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The Comedy of Errors
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  • 13 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 144 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.27 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521535168 | ISBN-10: 0521535166)

The Comedy of Errors
Cambridge University Press
9780521827942 - The Comedy of Errors - Edited by T. S. DorschRos King

The New Cambridge Shakespeare

General editor

Brian Gibbons

Associate general editor

A. R. Braunmuller
University of California, Los Angeles

From the publication of the first volumes in 1984 the General Editor of the New Cambridge Shakespeare was Philip Brockbank and the Associate General Editors were Brian Gibbons and Robin Hood. From 1990 to 1994 the General Editor was Brian Gibbons and the Associate General Editors were A. R. Braunmuller and Robin Hood.

The Comedy of Errors

The Comedy of Errors has been popular on the stage during the last three centuries and has proved itself admirably suited to adaptation as pure farce and musical spectacle. For this updated edition, Ros King has revised the text and commentary and provided a completely new Introduction, in which she argues that the play cannot be regarded merely as a farcical romp based on a classical model, but belongs to the critically misunderstood genre of tragicomedy. In stressing the seriousness which underlies the story, the Introduction picks out the play’s religious imagery for special attention, while also engaging fully with the play’s deft lightness of touch and its continuing popularity in the theatre. A fresh Reading List guides the reader towards further study.

The New Cambridge Shakespeare

All’s Well That Ends Well, edited by Russell Fraser

Antony and Cleopatra, edited by David Bevington

As You Like It, edited by Michael Hattaway

The Comedy of Errors, edited by T. S. Dorsch

Coriolanus, edited by Lee Bliss

Cymbeline, edited by Martin Butler

Hamlet, edited by Philip Edwards

Julius Caesar, edited by Marvin Spevack

King Edward Ⅲ, edited by Giorgio Melchiori

The First Part of King Henry Ⅳ, edited by Herbert Weil andJudith Weil

The Second Part of King Henry Ⅳ, edited by Giorgio Melchiori

King Henry Ⅴ, edited by Andrew Gurr

The First Part of King Henry Ⅵ, edited by Michael Hattaway

The Second Part of King Henry Ⅵ, edited by Michael Hattaway

The Third Part of King Henry Ⅵ, edited by Michael Hattaway

King Henry Ⅷ, edited by John Margeson

King John, edited by L. A. Beaurline

The Tragedy of King Lear, edited by Jay L. Halio

King Richard Ⅱ, edited by Andrew Gurr

King Richard Ⅲ, edited by Janis Lull

Love’s Labour’s Lost, edited by William C. Carroll

Macbeth, edited by A. R. Braunmuller

Measure for Measure, edited by Brian Gibbons

The Merchant of Venice, edited by M. M. Mahood

The Merry Wives of Windsor, edited by David Crane

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, edited by R. A. Foakes

Much Ado About Nothing, edited by F. H. Mares

Othello, edited by Norman Sanders

Pericles, edited by Doreen DelVecchio and Antony Hammond

The Poems, edited by John Roe

Romeo and Juliet, edited by G. Blakemore Evans

The Sonnets, edited by G. Blakemore Evans

The Taming of the Shrew, edited by Ann Thompson

The Tempest, edited by David Lindley

Timon of Athens, edited by Karl Klein

Titus Andronicus, edited by Alan Hughes

Troilus and Cressida, edited by Anthony B. Dawson

Twelfth Night, edited by Elizabeth Story Donno

The Two Gentlemen of Verona, edited by Kurt Schlueter

The Two Noble Kinsmen, edited by Robert Kean Turner and Patricia Tatspaugh

The Winter’s Tale, edited by Susan Snyder and Deborah T. Curren-Aquino

The early quartos

The First Quarto of Hamlet, edited by Kathleen O. Irace

The First Quarto of King Henry Ⅴ, edited by Andrew Gurr

The First Quarto of King Lear, edited by Jay L. Halio

The First Quarto of King Richard Ⅲ, edited by Peter Davison

The First Quarto of Othello, edited by Scott McMillin

The First Quarto of Romeo and Juliet, edited by Lukas Erne

The Taming of a Shrew: The 1594 Quarto, edited by Stephen Roy Miller

The Comedy of Errors

Updated edition

Edited by

T. S. Dorsch

Formerly Professor of English, University of Durham

Edited by

Ros King

University of Southampton

Cambridge University Press
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Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© Cambridge University Press 1988, 2004

This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exceptionand to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,no reproduction of any part may take place withoutthe written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 1988
Reprinted 1989, 1994, 2000
Updated edition, 2004, 2005
5th printing 2012

Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon CR0 4YY

British Library Cataloguing in Publication data

Shakespeare, William
The comedy of errors. – (New Cambridge Shakespeare).
Ⅰ. Title Ⅱ. Dorsch, T. S.
822.3′3 PR2804.A2

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616.
The comedy of errors / edited by T. S. Dorsch.
p. cm. – (The New Cambridge Shakespeare).
Bibliography: p.
ISBN 978-0-521-22153-6 (hardback) ISBN 978-0-521-29368-5 (paperback)
Ⅰ. Dorsch, T.S. Ⅱ. Title. Ⅲ. Series: Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616.
Works. 1984. Cambridge University Press.
PR2804.A2D67 1988
822.3′3 – dc19 87–23299 CIP

ISBN 978-0-521-82794-2 Hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-53516-8 Paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


List of illustrations
Preface to first edition
Preface to updated edition
Abbreviations and conventions
Introduction by Ros King
Jugglers and exorcists
Verse form and metrication
The first known performance: Gray’s Inn
Later productions
Note on the text
List of characters
The Play
Appendix      The performance of 1594
Reading list


1     Trevor Nunn’s production, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1976
2     Ian Judge’s production, Royal Shakespeare Company, Barbican Theatre, London, 1991. Photograph, Clive Barda
3     Adrian Noble’s production, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1983. Photograph, Alastair Muir
4     Tim Supple’s production, Royal Shakespeare Company and Young Vic, 1996. Photograph, Donald Cooper
5     The Dromio twins (Charles and Henry Webb) at the Princess’s Theatre, 1864
6     The Great Hall of Gray’s Inn from the east end, by gracious permission of the Masters of the Bench of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn
7     A conjectural drawing of the Gray’s Inn performance by C. Walter Hodges
8     Illustration from Terentius Comediae (1493), by permission of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
9     F. R. Benson’s production, Adelphi Theatre, 1905
10    Comic scene by Sebastiano Serlio
11    Komisarjevsky’s production, Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, 1938
12    Clifford Williams’s production, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1962 Photograph, Gordon Goode
13    Clifford Williams’s production, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1962; Commedia dell’ Arte mime interlude. Photograph, Gordon Goode
Illustrations 1, 9, 11, 12, 13, are reproduced by permission of the Shakespeare Centre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Preface to first edition

We all learn from those who came before us. How can an editor of today adequately express his indebtedness to the prodigious labours of such scholars as Chambers, Greg, and Bullough? I hope that, when I have drawn upon the work of earlier editors and critics, I have never neglected to acknowledge my debt.

Of recent editions of The Comedy of Errors I have found most helpful those of Quiller-Couch (the New Shakespeare), R. A. Foakes (the Arden Shakespeare), Stanley Wells (the New Penguin Shakespeare), and G. Blakemore Evans (the Riverside Shakespeare).

I must give special thanks to Professor John W. Velz, of the University of Texas at Austin, with whom I have discussed aspects of the play. Mrs E. E. Morse, of Dove Cottage, read my introduction in manuscript and suggested some improvements. My son Alan Dorsch provided some helpful historical material. I owe much to students in universities in England, Australia, Germany, and America with whom I have, in tutorials and seminars, dissected the play; even more to colleagues in these universities who have put their knowledge of Shakespeare at my service.

I must also express my gratitude to Mrs K. Stenhouse, of the Department of French at Durham, and to Mrs Sue Jones, of Dove Nest, Windermere, who have triumphed over my difficult handwriting and produced an elegant typescript for the press. Miss Sarah Stanton, Miss Janet Coombes, and Mr Paul Chipchase, of the Cambridge University Press, have given me invaluable help in the shaping of this volume, especially Mr Chipchase as my copy-editor. They too have earned my warm thanks.

My greatest debt is to Philip Brockbank, in whom I, as a contributor to the series, have found everything that could be desired in a General Editor.


Preface to updated edition

I would like to thank Brian Gibbons for asking me to pay attention to this extraordinary play and for his extremely helpful comments, and Sarah Stanton at Cambridge University Press for her firm support. Sections of this introduction dealing with matters of religion were given as a paper at the Tudor Symposium conference ‘Writing and reform in sixteenth-century England’ organised by Mike Pincombe at the University of Newcastle, September 2002. I am immensely grateful to Susan Brock and the staff at the Shakespeare Centre Library, and those at the Theatre Museum, for their help in locating pictures and other archival material, as well as to Globe Research and Sara Wilbourne at Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Charles Edelman, Mike Edwards and Mike Jensen all answered queries, Nigel Alexander, as ever, read several drafts, while Fred Owens kept my nose to the grindstone. To all, much thanks.

Ros King

Abbreviations and conventions

Shakespeare’s playsThe abbreviated titles of Shakespeare’s plays are those of the Harvard Concordance, a few of them modified by the General Editors. Other editions of Shakespeare are abbreviated under the editor’s surname (Malone, Rann) unless they are the work of more than one editor. In such cases an abbreviated series name is used (NS, Var. 1778). Except where it has been necessary to quote from the Folio, quotations and line-references throughout this edition are from The Riverside Shakespeare, edited by G. Blakemore Evans, 1974, on which the Harvard Concordance is based.

Much Ado about Nothing


Antony and Cleopatra


All’s Well That Ends Well


As You Like It






The Comedy of Errors




The First Part of King Henry the Fourth


The Second Part of King Henry the Fourth


King Henry the Fifth


The First Part of King Henry the Sixth


The Second Part of King Henry the Sixth


The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth


King Henry the Eighth


Julius Caesar


King John


Love’s Labour’s Lost


King Lear




Measure for Measure


A Midsummer Night’s Dream


The Merchant of Venice






King Richard the Second


King Richard the Third


Romeo and Juliet


The Taming of the Shrew


Sir Thomas More


The Tempest


The Two Gentlemen of Verona


Timon of Athens


Titus Andronicus


Twelfth Night


The Two Noble Kinsmen


Troilus and Cressida


The Merry Wives of Windsor


The Winter’s Tale

Editions and references

E. A. Abbott, A Shakespearian Grammar: An Attempt to Illustrate Some of the Differences between Elizabethan and Modern English, 3rd edn, revised, 1876 (reference is to numbered paragraphs)


William Shakespeare, The Complete Works, ed. Peter Alexander, 1951


The Comedy of Errors, ed. T. W. Baldwin (Heath’s American Arden Shakespeare) 1928


Anne Barton, introduction to The Comedy of Errors in The Riverside Shakespeare, 1974


Harold Brooks, ‘Themes and structures in The Comedy of Errors’, in Early Shakespeare (Stratford-upon-Avon Studies, 3), 1961

Bullough, Sources

Geoffrey Bullough (ed.), Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 vols., 1957–75


The Works of William Shakespeare, ed. W. G. Clark, J. Glover, and W. A. Wright, 1863–6 (Cambridge Shakespeare)


Mr William Shakespeare his Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, ed. Edward Capell, 1768


William Carroll, The Metamorphoses of Shakespearean Comedy, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985

Chamber Accounts

See E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, 4 vols., 1923

Chambers, Allusion-Book

The Shakespeare Allusion-Book, re-ed. E. K. Chambers, 1932

Chambers, WS

E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems, 2 vols., 1930


Harold Child, ‘The stage-history of The Comedy of Errors’, NS, pp. 115–19


Coleridge’s Writings on Shakespeare, ed. Terence Hawkes, 1959


The Works of William Shakespeare, ed. John Payne Collier, 1842–4

Compositional Genetics

T. W. Baldwin, On the Compositional Genetics of ‘The Comedy of Errors’, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965




The Comedy of Errors, ed. Henry Cuningham (Arden Shakespeare), 1907, reprinted 1926


Richard Edwards, Damon and Pythias, 1571 (see King)


The Comedy of Errors, ed. T. S. Dorsch, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988


The Dictionary of National Biography


Edward Dowden, Shakspere: A Critical Study of His Mind and Art, 8th edn, 1886


The Works of William Shakespeare, ed. Alexander Dyce, 1857




E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, 4 vols., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923


Mr William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, 1623 (First Folio)

Biblical quotations are taken from the Geneva Bible, 1589

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