David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors: A Retelling Act 4, Scene 1

— 4.1 —

In a public place stood three people: the goldsmith Angelo, a merchant to whom he owed money, and a police officer who was dressed in the tough leather uniform that the police officers of Ephesus customarily wore for protection.

The merchant said to Angelo, “You know that the money you owe me was due at Pentecost, which is always fifty days after Easter, counting Easter as one of the days. I have not much bothered you by asking for the money you owe to me, and I would not do so now, but I must travel to Persia, and therefore I need money for my voyage. Therefore, pay me immediately, or I will be forced to have this police officer arrest you for bad debt.”

Angelo courteously replied, “Nearly the same amount of money that I owe you is owed to me by Antipholus. Just before I met you, I gave him a necklace that he is going to pay me for at five o’clock. If you would, please walk with me to his house. He will pay me the money he owes me, and I will pay you the money I owe you with my thanks.”

Antipholus of Ephesus and Dromio of Ephesus now arrived on the scene, having just left the courtesan.

The police officer saw them and said, “You need not walk to his house. Antipholus has saved you that labor — he is walking toward us now.”

Antipholus of Ephesus said to Dromio of Ephesus, “While I go to the goldsmith’s house, you go and buy a piece of rope. I will use it to brandish as I shout at my wife and her confederates for locking me out of my own house today. That is the gift I will bestow on her and them. I see the goldsmith. Go, Dromio. Buy a piece of rope and take it to me at my house.”

I am buying a thousand pounds a year. I am buying a piece of rope, Dromio thought. I am being sarcastic, of course. Even if I bought a piece of rope every day for a year, the weight would not add up to a thousand pounds. I know that my master would not really hurt his wife, so the piece of rope I will buy will be a piece of thin twine that would not hurt even if it were used as a whip instead of as a stage prop. That will save my master money. I, of course, could well receive a thousand poundings from my master — three beatings a day for a year! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! A smart schoolboy who is sent out to find a branch to be whipped with knows to bring back a twig.

Antipholus of Ephesus said to Angelo, “A man would be well helped if you said that you would help him — ha! I told the courtesan that you would show up for dinner with the necklace, but neither you nor the necklace showed up. Perhaps you thought that you and I would be too friendly if we were chained together, and so you did not come to me with the golden links of the necklace.”

“All joking aside, Antipholus, here is the bill for the necklace,” Angelo said. “It lists how much your necklace weighs to the exact carat, and it describes the fineness of the necklace’s gold and its intricate workmanship. The total cost amounts to three ducats more than I owe to this gentleman. Please, pay him immediately because he is about to go on a voyage and stays here only to receive the money.”

“I don’t have the money on me,” Antipholus of Ephesus said. “Besides, I have some business to take care of in town. Good Signior, take the stranger to my house and take the necklace with you and tell my wife to pay you the sum you have written on the bill. I will try to take care of my business quickly and may be able to return soon enough to see you at my house.”

Angelo asked, “Then you will bring the necklace to your wife yourself?”

“No. Take the necklace with you in case I do not quickly arrive.”

“Well, sir, I will. Do you have the necklace?”

“If I don’t have the necklace, then, sir, I hope you have it. If you don’t, you will not get any money from me.”

“Please, sir, give me the necklace,” Angelo said. “Both wind and tide are waiting for this gentleman, and I am to blame for having held him here so long.”

“Good Lord! You are using this tarrying to excuse the breach of your promise to meet me at the Porcupine! I should have criticized you for not bringing the necklace to me there, but like a shrewish man, you were the first to begin to brawl.”

The merchant said to Angelo, “The time is passing. Please, sir, pay me.”

Angelo said to Antipholus of Ephesus, “You hear how he importunes me for his money. Please give me the necklace!”

“Why, give the necklace to my wife and she will give you your money.”

“Come, come, you know I gave the necklace to you just a few minutes ago. Either give me the necklace to give to your wife or give me a note that tells your wife to give me the money.”

Antipholus of Ephesus said to Angelo, “You are running this joke into the ground. Where is the necklace? Let me see it, please.”

The merchant said to Angelo, “My business is urgent and cannot wait for this delay.”

The merchant then said to Antipholus of Ephesus, “Good sir, say whether you’ll pay me or not. If you will not, I will have the police officer arrest Angelo.”

“I pay you! Why should I pay you!”

Angelo said, “You should pay him the money you owe me for the necklace.”

“I don’t owe you anything until you deliver the necklace to me.”

“You know that I gave you the necklace half an hour ago.”

“You did not give me a necklace. You wrong me much when you say that you did.”

“You wrong me more, sir, when you say that you did not receive the necklace. Think how this is going to affect my business reputation!”

The merchant said to the police officer, “Well, officer, arrest Angelo the goldsmith for failing to pay his debt.”

“I do arrest you, Angelo, and I order you in the Duke’s name to obey me.”

“This is going to hurt my business reputation,” Angelo said to Antipholus of Ephesus. “Either consent to pay this sum for me, or I will have this police officer arrest you for failing to pay your debt.”

“You want me to pay for a gold necklace that I never received! Have me arrested, foolish fellow, if you dare.”

Angelo said, “Officer, here is the money for your fee to arrest someone for failure to pay his debt. Arrest Antipholus. I would have my own brother arrested if he should treat me so badly and so openly.”

“I arrest you, sir,” the police officer said. “You have heard the charge made against you.”

“I will obey you until I post bail,” Antipholus of Ephesus said to the police officer.

He then said to Angelo, “Rascal, you shall pay for this with all the metal in your goldsmith’s shop.”

“Sir, sir, you will find that the law in Ephesus is on my side. I do not doubt that you will suffer notorious shame.”

Dromio of Syracuse returned from the harbor and said to Antipholus of Ephesus, “Master, a ship from Epidamnus is staying at Ephesus only until her owner comes aboard, and then, sir, she sails away. I have carried aboard the ship our baggage, and I have bought the oil, the balm, and the liquor you wanted. The ship is rigged and ready to sail, the merry wind blows in the right direction, and the crew is waiting for their owner, captain, and yourself to board ship so they can set sail.”

“What! Are you a madman? Why, you silly sheep, what ship of Epidamnus is waiting for me?”

“The ship you sent me to, to hire passage on it.”

“You drunken slave, I sent you to buy a piece of rope, and I told you why I wanted the rope.”

“It is just as likely that you sent me to buy a noose so that you can hang yourself,” Dromio of Syracuse said. “I repeat, sir, that you sent me to the harbor to find a ship to sail on.”

“I will talk to you later about this, and I will teach your ears to listen to me more carefully,” Antipholus of Ephesus said. “Go to Adriana, you rascal — hurry and go straight to her. Give her this key, and tell her that in the desk that is covered with Turkish tapestry is a bag filled with ducats. Let her send it to me. Tell her that I have been arrested in the street and I need the money to bail myself out of jail. Go, slave, and hurry!”

He said to the police officer, “Let’s go, officer. Take me to prison until I get the bail money.”

The merchant, Angelo, the police officer, and Antipholus of Ephesus all exited.

Dromio of Syracuse said to himself, “I must go to Adriana’s house, which is where we earlier dined, and where Nell, aka Dowsabel, claimed that I was engaged to be her husband. Dowsabel is my name for her when I am being sarcastic. It is derived from the French douce et belle and the Italian dulcibella, meaning ‘sweet and pretty’ or ‘sweetheart.’ There I must go, although against my will, for servants must their masters’ orders fulfill.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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