Near his house, Antipholus of Ephesus is conversing with his servant Dromio, a goldsmith named Angelo, and a merchant named Balthazar. He tells Angelo that he must leave because his wife gets “shrewish” when he is late for dinner. He tells Angelo to bring a necklace he has ordered for his wife to his house tomorrow.
Antipholus is familiar with his “shrewish” wife, and plans to appease her with an expensive gift. The exchange of precious objects pervades all aspects of the characters’ lives, from business to personal matters.
Antipholus asks why Dromio previously said that he had beaten him, denied the existence of his wife, and asked him about a thousand marks. Dromio insists that Antipholus did deny his wife, beat him, and ask him about the money. Antipholus has invited Balthazar to dinner, and the two jest about what makes a good dinner: Balthazar says it is “small cheer and great welcome,” while Antipholus says it is food.
Antipholus mixes up Dromio of Ephesus with his twin. While there is clearly some kind of mistake going on, it is Dromio who bears the brunt of the blame for the situation.
Antipholus sends Dromio to the door of his house, but Dromio of Syracuse, who is guarding the door from the inside, refuses to let anyone in. Dromio of Syracuse says his name, and Dromio of Ephesus thinks he has stolen his identity. A servant from within the house named Luce comes to the door and Dromio of Ephesus demands to be let in. She refuses, and Antipholus of Ephesus threatens to knock the door down.
On opposite sides of the door, the two Dromios confront alternate versions of themselves, and Dromio of Ephesus insists that his identity has been stolen. Antipholus of Ephesus responds to the confusing situation with the threat of a violent outburst.
Having heard all this noise, Adriana comes to the door from inside and asks who is outside. Antipholus of Ephesus calls her his wife, and Adriana is shocked, telling this man whom she thinks is a stranger (because Antipholus of Syracuse is inside the house already) to leave. Antipholus is ready to break down the door, and tells Dromio of Ephesus to get “an iron crow” for this purpose.
Balthazar advises Antipholus not to break down the door, as this would raise suspicions about his and his wife’s relationship. He tells Antipholus to get dinner elsewhere and return home later that night to ask his wife why she is barring the door, when fewer people will see any altercation between them. Antipholus is persuaded and suggests they go to dinner with “a wench of excellent discourse” he knows, about whom his wife has “upbraided” him. He tells Angelo to meet him later with the necklace he has ordered.
Balthazar advises Antipholus not to raise any suspicions about the state of his marriage (which is evidently far from perfect). Antipholus has been spending time with another woman, to whom he now goes for dinner. He is still very concerned with the gold necklace that he plans to buy from Angelo.