Comedy of Errors



Like many of Shakespeare's plays, The Comedy of Errors was adapted and rewritten extensively, particularly from the 18th century on, with varying reception from audiences.

Classical Adaptations

  • Every Body Mistaken is a 1716 "revival" and directorial adaptation of Shakespeare's play by an anonymous author.[9]
  • See If You Like It; or, 'Tis All a Mistake, an anonymous adaptation staged in 1734 at Covent Garden, performed in two acts with text from Plautus and Shakespeare. Shakespeare purists considered it to be the "worst alteration" available.[10][11]
  • The Twins, by Thomas Hull produced an adaptation for Covent Garden in 1739, where Hull played Aegon. This production was more faithful to Shakespeare's text, and played for several years.[12] This adaptation performed only once in 1762, and was published in 1770. Hull adapted the play a second time as The Comedy of Errors. With Alterations from Shakespeare. This version was staged frequently from 1779 onward, and was published in 1793.[13] Hull added songs, intensified the love interest, and elaborated the recognition scene. He also expanded roles for women, including Adriana's cousin Hermia, who sang various songs.[14]
  • The Twins; or, Which is Which? A Farce. In Three Acts by William Woods, published in 1780. Produced at the Theatre-Royal, Edinburgh.[15] This adaptation reduced the play to a three-act farce, apparently believing that a longer run time should "pall upon an audience." John Philip Kemble (see below) seemed to have extended and based his own adaptation upon The Twins. [16]
  • Oh! It's Impossible by John Philip Kemble, was produced in 1780. This adaptation caused a stir by casting the two Dromios as black-a-moors.[17] It was acted in York, but not printed.[18] Later, nearly 20 years after slavery had been abolished within British domains, James Boaden wrote, "I incline to think [Kemble's] maturer judgement would certainly have consigned the whole impression to the flames.") [19]

Modern Adaptations

  • The Flying Karamazov Brothers performed a unique adaptation, produced by Robert Woodruff, first at the Goodman Theater in Chicago in 1983, and then again in 1987 at New York's Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center. This latter presentation was filmed and aired on MTV and PBS. [1]
  • The Comedy of Errors adapted and directed by Sean Graney in 2010 updated Shakespeare's text to modern language, with occasional Shakespearean text, for The Court Theatre. The play appears to be more of a "translation" into modern-esque language, than a reimagination.[20] The play received mixed reviews, mostly criticizing Graney's modern interpolations and abrupt ending.[21]
  • 15 Villainous Fools, written and performed by Olivia Atwood and Maggie Seymour, a two-woman clown duo, produced by The 601 Theatre Company.[22][23] The play performed several times, premiering in 2015 at Bowdoin College, before touring fringe festivals including Portland, San Diego, Washington, DC, Providence, and New York City. Following this run, the show was picked up by the People's Improv Theater for an extended run.[24] While the play included pop culture references and original raps, it kept true to Shakespeare's text for the characters of the Dromios.[25]
  • A Comedy of Heirors, or The Imposters by feminist verse playwright, Emily C. A. Snyder, performed a staged reading through Turn to Flesh Productions in 2017, featuring Abby Wilde as Glorielle of Syracuse. The play received acclaim, being named a finalist with the American Shakespeare Center, as part of the Shakespeare's New Contemporaries program,[26] as well as "The Top 15 NYC Plays of '17" by A Work Unfinishing.[27] The play focuses on two sets of female twins, who also interact with Shakespeare's Antipholi. The play is in conversation with several of Shakespeare's comedies, including characters from The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and Much Ado About Nothing.


  • On 27 December 1786, the opera Gli equivoci by Stephen Storace received its première at the Burgtheater in Vienna. The libretto, by Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart's frequent librettist, worked off a French translation of Shakespeare's play, follows the play's plot fairly closely, though some characters were renamed, Aegeon and Emilia are cut, and Euphemio (previously Antipholus) and Dromio are shipwrecked on Ephesus.[28][29]
  • Frederic Reynolds staged an operatic version in 1819, with music by Henry Bishop supplemented lyrics from various Shakespeare plays, and sonnets set to melodies by Mozart, Thomas Arrne, and others.[30] The opera performed at Covent Gardens under Charles Kemble's management. The opera included several additional scenes from the play, which were considered necessary for the sake of introducing songs. The same operatic adaptation was revived in 1824 for Drury Lane.[31]
  • Various other adaptations were performed down to 1855 when Samuel Phelps revived the Shakespearean original at Sadler's Wells Theatre.[32]
  • The Czech composer Iša Krejčí's 1943 opera Pozdvižení v Efesu (Turmoil in Ephesus) is also based on the play.[33]


The play has been adapted as a musical several times, frequently by inserting period music into the light comedy. Some musical adaptations include a Victorian musical comedy (Arts Theatre, Cambridge, England, 1951), Brechtian folk opera (Arts Theatre, London, 1956), and a two-ring circus (Delacorte Theater, New York, 1967).

Fully original musical adaptations include:

  • The Boys from Syracuse, composed by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Lorenz Hart. The play premiered on Broadway in 1938 and Off-Broadway in 1963, with later productions including a West End run in 1963 and in a Broadway revival in 2002. A film adaptation was released in 1940.
  • A New Comedy of Errors, or Too Many Twins (1940), adapted from Plautus, Shakespeare, and Moliere, staged in modern dress at London's Mercury Theatre.[34][35]
  • [[The Comedy of Errors (musical)

The Comedy of Errors (1972) adaptation by James McCloskey, music and lyrics by Bruce Kimmel. Premiered at Los Angeles City College and went on to the American College Theatre Festival.

|A Comedy of Errors]] is a musical with book and lyrics by Trevor Nunn, and music by Guy Woolfenden. It was produced for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1976, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for best musical on its transfer to the West End in 1977.

  • Oh, Brother! is a musical comedy in one act, with music by Michael Valenti and books and lyrics by Donald Driver, which premiered at ANTA THeatre in 1981, also directed by Driver. The musical takes place during a revolution in an oil rich Middle Eastern country on the Persian Gulf in a quaint resort town where its populace of merchants and revolutionaries mix Eastern tradition with Western consumerism.[36] Unfortunately, the New York Times gave it a poor review, criticizing Driver's heavy handedness, while praising some of the music and performances.[37][38]
  • The Bomb-itty of Errors, a one-act hip-hop musical adaptation, by Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory J. Qaiyum, Jeffrey Qaiyum, and Erik Weinner, won 1st Prize at HBO's Comedy Festival and was nominated opposite Stephen Sondheim for the Best Lyrics Drama Desk Award in 2001.[39]


In India, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar adapted Shakespeare's play in his Bengali novel Bhranti Bilash (1869). Vidyasagar's efforts were part of the process of championing Shakespeare and the Romantics during the Bengal Renaissance.[40][41]


The film Big Business (1988) is a modern take on A Comedy of Errors, with female twins instead of male. Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin star in the film as two sets of twins separated at birth, much like the characters in Shakespeare's play.

Indian cinema has made eight films based on the play:

  • Do Dooni Char starring Kishore Kumar
  • Angoor, starring Sanjeev Kumar
  • Bhrantibilas (1963 Bengali film) starring Uttam Kumar
  • A movie in the Kannada language titled Ulta Palta starring Ramesh Aravind
  • A movie in the Telugu language titled Ulta Palta starring Rajendra Prasad
  • A movie in the Tulu language titled Aamait Asal Eemait Kusal starring Naveen D Padil
  • Double Di Trouble (2014 Punjabi Film) directed by Smeep Kang and starring Dharmendra, Gippy Grewal.
  • Local Kung Fu 2 (2017 Assamese martial arts film).

In 1940 the film The Boys from Syracuse was released, starring Alan Jones and Joe Penner as Antipholus and Dromio. It was a musical, loosely based on "Comedy of Errors".


  • Roger Daltrey played both Dromios in the BBC complete works series directed by James Cellan Jones in 1983.
  • A two-part TV adaptation was produced in 1978 in the USSR, with a Russian–Georgian cast of notable stage actors.
  • In the Yes Prime Minister episode "The Patron of the Arts" Prime Minister James Hacker complains that "they [the National Theatre] set The Comedy of Errors in Number 10 Downing Street".

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