The unfortunate Egeon of Syracuse is being led to his execution in Ephesus. He's been found guilty of the very serious crime of traveling between the two cities. Syracuse and Ephesus don't get on very well; they're commercial rivals and perceive each other as serious strategic and economic threats. Relations are so strained between the two cities that anyone from Syracuse caught in Ephesus must pay a heavy fine of 1,000 marks. If they're unable to pay, then they will be executed. Unfortunately for Egeon, he doesn't have any money, hence his being led off to be executed. Thankfully, however, Egeon is able to earn the sympathy of Solinus, the Duke of Ephesus, who gives him the opportunity to save his life. Egeon has twenty-four hours to find someone who'll pay for his ransom. If not, then the law must take its course.