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Timon of Athens

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TIMON OF ATHENS. Very little has yet been discovered concerning of Athens.' There is no record of any early performance or any edition other than the strangely imperfect one in the folio of 1623. On the evidence of style the play is dated about 1607 and thus referred to the same period as the three other tragedies with which it has most in comtnon, (King Lear,' (Antony and Cleopatra' and (Coriolanus.) It is generally agreed that the best parts of Timon are not only Shakespeare's but must be counted among his highest achievements in poetry —upoetry,° as a recent writer has said, °coming short of (Lear,' perhaps in poignancy of diction and certainly in pathos of situation, but surpassing even (Lear' or (Coriolanus) in the sheer force of that emotion which, in different forms, is common to the three pays (Wnght). On the other hand, many of the un-Shakespearean scenes are of almost unaccountable poorness, by no means justifying Masefield's verdict that they were written by as man of genius, a skilled writer for the stage, and of a marked per sonality.° The best supported modern view is that something over half the play is by Shake speare and the rest the unintelligent addition of an unknown reviser. Fleay thought that the Shakespearean fragment was hastily expanded in 1623 for the express purpose of making it fill a gap in the Folio volume, caused by the decision to remove (Troilus and Cressida' from the number of tragedies. One of the sources is certainly the brief account of Timon in Plutarch's of Mark Antony,' whence Shakespeare derived most of his material for and Cleopatra.) This may have been supplemented by a similar, but much longer narrative in Painter's (Palace of Pleasure.'

The introduction of incidents not found in either of the foregoing works seems to estab lish the use also of an anonymous earlier Timon play (a comedy), and perhaps of Lucian's dia logue of Timon. There are yet unsolved diffi culties about explaining how the last two writ ings became known to Shakespeare, for the Timon comedy seems neither to have been printed in Shakespeare's day nor to have been acted in London, whereas Lucian's dialogue was not accessible in English. In 1678 the Restora tion dramatist, Thomas Shadwell, brought out a revision of of Athens,' of which he boasted, °I have made it into a play." The claim may be allowed, for Shadwell's play had reasonable success and there exists no posi tive proof that (Timon of Athens' had ever been acted previously. A later adaptation, made by Richard Cumberland in 1768, was acted by Garrick in 1771. Cumberland omitted large por tions of the original, added the character of Evanthe, Timon's daughter, romanticized that of her lover, Alcibiades, and much lightened the gloom of the play's close. This piece was a failure. Horace Walpole remarked sardoni cally that Cumberland's alteration was °mar vellously well done, for he has caught the man ner and diction of the original so exactly, that I think it is full as bad a play as it was before he corrected it.° The best recent discussion of (Timon of Athens> is by E. H. Wright Authorship of Timon of Athens,' 1910).