OK, finished Act One last night… very short act, two scenes.
Of course, this is a very short play… by my count (and for my count, I’m using the Pelican Shakespeare, edited by Frances, E Dolan… and I plan to use the Pelicans for the entire series, just to be consistent), Comedy has 1766 lines, the least of any Shakespeare play. (to put this in perspective, the character [not the play, but just the character] of Hamlet has over 1550 lines himself alone…)
Line counts differ from edition to edition because of the use of prose, which–unlike poetry–can be published with differing line lengths, thus changing the amount of lines in the count… at some point, I’ll also try to do a prose/poetry percentage calculation… just the analytical side of my psyche pushing its way to the fore … (or as Glenn Close says in Fatal Attraction, “I will NOT be ignored!”)
I.i is purely expository: Egeon explaining to Solinus, Duke of Ephesus, how and why he came to Ephesus from his native Syracuse. We also learn that Ephesus and Syracuse don’t exactly have a great relationship… any “Merchant of Syracusa” (I.i.3) who is found in Ephesus will have his goods confiscated by city officials, and must pay a one thousand mark levy “to quit the penalty and ransom” the merchant (I.i.22). Egeon doesn’t have the cash, so he will die at the end of the day, unless he can find the money (the Duke has been kind enough to “favor” [I.i.149] the old man with the opportunity to go throughout the city in hopes of finding a benefactor to front him the cash).
The opening scene has even greater expository roles to play, however: we learn that Egeon and his wife had a set of identical twin boys… on the same night a poor woman also gave birth to a set of identical twin boys, whom Egeon purchased to be his own son’s servants. When father, mother, sons and servant infants were attempting to sail home, their ship hit stormy seas, and — long story short — the family was separated, each with one parent, one son, and one servant. Egeon’s son and his servant have grown to maturity, and five years earlier ventured forth to find their brothers in the world… and now Egeon has traveled to find his boy(s).
hmmmm, what are the chances that his son has landed in Ephesus? What are the chances that the long lost brother just happens to live in Ephesus? pretty good, I think
Oh, and by the way, each young man–son and slave alike–so missed his long lost brother took on the name of said long lost brother.
Gee, do you think this is going to add to the confusion and laughs as MWE*? Gee, ya think???
I.ii has Egeon’s son Antipholus (“of Syracuse” is how the “List of Actors” and the stage directions differentiate him from his bro, “Antipholus of Ephesus”) retrieving stashed money from another merchant, who tells him of a hapless “Syracusian merchant” (I.ii.3), who has fallen under the penalty of the law (see above)… of course, neither the merchant nor Ant of S, know that said hapless fellow is Ant of S’s own father. Ant of S then gives his servant Dromio (“of Syracuse” … yada yada yada) money to hold on to and take to their hotel. Within minutes of Dro of S’s departure, who should arrive on the scene but Dromio “of Ephesus” who wants Ant of S (whom Dro of E believes is Ant of E) to return home with him because Ant’s wife has dinner ready. As the confusion mounts (because Ant of S thinks Dro of E is actually Dro of S), the slapstick begins (Ant of S “strikes” [I.ii.92-s.d.] Dro of E). When Dro of E escapes the scene, Ant of S surmises
They say this town is full of cozenage,
As, nimble jugglers that deceive the eye,
Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind,
Soul-killing witches that deform the body,
Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks...
Not only does the boy from Syracuse know (or thinks he knows) that Ephesus is filled with crooks (“cozenage,” “deceive(rs),” “cheaters,” and “mountebanks”), he now fears something more magical afoot: “sorcerers” and “witches” that can “change” his mind. So know he’s stated his reason for “going along” with the weirdness he finds in Ephesus (instead of realizing that his long lost brother is here and no longer lost).