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COMEDY OF ERRORS.
HE general idea of this play is taken from the Menæchmi of Plautus, but the plot is entirely recast, and rendered much more diverting by the variety and quick succession of the incidents. To the twin brothers of Plautus are added twin servants, and though this increases the improbability, yet, as Schlegel observes, "when once we have lent ourselves to the first, which certainly borders on the incredible, we should not probably be disposed to cavil about the second; and if the spectator is to be entertained with mere perplexities, they cannot be too much varied." The clumsy and inartificial mode of informing the spectator by a prologue of events, which it was necessary for him to be acquainted with in order to enter into the spirit of the piece, is well avoided, and shows the superior skill of the modern dramatist over his ancient prototype. With how much more propriety is it placed in the mouth of Ægeon, the father of the twin brothers, whose character is sketched with such skill as deeply to interest the reader in his griefs and misfortunes. Developement of character, however, was not to be expected in a piece which consists of an uninterrupted series of mistakes and laughter-moving situations. Steevens most resolutely maintains his opinion that this was a play only retouched by the hand of Shakespeare, but he has not given the grounds upon which his opinion was formed. We may suppose the doggerel verses of the dramas and the want of distinct characterization in the Dramatis Personæ, together with the farcelike nature of some of the incidents, made him draw this conclusion. Malone has given a satisfactory answer to the first objection, by adducing numerous examples of the same kind of long verse from the dramas of several of his contemporaries; and that Shakespeare was swayed by custom in introducing it into his early plays there can be no doubt; for it should be remembered that this kind of versification is to be found in Love's Labour's Lost, and in The