Cue “yakety sax”.
Aegeon is in prison. Why? Because he is from Syracuse, but found himself in Ephesus; and, because the respective dukes of those towns don’t like each other, to be from one town, but in another means either $1,000 or death. Poor Aegeon is in fact poor, so he doesn’t even have $100. He’s pretty content to just die though because his life has been nothing but misery. The Duke asks him why he came to Ephesus in the first place, which prompts a very sad tale.
Aegeon was a wealthy merchant who travelled often to other ports. His wife, Aemelia, decided to follow him on one journey and shortly after she arrived she gave birth to two sons. Fortunately, another woman gave birth to twins, so he bought them and raised them to serve his sons. Before long his wife wanted to return home, so they sailed for home early. Then, they were caught in a horrible storm and the sailors, fearing for their lives, left the family to fend for themselves. The wife fastened herself, one of her sons and one of the servant boys to one mast, and Aegeon did the same to himself and the other twins to a different mast. The storm began to break and then they saw two ships – one from Epidarus and one from Corinth – descending on them.
Aegeon tried to stop here, but the Duke was too interested to let him stop.
As the ships came toward them, they hit a big rock that split the ship in two. His wife’s side was carried away and some fishermen from Corinth picked him up with his son and baby servant.
The Duke asks what he’s been doing all these years.
Well, Aegeon’s son wondered whatever happened to his brother and asked if he could go on a quest with his manservant, who missed his brother so much that he kept his name. They went off, but Aegeon missed his only known son and traveled to find him. He was on his way home when he stopped in Ephesus.
The Duke was moved by this sad tale. So moved that he was almost willing to spare Aegeon, but laws and stuff got in the way. He asked the jailer to help Aegeon find the $1,000 he needed to be spared.
A merchant is telling Antipholus of Syracuse all about Aegeon while he returns the money he kept for Antipholus S. Antipholus hands the money to Dromio, his servant, to take to the inn. Dromio S. runs off. Antipholus muses about how funny Dromio is before saying goodbye to the merchant.
Then, Antipholus talks to himself about he is on an epic quest to find his long lost brother.
Just then Dromio of Ephesus enters. Antipholus S. wonders how he could be back so soon. Dromio E. explains that he’s actually quite late since his mistress sent him to fetch Antipholus for dinner. Antipholus tells him to stop being silly and tell him where the money is. Dromio E. doesn’t have any money. The last time he had money was when he was sent to buy something for his mistress. Antipholus S. doesn’t find this funny at all. They go back and forth for awhile. Antipholus S. asking about his money and Dromio E. begging him to come to dinner before his wife gets mad.
Eventually, Antipholus gets so mad that he beats Dromio E. until he runs off. Antipholus S. becomes suspicious that there is some sort of witchcraft afoot.