The Comedy of Errors (1983)

A BBC production

Directed by James Cellan Jones


Summary: This BBC production for television is faithful to the text of Shakespeare's play in terms of scenes and lines. The film opens with a colorful, exotic urban scene where dances and an acrobatic show in a fair envelope the crowd. Amid the festivities in this pleasant city of Ephesus, however, the threat of mortality is present. Egeon, a merchant from Syracuse, is condemned to death by the Duke of Ephesus because of "the mortal and intestine jars" between Egeon's country and Ephesus: a penalty resulting from the enmity between two countries. Egeon tells a story about the fortune of his family: his wife bore twins, and a family servant also bore twins on the very same day. The twin servants were brought up to serve the twin sons. A storm at sea divided the family when Egeon with one son and one servant was divided from his wife, the other son and servant. After years had passed, the son who remained with Egeon, called Antipholus of Syracuse, left home to look for his twin brother. Accompanied by solemn background music, the Duke and the crowd were touched by Egeon's story. The Duke thus postponed the execution and promised that if anyone wanted to pay the fine of 1000 marks, Egeon would be set free.

Shortly after this, Antipholus of Syracuse arrives in Syracuse and is warned by a merchant not to reveal his nationality. He then is mis-recognized by Dromio of Ephesus who had been sent by Adriana, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, to call his master back to dinner. Because of the large sum of money that Dromio of Syracuse was supposed to carry for him, Antipholus of Syracuse--hearing no response about the money--beats Dromio of Ephesus.

In the house of Antipholus of Ephesus, Adriana and her sister Luciana talk about a husband's mastery over his wife. Adriana is jealous and afraid that her fading beauty might make her husband turn to other woman. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant Dromio of Syracuse, in the meantime, talk in the street about money. Adriana and Luciana go to the street, mistakenly identify them, and take them home to dinner. The two men are amazed; Dromio says "this is the fairy land, I am transformed."

Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant Dromio, unable to get into his house, decide to dine instead at a courtesan's place. In the house, Luciana tells Antipholus of Syracuse that woman should obey men, and Antipholus of Syracuse shows his passion to her. In the street, Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse use geographical tropes to describe the kitchen maid who professes her love to Dromio. A goldsmith gives Antipholus of Syracuse a golden chain; although he claims he did not order one, he still takes the chain.

The second part of the film begins with Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus's return from the courtesan. They talk with the goldsmith, and the goldsmith asks Antipholus of Ephesus for the chain, and he replies that he did not receive it. A second merchant wants money from Angelo the goldsmith. Then he orders Angelo to be arrested, and Angelo orders Antipholus of Ephesus to be arrested. They are taken away by the policeman.

Dromio of Syracuse tells Adriana about the arrest, and she gives him money to save Antipholus of Ephesus. But Dromio of Syracuse gives the money to Antipholus of Syracuse who is being greeted by people in the street and feels strange. Then the courtesan accuses him of taking her ring away. On the other side, going with the policeman, Antipholus of Ephesus beats Dromio of Ephesus who had no money and brings a rope's end. Adriana, Luciana, the courtesan and the schoolmaster Pinch enter. Pinch complains that he received a painful beating from Antipholus of Ephesus. Everyone narrates their fragmentary narratives about the strange events of that day.

The merchant and Angelo argue against Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse because of the chain. Adriana, Luciana and the courtesan come and a chaotic chase scene begins. Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse run and hide in the Priory. Emilia, the Abbess, refuses to allow the family to fetch Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse. At the same time, the Duke and his followers bring Egeon for execution. A messenger rushes in and tells the Duke that Antipholus of Ephesus has beat Pinch and other people. Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus enter seeking justice. Seeing Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus, Egeon claims this is his son and servant, while Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus deny it. The Duke tries to synthesize all these strange things. Then the gate of the Priory opens; Emilia and Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse enter. People are amazed at two Antipholus and two Dromio. Emilia states that she is Egeon's wife. All the confused identities are resolved, and the family is reunited. The Duke pardons Egeon and spares his life. The film ends, like the opening scene, with the colorful carnival dances and acrobatic show.


Other Reviews:

Aegeon of Syracuse has come to Ephesus to seek his son, who went in search of his missing twin and mother months ago. Too bad that Ephesus has just declared war on Syracuse, and will instantly put to death any Syracusean found within their borders unless a ransome's paid. Meanwhile, the son, Antipholus, and his servant, Dromio (also an identical twin), keep running into strangers who seem to know them...

Summary written by Kathy Li {}

Quoted from IMDB


To cast one Roger Daltrey may be regarded as a misfortune. To cast two looks like carelessness. This is a woefully clunky piece of film-making, and its biggest mistake is to use sophisticated special effects (sorry, awkward split-screen work) so that the same actors can play both identical twins. The BBC series is always over-literal in its interpretations, and this is a classic example; when the two Roger Daltreys and the two Michael Kitchens are identical to the point of pristine perfection, the story is actually made even less realistic than it was before. And it's also made less interesting; the actors don't play each twin as having a different personality, so it's difficult to tell who is who, and even more difficult to care. (Quite apart from the fact that Daltrey can't act...) Unintentional humour: check out the under-rehearsed actors who attempt to mime Egeon's story of his travels. It's really funny in a painful kind of way.

Quoted from IMDB