contemporary phrase or gesture with which your students will be familiar.
Once upon a time a cruel law was passed that ordained that any merchant from Syracuse would be put to death if he or she were found in the city of Ephesus. As it happened one night Egeon, an old merchant from Syracuse, was discovered wandering the streets of Ephesus. He was arrested and sentenced to death unless he could pay the fine of $1 000. Unfortunately, for Egeon, he was not in a position to pay the hefty fine. Now, Solinus the Duke of Ephesus was curious as to Egeon's apparent disregard for the law regardless of the perilous consequences and he urged Egeon to tell him the story of his coming to Ephesus.
Egeon's life had indeed been unfortunate and as he had no fear of death he proceeded to relate to Solinus the purpose of his unlawful entry into Ephesus. Egeon's story was one of family tragedy. He had married young and fathered two sons of identical appearance. In the Epidamnum inn where his sons were born a poor woman gave birth to two sons who were also of identical appearance. Seeing that the woman was too poor to look after the children herself Egeon bought the boys so that they would grow up to attend upon his sons. In our version, the poor woman gives birth to daughters.
Upon leaving Epidamnum, to return home to Syracuse, the family are shipwrecked by a terrible storm. Egeon is separated from his wife, Emilia, one of his sons and one of the servants. He returns to Syracuse with his remaining son and the other servant child never to be united with his family again.
Upon reaching the age of eighteen, Antipholus of Syracuse becomes restless for the companionship of his brother who has also survived the shipwreck and who is living in Ephesus. In a quirky twist of fate both boys were named Antipholus. Unbeknownst to either Antipholus they both retained their servants who are both known as Dromio.
And, this is where the hapless Egeon ended his account of how he came to be an illegal visitor in Ephesus. Egeon is simply a devoted father tracking down his only remaining heir who had left Syracuse seven years earlier in search of his long lost brother. On hearing this tale the Duke takes pity on Egeon and instead of declaring the death penalty he gives Egeon a days grace in order that Egeon beg or borrow the money to pay the fine.
What follows is a farcical tale of mistaken identity where the Syracusian Antipholus and Dromio find themselves in Ephesus, the homeland of the other pair. Adriana, the jealous wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, is unwittingly drawn into the drama and confusion that results in the case of mistaken identity as her husband refuses to come to dinner and denies that he even has a wife. She becomes enraged and declares that she will find her husband and bring him home. Meanwhile, when her husband returns home he finds himself locked out of the marital home. Antipholus of Ephesus is so offended by his wife's actions that he declares that he will dine with a notorious courtesan and give her the gold chain that he has ordered for Adriana.
At the dinner with Adriana, Antipholus of Syracuse meets and falls in love with Luciana, though he is baffled by her insistence that he is married to her sister. When Dromio tells him that the kitchen hand has claimed Dromio as his betrothed, they begin to fear that the inhabitants of the house are mad. Just then, the goldsmith delivers the gold chain to Antipholus of Syracuse, who accepts it even though he knows it is not his and, in turn, his bewildered brother is arrested for his failure to pay the goldsmith.
At this time, it appears that half of the inhabitants of Ephesus have lost their minds. And, in yet another tangled web of intrigue and twists of mistaken identity the Syracusians seek sanctuary from an Abbess in a nearby priory. At the same time that the Duke arrives with Egeon for sentencing, the Abbess emerges from the priory with Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse and Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus's timely arrival at the scene. For the first time, the two sets of twins are seen side by side and the confusion melts away. Magically, in a moment of clarity, the Abbess recognises Egeon as her long-lost husband. The Duke pardons Egeon. Antipholus of Syracuse declares his love for Luciana, and they all live happily ever after.
Or do they?