Timon of Athens

This may be a cop out, but I am leaving for vacation today, and admittedly just want to get this one in the books. As for the play, I’d like to get it out of the book. I’m not sure what happened to Shakespeare when he wrote this.  Maybe he didn’t. Wait, no, I didn’t say that. It is an odd conflagration of King Lear and Julius Caesar, but it falls way short of all of those great tragedies.

Timon flees to nature, as does Lear, to escape a society that he feels has let him down.  Perhaps they have, or perhaps he was foolish in his dealings with them to begin with.  But unlike Lear, in his cathartic, heart wrenching epiphany in the storm, Timon just rants and raves, sounding more and more like a bitter, demented man than a tragic hero. He dies in the woods, not having learned much from his largely self-inflicted agony, fiddling, like Nero, as Athens burns in crisis around him.

I hoped, when the play opened with a “Poet, Painter, Jeweller,” in Act I, Scene i, that at least the artists might emerge as the sages who lead the politicians and financiers out of the muck with their aesthetic. But they turn out to be as mercenary as the other cast of dubious characters.

The final words of a play often enlighten or leave room for hope or cast ominous foreshadowing. This one ends as disappointingly as it begins. Alcibiades, the heir apparent of Athens, encourages the senators and other followers to “Prescribe to other as each other’s leech.” (V.iv,84).  The footnote indicates that he means “physician” (V,iv,note 84), however given all that’s preceded this perhaps well meant advice, it reads more like “let’s continue to suck each other dry.”

Yet although I disliked this play and initially felt disappointed with the bard, I ultimately took away an important lesson:  None of us can always perform perfectly. We will all have bad days. Bad plays. Bad essays. So I may earn a D+ on this one – I can’t grade the play much more highly – but that’s ok. This one essay won’t define me; I’ll do better next time.

 

 

 

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