The play is about a merchant from Syracuse named Egeon who is mistakenly apprehended in Ephesus, a rival city of Syracuse. He is condemned to death for breaking a law about travelling between two cities and the only way to get rid of this situation is to give one hundred marks as ransom. However, the old merchant is unable to collect the money. Solinus, the duke of the city, asks him about his reason of travelling to this city and then Egeon narrates his sad story. Some years ago, he and his wife Emilia became the parents of two identical twin sons who were both named Antipholus. They bought another identical set of twin boys, born on the same hour, as the slaves of their own sons and named both of them Dromio. After few years, the family were separated in a shipwreck. Egeon, one of his sons and one of the slaves were rescued by one ship and the others were rescued by another ship. After some years, his son and the slave left Syracuse in search of the rest of the family, but on their failure to return after five years, Egeon too left Syracuse to search for them. Unfortunately, he got arrested in Ephesus. Though the duke is moved by his sad story, he affirms that he will not break the law. However, he does give Egeon additional time until sunset to collect the money. Being helpless, Egeon goes out to the city in search of assistance from someone.
Meanwhile, unknown to the fact that his father is here, the Antipholus of Syracuse and his slave arrive at Ephesus. As they know about the travel law, they pretend to be from another city. He sends his slave to the Centaur Inn with their money and stuff. The Antipholus of Syracuse is not aware of the fact that his brother is already living in Ephesus with his wife, Adriana and his slave, Dromio and that he is a favorite of the duke. The comedic error begins when the Dromio of Ephesus catches the Antipholus of Syracuse in the street and mistakenly identifies him to be his master. He tries to take Antipholus with him as Adriana has ordered him to bring his master home for dinner. Antipholus too is under the impression that it is his slave Dromio and thus, he asks him about their money. However, when the other Dromio is not able to say anything about the money, he becomes angry and slaps him. Worried about his own safety, the Dromio of Ephesus leaves Antipholus of Syracuse and flees to the Centaur Inn. On the other hand, Adriana is waiting for her husband and their slave and she becomes quite impatient. Her younger sister Luciana rebukes her for that and says this is not the behavior of a dutiful wife. As the both sisters debate upon this matter, the slave returns and discloses to them about the unusual behavior of his master. Adriana again sends him to bring her husband back and assumes that maybe her husband is having an affair.
Antipholus finds relief in knowing that his slave has successfully managed to keep his luggage and wealth safe. He roams around the city and soon finds the Dromio of Syracuse who remembers nothing about their earlier conversation (beforehand, it was the Dromio of Ephesus). This enrages Antipholus but he soon calms down after his slave cracks a bald joke. Meanwhile, the two sisters find the Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse and mistake them to be the pair from Ephesus. Adriana takes the confused Antipholus home, yelling at him for acting like an infidel and breaking their marriage promise. He gets neither head nor tail of the situation but decides to play along. They enter the house of Antipholus of Ephesus while Dromio guards the door of the house. Meanwhile, Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus return from the marketplace with Angelo and Balthasar. Antipholus asks his fellow businessmen to vouch for him in case he might have to provide excuses for his wife’s enquiries. When he approaches his house, Dromio of Syracuse stops them from entering. Enraged, he plans on breaking down the door but stops at the advice of Balthasar. He sends his friends away and plans on having food with Porpentine.
Luciana and Antipholus of Syracuse talk to each other. She scolds Antipholus for cheating on her sister. She suggests that even if he plans on cheating on her, to do it in secrecy. To this, he replies that he never loved Adriana but that he actually he fancies Luciana. This makes Luciana run to Adriana to complain about his statement. Meanwhile, Nell mistakes Dromio of Syracuse to be Dromio of Ephesus as the master and slave share a good deal of laugh about Nell being fat, ugly and fearsome. Angelo happens to come across Antipholus of Syracuse and gives him the gold chain he had promised to give to Antipholus of Ephesus. He needs the money soon since a second debtor has threatened him. On the other hand, Antipholus of Ephesus sends Dromio of Ephesus to buy rope so that he can beat his wife and her servant for locking him out. He happens to meet Angelo and greets him but refuses to pay for the chain since he had not received any gold. Thus, Angelo gets him arrested. Dromio of Syracuse mistakes Antipholus of Ephesus to be his master and informs him of the ships that are ready for sail but Antipholus orders him to fetch gold coins form Adriana, which he plans to use to escape prison. Inside the house, Adriana hears about Luciana’s complaint but still attends to save her husband from prison. She somehow feels that she has love left in her for Antipholus of Ephesus.
Antipholus of Syracuse is amazed at being greeted by unknown people greeting him and continuously thanking him for assistances he had never given. Suddenly, Dromio of Syracuse rushes to him with gold, an act of which he becomes unable to make head or tail of. Instead, he asks him about ships that are due to return to Syracuse. During their conversation, the Courtesan approaches the Antipholus of Syracuse and implores him to return her ring to her, which he had borrowed during dinner. They flee from there and she decides to ask money for the ring from Adriana. Meanwhile, Dromio of Ephesus approaches his imprisoned master, the Antipholus of Ephesus, with the ropes he had ordered him to bring earlier. As he plans to give his slave a beating, Adriana, Luciana, Courtesan and Doctor Pinch arrive to cure him of his supposed madness. When he opines that he was outside the house, Adriana deems him crazy as she had clearly brought Antipholus home. Adriana has Antipholus released by assuring the police that all the money borrowed would be paid back. The Courtesan and Angelo both make claims of owing money. During the whole façade, Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse enter the scene with swords drawn and everybody flees. They enter the house to take back whatever belongings they had left there. Before leaving, they make a remark about how even Ephesus witches are afraid of swords.
Angelo and Second Merchant discuss how Antipholus had claimed of never receiving the gold chain. The confusion escalates after Angelo catches Antipholus of Syracuse wearing the gold chain on his neck. Suddenly, they flee to an abbey as Adriana, Luciana and Courtesan enter the scene. Adriana complains about her husband but the Abbess holds Adriana’s jealousy responsible for such a situation. At 5’o clock, Duke Solinus brings in Egeon for execution. However, Adriana interrupts the execution by asking the Duke to help her husband out of an abbey. Soon, Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus come rushing in for justice against Adriana for locking them out and for handing them over to Doctor Pinch. The Abbess is summoned to clear the charges. Next, Egeon greets Antipholus of Ephesus only to mistake him to be his other son, the Antipholus of Syracuse. To clear out the confusion, the Abbess clears all misconceptions by declaring Egeon to be the father of both the Antipholuses. She brings Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse with herself and confesses that she is Egeon’s long lost wife, Emilia. The rest is quickly attended to. The gold chain is paid for and the ring is returned. The play ends with the whole family retiring to the abbey, with the Dromios sauntering together at the end.