Antipholus of Syracuse (hereafter referred to as Antipholus of S.) takes his leave of a friendly merchant and bids his servant Dromio of S. to take the 1,000 marks he has with him to their lodgings for safekeeping. Meanwhile, he says, he'll "view the manners of the town" and "go lose myself." The plot complications develop immediately as Dromio of E., an exact look-alike of the other Dromio, enters and bids Antipholus of S., thinking of course that he is Antipholus of E., to come home for dinner for "the clock hath strucken twelve" and "your worship's wife" has been kept waiting. In no mood for dilly-dallying with a mischievous servant, Antipholus thumps the uncomprehending Dromio about the head, and as he runs off, Antipholus groans with the "knowledge" that he has been cheated out of 1,000 marks by a wily bondsman.
As scene 1 strikes a chord of gloom to open the comedy, scene 2 introduces a sense of disorientation and confusion. Like his father, Antipholus of S. is near despair of ever finding his brother and mother:
I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop. (33–34)
Several times he speaks of "losing himself," and with the first comical (to the audience) mistaking of servants, he seems to have lost his financial security as well. Ephesus has a reputation for strange goings-on:
They say this town is full of cozenage:
As nimble jugglers that deceive the eye,
Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind,
Soul-killing witches that deform the body,
Disguised cheaters. . . . (96–100)
And Shakespeare will make much in the course of the play of bizarre, dream-like effects apparently brought on by pure chance.