Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare
Filed under: Book Reviews,Infinite TBR,Reader of the Stack Goes Canonical — Ibis at 11:11 pm on Sunday, July 24, 2011

From the back cover:
“A complex exploration of a corrupt, moneyed society, and Timon himself as a rich and philanthropic nobleman who is forced to recognize the inherent destructiveness of the Athenian society from which he retreats in disgust and rage.”

My thoughts:
This play was in some ways a lot like Coriolanus: a once-well respected citizen becomes an hated exile and is requested to come back into the fold. But the similarity ends there. Timon begins the play as a generous friend and benefactor–he’s willing to give everything he has away to his friends, willing to patronise the arts, willing to pay his servants well, willing to entertain even the lowest beggar at his table. But he must borrow to live this lifestyle and his addiction to generosity is as bad as an addiction to gambling or drink. He’s brought up short when it turns out he’s run out of money. But that’s all right, he thinks–these friends to whom he’s lavishly gifted will surely return his good will and loan him some money. But he’s wrong. Were these men just using him all along and now have no use for him? or are they just being wise with their own money, knowing that Timon can’t be trusted to pay them back? Either way, they all turn him down and he loses it. He’s angry and trusts no one to be honest. In a moment he turns from philanthropist to misanthrope. He ends up trying to be a hermit outside the city, but no one will actually leave him alone. He finds some gold, but he doesn’t want his old life back. It’s too late. The last part of the play is a study of the kind of indiscriminate bitterness against the world that takes hold and doesn’t let go. Not one of the best plays, and one gets the sense that there’s a whole subplot with Alcibiades basically missing.
My rating: 7/10