Being late for lunch which will subject him to his wife’s anger, Antipholus of Ephesus urges Angelo the jeweler, who—along with Balthazar the merchant—has been invited to dine with Antipholus, to explain to Adriana the cause of Antipholus’ tardiness; namely, the making of the necklace that Antipholus has commissioned Angelo to make on behalf of his wife. Antipholus then turns to his servant Dromio of Ephesus and demands an explanation of Dromio’s claim that Antipholus had demanded Dromio of a thousand marks, and Dromio’s claim that Antipholus had denied of ever having a wife and a house. Dromio swears that Antipholus had thus demanded of him, and that he—Dromio—had gotten beaten for merely stating the facts.
Presently, as the party arrives at Antipholus’ home the Phoenix, the party finds itself locked out. As Antipholus exchanges a kind word with Balthazar, Dromio of Ephesus knocks and calls out for the doors to be opened only to be rebuffed within by Dromio of Syracuse. When Dromio of Syracuse identifies himself as Dromio, Dromio of Ephesus, on account of his strange day during which he has been beaten for merely doing his job, argues that the man within would have done well to assume another identity. By and by, despite Antipholus of Ephesus’ threats, Adriana’s servant Luce and Adriana herself join Dromio of Syracuse in rebuffing the party.
Confounded, Antipholus decides to break the door down and orders Dromio to fetch him an iron crowbar. As Dromio does as he’s told, Balthazar, arguing that Antipholus’ wife probably has a good reason for doing as she’s doing, persuades Antipholus to forbear breaking into his own house lest his reputation suffer as a result and the stain follow him to his grave. Indeed, he persuades Antipholus to return later alone in the evening and for now to dine with him and Angelo somewhere else.
Having decided to do as Balthazar suggests, Antipholus asks Angelo to fetch the necklace and to meet him and Balthazar at the Porpentine where they will dine. Antipholus explains that, to teach his wife a lesson, he intends to make a gift of the necklace to the Porpentine’s hostess, a woman whom Adriana has been particularly critical of.
Adriana’s sister Luciana scolds Antipholus of Syracuse for being unreceptive to Adriana’s love, and urges him that if he had married Adriana for her wealth, then at least for wealth’s sake, to feign loving her as there is nothing worse than confirming one’s expired love for a loved one with signs indicating that to be the case. However, Antipholus argues that if Luciana is some sort of goddess and she would have him do her will, then she were best to make him do her will with her godly powers. Otherwise, i.e. if Antipholus is the master of his own will, he would have Luciana know that he had never married Adriana, and he never would if given the choice of marrying her, and that if he is to marry anyone, then that person would be Luciana with whom Antipholus has presently fallen in love. Dismissing Antipholus’ claims as nonsense, Luciana goes to fetch Adriana.
Presently, distraught, Dromio of Syracuse appears. When asked about the cause of his distress, Dromio refers to Luce, a.k.a. Nell, Adriana’s unattractive kitchen wench who claims that Dromio is betrothed to her. When asked how unattractive, Dromio replies that she is so swarthy that not all the waters of Noah’s flood could clean her face. As to her figure, Dromio explains that it resembles a globe with her buttocks representing Ireland, her chin England, and her nose, which is embellished with carbuncles, America and the Indies. What Dromio finds most disturbing, however, is the incontrovertible fact that Luciana knows Dromio’s body as if they were intimate lovers on account of which Dromio has fled Luciana as if she were a witch into the bargain.
Subsequently, determined to flee from Ephesus altogether, Antipholus orders Dromio to go to the shore, to find out what ships will be sailing today, and to report to Antipholus at the market where Antipholus will presently go to avoid further entanglements with Luciana and Adriana. Thus Antipholus is wandering in the market when Angelo the jeweler comes upon him. Citing his tardiness in going to the Porpentine on account of the necklace which required additional work to have it complete, Angelo gives Antipholus the necklace, and tells him that he’ll collect his fee later when he joins Antipholus for dinner. Antipholus argues that he never commissioned the making of the necklace to no avail; Angelo hands Antipholus the necklace and Antipholus accepts it on account of its excellent craftsmanship. Presently, arguing that Angelo may never see Antipholus again, Antipholus tries to pay Angelo only to be told to pay later when they meet up in Antipholus' house.