The play is a modernized adaptation of Menaechmi by Plautus. As William Warner's translation of the classical drama was entered into the Register of the Stationers Company on 10 June 1594, published in 1595, and dedicated to Lord Hunsdon, the patron of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, it has been supposed that Shakespeare might have seen the translation in manuscript before it was printed – though it is equally possible that he knew the play in the original Latin, as Plautus was part of the curriculum of grammar school students.
The play contains a topical reference to the wars of succession in France, which would fit any date from 1589 to 1595. Charles Whitworth argues that The Comedy of Errors was written "in the latter part of 1594" on the basis of historical records and textual similarities with other plays Shakespeare wrote around this time. The play was not published until it appeared in the First Folio in 1623.