The Comedy of Errors

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A merchant from Syracuse, who was separated from one of his twin sons, one of his twin servants, and his wife in a shipwreck. He has come to Ephesus searching for them, in violation of a law forbidding any Syracusans from being in the town. He is due to be executed for this, but is pardoned at the last minute at the conclusion of the play.

Aegeon Quotes in The Comedy of Errors

The The Comedy of Errors quotes below are all either spoken by Aegeon or refer to Aegeon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Commerce and Exchange Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of The Comedy of Errors published in 2005.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

There had she not been long but she became
A joyful mother of two goodly sons;
And, which was strange, the one so like the other
As could not be distinguish’d but by names.
That very hour, and in the self-same inn,
A meaner woman was delivered
Of such a burden, male twins, both alike:
Those, for their parents were exceeding poor,
I bought, and brought up to attend my sons.

Related Characters: Aegeon (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.49-57
Explanation and Analysis:

Though he plans to execute Aegeon, the Duke is curious about Aegeon's story and reason for being in Ephesus. Aegeon explains that he made a fortune as a merchant, and that when a business partner died, he and his wife traveled to Epidamnum. In this quote, Aegeon describes how soon after his wife's arrival in Epidamnum she gave birth to children: "two goodly sons." He remarks that it was "strange," since the two sons (twins) looked so alike each other that they could only be told apart by their names. By a miraculous coincidence, at the same time that his wife was giving birth, a poor ("meaner') woman gave birth to another set of male twins, also extremely identical. Since Aegeon was wealthy, he purchased and took on the poor set of twins to be servants to his own sons.

This pair of identical births is the basis for much of the confusion and the humor in the play. Almost every single character in the play mistakes one brother for his twin, and hilarity ensues. Family is extremely important to Aegeon, and this "strange" set of twins and serving twins sets the stage for the other problem of the play: the family split. Much of the work of the play and its plot will be to reunite the family after the split that Aegeon describes below.


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For, ere the ships could meet by twice five leagues,
We were encounter’d by a mighty rock;
Which being violently borne upon,
Our helpful ship was splitted in the midst;
So that, in this unjust divorce of us,
Fortune had left to both of us alike
What to delight in, what to sorrow for.

Related Characters: Aegeon (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1.10-106
Explanation and Analysis:

Aegeon says that with his wife, his sons, and his sons' servants, he boarded a ship from Epidamnum home to Syracuse. But, as he describes in the quote, before the ship could get far from Epidamnum, the ship began to sink. Aegeon and his wife tied themselves and their boys to the masts, floating and hoping to be saved, but the boat then crashed into "mighty rock." This crash caused the ship to slit in half, 'divorcing' the family. The family was rescued in two groups by separate boats traveling in different directions. Aegeon remarks on Fortune's role in this familial schism, suggesting that it left each trio equally thankful (for living) and sorrowful (for losing the other half of the family).

A key detail that enables the confusion and countless cases of mistaken identities in the play is that, in the chaos of the storm, each parent was uncertain which children they were with. Even Aegeon and his wife were unable to tell the babies apart without their names, and, in another huge coincidence, each parent believed they had the children with the same names. Thus Aegeon's son is named Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant is Dromio of Syracuse. The mother also believed she had Antipholus and Dromio, so the pair who live in Ephesus are Antipholus of Ephesus and Dromio of Ephesus. Without this coincidence, many of the mistaken identities would have been cleared up instantly, and the play would have resolved itself almost immediately. Fate, chance, and coincidence are the ruling forces of Aegeon's life and the play itself.

After hearing this sad story, the Duke decides he will give Aegeon an extra 24 hours to come up with the 1000 marks, or else he will still have to be executed.

Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

I am sure you both of you remember me.

Ourselves we do remember, sir, by you;
For lately we were bound, as you are now.
You are not Pinch’s patient, are you, sir?

Why look you so strange on me? You know me well.

I never saw you in my life till now.

O, grief hath changed me since you saw me last,
And careful hours with time’s deformed hand
Have written strange defeatures in my face:
But tell me yet, dost thou not know my voice?


Dromio, nor thou?

No, trust me, sir, nor I.

I am sure thou dost.

Related Characters: Aegeon (speaker), Antipholus of Ephesus (speaker), Dromio of Ephesus (speaker)
Page Number: 5.1.300-314
Explanation and Analysis:

Most of the characters are on stage at this point near the end of the play; the Duke has been brought in to try and resolve the issue. Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus have escaped from Adriana's house, causing everyone to think that they have just escaped from the abbey. Aegeon has been brought on with the Duke in the last hope of coming up with payment to stop his execution, and he has spoken a brief aside indicating that he recognizes Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus, believing them to be his son and son's servant from Syracuse. Which, of course, they aren't.

But in all this confusion, Antipholus of Ephesus gains some clarity of his own: opposing the previous states of confusion and self-doubt, he says they do remember themselves and who they are, making a joke that they were just bound in Adriana's home as Aegeon is now imprisoned. When the sons continue to say they don't recognize him, Aegeon begins to believe that grief and time have changed him, textually writing new features on his face in the time since he has last seen Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse. He tries to appeal to another sense, asking if they remember his voice, but they still do not.

At this moment the tension and dramatic irony peak. Aegeon is looking for his long lost son, and has met him, but even now he confuses this lost son for the son he raised and has only been apart from for a few years. While every other character in the play has assumed that Antipholus of Ephesus is himself (other than Dromio of Syracuse), Aegeon mistakes him for Antipholus of Syracuse. Mistaken identity and errors cross even family lines, and the plots cannot be resolved until both pairs of twins are physically on the stage at the same time.

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Aegeon Character Timeline in The Comedy of Errors

The timeline below shows where the character Aegeon appears in The Comedy of Errors. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Commerce and Exchange Theme Icon
As the play begins, Solinus, the duke of Ephesus, is leading Aegeon, a merchant from Syracuse, to be executed. Solinus explains that there is great “enmity and... (full context)
Commerce and Exchange Theme Icon
Marriage and Family Theme Icon
Aegeon says that he is glad to be executed, as this will end his troubles. Solinus... (full context)
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Mistakes and Coincidences Theme Icon
...the same inn, a poor woman gave birth to two identical male twins, as well. Aegeon bought these twins to bring up as servants for his own sons, and prepared to... (full context)
Marriage and Family Theme Icon
Mistakes and Coincidences Theme Icon
Along the way, though, there was a great storm at sea, and Aegeon suffered a shipwreck. Trying to stay alive, Aegeon and his wife both tied themselves to... (full context)
Marriage and Family Theme Icon
Aegeon and his one son lived in Syracuse, and when the son turned eighteen, he wanted... (full context)
Commerce and Exchange Theme Icon
Solinus pities Aegeon, but says that he cannot behave contrary to his city’s laws and cannot pardon him.... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Commerce and Exchange Theme Icon
Elsewhere in Ephesus, Aegeon’s son, Antipholus, is talking to a merchant. The merchant warns him to pretend not to... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Commerce and Exchange Theme Icon
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Mistakes and Coincidences Theme Icon
The Duke enters with Aegeon, and repeats his offer that if anyone can pay the fee for Aegeon, he will... (full context)
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Mistakes and Coincidences Theme Icon
...Adriana is frightened. She exclaims that he “is borne about invisible.” Antipholus asks for justice. Aegeon says that he recognizes his son and his son’s servant, but no one listens to... (full context)
Commerce and Exchange Theme Icon
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Mistakes and Coincidences Theme Icon
...ring. The Duke calls for the abbess, and says he thinks everyone is “stark mad.” Aegeon interrupts to say that he sees someone who will surely pay his fine: he sees... (full context)
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Aegeon thinks that his appearance has changed in the seven years since he has seen his... (full context)
Appearances and Identity Theme Icon
Mistakes and Coincidences Theme Icon
...must be spirits, not the real Antipholus and Dromio. Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse recognize Aegeon. The abbess calls Aegeon her husband and identifies herself as Aemilia, his long lost wife.... (full context)
Commerce and Exchange Theme Icon
Marriage and Family Theme Icon
Antipholus of Ephesus says he will use the bail money to pay Aegeon’s fine, but the Duke says that he will simply pardon Aegeon. Antipholus of Ephesus returns... (full context)