Years ago, the merchant Egeon was sailing with his wife, twin sons and two servants when a shipwreck divided his family. He, along with one twin son and one servant, was rescued by a passing ship; a separate ship saved his wife and the other twin son and servant. Egeon and the boys settled in Syracuse.
Now an adult, Egeon’s son Antipholus of Syracuse, sets out with his servant Dromio to find their lost brothers. When they fail to return, Egeon began to search for them as well as the other twin and his lost wife. His search brings him to Ephesus, a town traditionally hostile to Syracuse. Each town has decreed death to any citizen from the rival precinct. Egeon is discovered, and Duke Solinus sentences him to death. Egeon accepts his impending death as a means to end his grief and misery. Hearing this, Solinus extends a one-day stay of execution to allow Egeon to raise bail money to escape death.
Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse arrive in Ephesus on the same day, and the master sends his servant to put away some money for safekeeping in the inn where they are staying. Shortly, Dromio of Ephesus runs into the visiting Antipholus. Thinking him his master, he urges him to return home posthaste for dinner. Antipholus of Syracuse asks Dromio if the money is safe. Confused, he denies knowledge of any money, and after getting beaten for his pains, runs away.
Confronted with a familiar scene of waiting for her husband, Adriana, wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, and her sister Luciana discuss the plight of married women. Adriana’s servant Dromio interrupts and recounts his strange encounter with Antipholus. Adriana sets out to fetch her husband and encounters the visiting Antipholus and Dromio. When the local Antipholus and Dromio reach their home, they find themselves locked out. Enraged, he goes to a Courtesan and gives her the gold necklace he’d intended for his wife.
Episodes of mistaken identity continue, following a pattern: The visiting Antipholus receives good fortune while the local Antipholus experiences such misfortune that he feels like a foreigner in his own community.
Antipholus of Syracuse courts Luciana, who rejects his advances because she believed he is her sister’s husband. Antipholus of Ephesus is arrested for refusing to pay for the gold necklace that was mistakenly delivered to his twin brother earlier that day. The Courtesan demands the promised necklace from Antipholus of Syracuse, which causes him to flee. Adriana, Luciana and the Courtesan hire Dr. Pinch to cure Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus of what they perceive as madness, and the doctor takes the pair away. The Syracusan master and slave escape through the streets and find sanctuary in a nearby priory with the Abbess.
Meanwhile, Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus escape Dr. Pinch and meet their household outside the priory. Duke Solinus enters with Egeon on his way to be executed, and the Abbess appears with Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse. The family reunion is completed, which includes a revelation that Egeon’s wife also resides in Ephesus. Solinus pardons Egeon.