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year 1874, embodying the labours of Mr Fleay (vide also Shakespeare Manual, pp. 187-208).*
Various theories have been advanced as to the composition of Timon :(i) that Shakespeare worked over an older drama, the remains of which are still to be found in the inferior portions of the play ; † (ii) that Shakespeare and another author collaborated; (iii) that the play left unfinished by Shakespeare was hastily and carelessly completed by some playwright either (a) for stage-purposes, or (b) for insertion in the First Folio; (iv) that the editors of the Folio could only obtain the parts the principal actors, and the deficiencies had to be supplied from an earlier Timon, I or by some second-rate dramatist ; (v) that the combination of (i) and (iii) best satisfies all the difficulties.
The Fifth Act of the play gives, me judice, the best clue to the solution of the problem. It certainly produces the impression of having been left roughly sketched by Shakespeare, whose touch is manifest in the more important speeches, especially those belonging to the character of Timon; but while the Third Scene is clearly not Shakespeare's, the four-lined epitaph in the Fourth Scene, the Shakespearian portion, combines two inconsistent couplets, and the combination could not have been intended by Shakespeare, though both were naturally in the rough unfinished MS. ; the poet had evidently not made up his mind which of the two epitaphs to use, whether Timon's own, or that which, “commonly rehearsed," was not his “ but was made by the poet Callimachus."$
*"The play is, in its present state, unique among Shakespeare's for its languid, wearisome want of action. This renders it one of the least read of all his works. But this fault is entirely due to the passages which I assign to the second writer, not one of which adds anything to the development of the plot, for they are in every instance mere expansions of facts mentioned in the genuine parts of the play."
+ The Cambridge Editors seem to hold the view :-"The original play, on which Shakespeare worked, must have been written, for the most part, either in prose or in very irregular verse." Farmer first suggested this explanation ; Knight followed Farmer maintaining that “ Timon was a play originally produced by an artist very inferior to Shakespeare, which probably retained possession of the stage for some time in its first form; that it has come down to us not wholly rewritten, but so far remodelled that entire scenes of Shakespeare have been substituted for entire scenes of the elder play,” etc.
Elze, Delius, and others assign the earlier Timon to George Wilkins (cp. Preface to Pericles); Fleay believes “that Cyril Tourneur was the only person connected with the King's Company at this time who could have written the other part” of the play. All this is mere supposition.
$ In order that the reader should understand the weight of this piece of evidence, he should compare Act V. Sc. iv. Il. 70-73 with its original in North's Plutarch (Lift of Antonius): --."He (Timon) died in the city of Hales, and was buried upon the sea
In all probability Shakespeare's unfinished MS., containing the main parts of the play already written out, with the general plan merely outlined, was worked up after Shakespeare's death into the play we possess ; it cannot be finally determined whether this elaboration was undertaken for stage-representation, or for the purpose of fitting it for a place in the First Folio, when the Editors had resolved to change the position of Troilus and Cressida.* Perhaps the printing of Julius Cæsar was commenced before that of Timon was finished.
There is no definite evidence of an older play on the subject that could have been the original of Shakespeare's,t nor are the inferior portions strikingly suggestive of the style of the old-fashioned productions superseded by Shakespeare's revisions or recasts. The MS. play entitled “ Timon," written about the year 1600, edited for the Shakespeare Society by Dyce in 1842, was intended solely for the amusement of an academic
side. Now it chanced so that the sea getting in, it compassed his tomb round about, that no man could come to it; and upon the same was written this epitaph :
“Here lies a wretched corse, of wretched soul bereft:
It is reported that Timon himself when he lived made this epitaph; for that which is commonly rehearsed was not his, but made by the poet Callimachus :
“Here lie 1, Timon, who alive all living men did hate:
Pass by and curse thy fill: but pass, and stay not here thy gait."
(The substitution of " wicked caitiffs" for "wicked wretches " suggests a comparison with Paynter's version of the epitaph, beginning “My wretched caitif days," etc). It is not likely that lines 3, 4 in the previous scene (V. iii.) are intended for Timon's epitaph, though at first sight the rhyming couplet gives that impression (vide Note). The speech is weak enough as it is without adding to it the crowning absurdity of making the soldier first read the epitaph, and then proceed to take the character in wax, because he cannot read it.
* Dr Nicholson (Trans. of New Shak. Soc. 1874) adduced what he considered * tolerably decisive proof that Timon as we now have it was an acted play":-"in old plays the entrance directions are sometimes in advance of the real entrances, having been thus placed in the theatre copy, that the performers or bringers-in of stage-properties might be warned to be in readiness to enter on their cue.” He points out some of these directions in the present play as printed in the Folio; but his case, from this point of view, does not seem strong.
+ There seems to be no foundation for Mr Simpson's statement that "a Timon was, at the date of the Satiromastix, in the possession of Shakespeare's Company” (New Shak. Soc., 1874, p. 252).
audience, and there is not the least evidence that it was ever seen by Shakespeare. *
Source of the Plot. A passage in Plutarch's Life of Antonius (in North's Plutarch) containing a short account of Timon may have attracted Shakespeare to the subject of the play. Shakespeare was also acquainted with Paynter's story of Timon, in " the Palace of Pleasure." Other versions of the story are to be found in Elizabethan literature (e.g. the account of Timon in Richard Barckley's Felicity of Man).
66 Critic Timon” is already referred to by Shakespeare in his early play of Love's Labour's Lost.
An interesting comparison might be instituted between the present play and Lucian's Dialogue on Timon ; it seems almost certain that directly or indirectly the Dialogue has exercised considerable influence on the conception of the drama, though we know of no English or French version of Lucian's work that Shakespeare could have used; perhaps the other author of the play possessed the Greek he lacked.
Date of Composition. Some of the problems connected with the composition of Timon have already been indicated. Internal evidence of style is alone available for fixing the date of Shakespeare's parts of the play. Æsthetic and metrical considerations would place it after Hamlet -(Coleridge describes it as an “after-vibration of Hamlet,” but the vibration is rather too harsh and jarring)—and before the opening of Shakespeare's last period, i.e. about the same time as Macbeth, Othello, and Lear; Shakespeare's satirical drama must belong to the period when, " as the stern censurer of mankind," he reached his greatest tragic height; it makes one happy to think that the pity and terror of tragedy had more attractions for him than the stern severity of bitter satire; he probably found the theme uncongenial and cast it aside :
“ No.-1 am that I am; and they that level
At my abuses reckon up their own:
(Sonnet cxxi.) * Malone pointed out that there is a scene in it resembling Shakespeare's banquet given by Timon to his flatterers. Instead of warm water, he sets before them stones painted like artichokes, and afterwards beats them out of the room. The likeness is easily accounted for by identity of source. The last line of the Third Act, with its mention of " stones" is noteworthy, seeing that in the play Timon throw the water in the faces of the guests and nothing is said about his pelting them with stones. The stage-direction is not found in the Folios.
Daration of Action. The time of the play may be taken as six days represented on the stage, with one long interval :
Day 1, Act I. Sc. i., ii. Day 2, Act II. Sc. i., ii. ; Act III. Sc. i.-iii. Day 3, Act III. Sc. iv.-vi. ; Act IV. Sc. i., ii. Interval. Day 4, Act IV. Sc. iii. Day 5, Act V. Sc. i., ii. Day 6, Act V. Sc. iii., iv.
TIMON, a noble Athenian.
servants to Timon.
Other Lords, Senators, Officers, Banditti, and Attendants.
SCENE: Athens, and the neighbouring woods.