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In the first1 place now, Spectators, at the commencement, do I wish health and happiness2 to myself and to you.I bring you Plautus, with my tongue, not with my hand: I beg that you will receive him with favouring ears. Now learn the argument, and give your attention; in as few words as possible will I be brief. And, in fact, this subject is a Greek one; still, it is not an Attic3, but a Sicilian one. But in their Comedies the poets do this; they feign that all the business takes place at Athens4, in order that it may appear the more Grecian to you. I will not tell you that this matter happened anywhere except where it is said to have happened. This has been my preface to the subject of this play. Now will I give the subject, meted out to you, not in a measure, nor yet in a threefold measure5, but in the granary itself; so great is my heartiness in telling you the plot.

There was a certain aged man, a merchant at Syracuse6; to him two sons were born, twins, children so like in appearance that their own foster-mother7, who gave the breast, was not able to distinguish them, nor even the mother herself who had given them birth; as a person, indeed, informed me who had seen the children; I never saw them, let no one of you fancy so. After the children were now seven years old, the father freighted a large ship with much merchandize. The father put one of the twins on board the ship, and took him away, together with himself, to traffic at Tarentum8; the other one he left with his mother at home. By accident, there were games at Tarentum when he came there: many persons, as generally happens at the games, had met together; the child strayed away there from his father among the people. A certain merchant of Epidamnus was there; he picked up the child, and carried it away to Epidamnus9. But its father, after he had lost the child, took it heavily to heart, and through grief at it he died a few days after at Tarentum. Now, after news reached the grandfather of the children at home about this matter, how that one of the children had been stolen, the grandfather changed the name of that other twin. So much did he love that one which had been stolen, that he gave his name to the one that was at home. That you may not mistake hereafter, I tell you then this beforehand; the name of both the twin-brothers is the same. He gave the same name of Menaechmus to this one as the other had; and by the same name the grandfather himself was called. I remember his name the more easily for the reason that I saw him cried with much noise10. Now must I speed back on foot to Epidamnus, that I may exactly disclose this matter to you. If any one of you11 wishes anything to be transacted for him at Epidamnus, command me boldly and speak out; but on these terms, that he give me the means by which it may be transacted for him. For unless a person gives the money, he will be mistaken; in a lower tone except that he who does give it will be very much more mistaken12. But I have returned to that place whence I set forth, and yet I am standing in the self-same spot. This person of Epidamnus, whom I mentioned just now, that stole that other twin child, had no children, except his wealth. He adopted as his son the child so carried off, and gave him a well-portioned wife, and made him his heir when he himself died. For as, by chance, he was going into the country, when it had rained heavily, entering, not far from the city, a rapid stream, in its rapidity13 it threw the ravisher of the child off his legs; and hurried the man away to great and grievous destruction. And so a very large fortune fell to that youth. Here pointing to the house does the stolen twin now dwell. Now that twin, who dwells at Syracuse, has come this day to Epidamnus with his servant to make enquiry for this own twin-brother of his. This is the city of Epidamnus while this play is acting; when another shall be acted, it will become another town; just as our companies, too, are wont to be shifted about. The same person now acts the procurer, now the youth, now the old man, the pauper, the beggar, the king, the parasite, the soothsayer ...

1 In the first: This Play was the foundation of Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors. See the Note at the end of the Play.

2 Health and happiness: "Salutem propitiam." Literally, "propitious health."

3 It is not an Attic: "Graecissat, Atticissat, Sicelissat." Perhaps these words might be more literally translated, "Graecize," "Atticize," and "Sicilicize."

4 At Athens: As the majority of the Greek Comic Poets were either natives of, or residents at, Athens, they would naturally take that extensive, opulent, and bustling city as the scene of many of their Comedies. In the time of Plautus, Greek was yet the language of the Sicilians. In Cicero's time the language of the Sicilians was a mixture, partly Greek and partly Latin. Apuleius informs us that in his day they spoke Greek, Latin, and a language peculiar to themselves, called the Sicilian.

5 A threefold measure: "Trimodius." This was a measure for corn, consisting of three "modii," which last contained about a peck of English measure.

6 At Syracuse: Syracuse was the principal city of Sicily famed for its commerce and opulence.

7 Foster-mother: "Mater." Literally, "mother."

8 At Tarentum: Tarentum was a city of Calabria, in the south of Italy. It was said to have been founded by the Lacedaemonians.

9 To Epidamnus: Epidamnus, or Epidamnum, was a town of Macedonia, situate on the Adriatic Sea. It was much resorted to for the purpose of transit to the opposite shores of Italy. It received its original name from Epidamnus, one of its kings but on falling into the possession of the Romans, they changed its name, as we are informed by Pliny the Elder, into Dyrrachium, from a superstitious notion that when hey were going to "Epidamnum," they were going "to their loss," as "damnum" is the Latin for "loss" or "destruction," and ἐπί is the Greek preposition signifying "to." Cicero was banished to this place.

10 Cried with much noise: Probably the word "flagitarier" means that the lost child was cried publicly by the "praeco," or "crier."

11 If any one of you: This is said facetiously to the Audience for the purpose of catching a laugh.

12 Very much more mistaken: Because he will keep the money and not execute the commission.

13 In its rapidity: He means to pun upon the words "rapidus," rapid" or "carrying away," and "raptor," the "carrier away" or "ravisher." "The stream carried away the carrier away"

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