« PreviousContinue »
TIMON OF ATHENS.
First printed in the folio of 1623.—At what date it was written we cannot ascertain ; probably about 1610, to which year Malone assigns it.—“The story of the Misanthrope is told in almost every collection of the time, and particularly in two books with which Shakespeare was intimately acquainted; The Palace of Pleasure [by Painter, -see the Twenty-Eighth Novel of vol. i., -“Of the straunge and beastlie nature of Timon of Athens, enemie to man. kinde, with his death, buriall, and epitaphe”], and the English Plutarch [North's translation,
-see the Life of Antony). Indeed, from a passage in an old play called Jack Drum's Entertainment, I conjecture that he had before made his appearance on the stage.” FARMER. “The passage in Jack Drum's Entertainment, or Pasquil and Katherine, 1601, is this ;
• Come [, come, now] I'll be as sociable as Timon of Athens' [sig. B 4]: but the allusion is so slight, that it might as well have been borrowed from Plutarch or the novel." STEEVENS. “There is a Ms. comedy now extant, on the subject of Timon, which, from the hand-writing and the style, appears to be of the age of Shakespeare. In this piece a steward is introduced, under the name of Laches, who, like Flavius in that of our author, endeavours to restrain his master's profusion, and faithfully attends him when he is forsaken by all his other followers. Here too a mock-banquet is given by Timon to his false friends ; but, instead of warm water, stones painted like artichokes are served up, which he throws at his guests. From a line in Shakespeare's play [the last line of act iii.] one might be tempted to think that something of this sort was introduced by him ; though, through the omission of a marginal direction in the only ancient copy of this piece, it has not been customary to exhibit it;
2d Senator. Lord Timon's mad.
I feel't upon my bones. 4th Sen. One day he gives us diamonds, next day stones.' [On which passage Steevens notes ; “As Timon has thrown nothing at his worthless guests except warm water and empty dishes, I am induced, with Mr. Malone, to believe that the more ancient drama had been read by our author, and that he supposed he had introduced from it the painted stones' as part of his banquet; though in reality he had omitted them. The present mention therefore of such missiles appears to want propriety."*] This comedy
1865. “It has been inferred from the mention of stones in this line ['One day he gives us diamonds, next day stones'] that Shakespeare was not unacquainted with the old Academic drama noticed in the Introduction, where 'painted stones' form part of the banquet; but the traces of a feebler hand than his are so evident and so frequent in the present play, that we think, with Mr. Knight, the dialogue which concludes this act was probably a portion of the old piece, which, recast and improved by Shakespeare, forms the tragedy before us. When, in remodelling the stage-business, he caused the feast to consist of warm water in lieu of stones, he perhaps neglected to cancel the line above.” STAUNTON. Perhaps so.
(which is evidently the production of a scholar, many lines of Greek being introduced into it) appears to have been written after Ben Jonson's Every Man out of his Ilumour (1599), to which it contains a reference ; but I have not discovered the precise time when it was composed. If it were ascertained, it might be some guide to us in fixing the date of our author's Timon of Athens, which, on the grounds that have been already stated, I suppose to have been posterior to this anonymous play.” MALONE, Life of Shakespeare, p. 455. The same writer (Prelim. Remarks to Timon of Athens) observes, that in the play just described Shakespeare also found “the story of Timon's being possessed of great sums of gold which he had dug up in the woods ; a circumstance which he could not have had from Lucian, there being then no translation of the dialogue that relates to this subject.”—The Ms. of the anonymous Timon having fallen into my possession, it was printed for the Shakespeare Society in 1842. That our poet had any acquaintance with it, I much doubt; for it certainly was never performed in London,-being a drama intended solely for the amusement of an academic audience.
But that there was some old drama now lost, of which Shakespeare made use for this tragedy, and of which not a few traces may be found in it, is, I think, sufficiently manifest, though Coleridge, speaking of our author's play in his Lectures, declared that “he saw the same vigorous hand at work throughout.”
TIMON, a noble Athenian.
servants to Timon's creditors.
Other Lords, Senators, Officers, Soldiers, Banditti, and Attendants.
SCENE-Athens and the woods adjoining.
* “Caphis may be Capys." Walker's Crit. Exam., &C., vol. ii. p. 31.