William Shakespeare.

The works of Shakespeare: the text carefully restored according to the first editions; with introductions, notes original and selected, and a life of the poet; (Volume 9) online

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Online LibraryWilliam ShakespeareThe works of Shakespeare: the text carefully restored according to the first editions; with introductions, notes original and selected, and a life of the poet; (Volume 9) → online text (page 1 of 31)
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by


In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.
Copyright, 1881,






TO / m


THE LIFE OF TIMON OF ATHENS, as it is called in the
original edition, is among the most difficult of Shakespeare's
plays for an editor to deal with ; which difficulty grows partly
from the characteristics of the play itself, and partly from the
lack of any contemporary notices concerning it. The only in
formation we have respecting it is, that it was published in the
folio of 1C23, where it stands the fifth in the division of Trage-
dies, and that it was entered the same year at the Stationers' by
Blount and Jaggard as one of " the plays not formerly entered
to other men ; " which latter circumstance naturally infers that
the play had not been published before. The original edition is
without any marking of the acts and scenes, save that at the be-
ginning we have " Actvs Primus, Sc&na Prima ;" and at the
end is given a list of the persons represented, headed " The Act-
ors' Names."

The original text is in divers respects very remarkable i some
parts are set forth in a most irregular manner, being full of short
and seemingly-broken lines, with many passages printed as verse
which cannot possibly be made to read as such ; yet the sense is
generally so complete as to infer that the irregularity came from
the writer, not from the printer. In these parts, moreover, along
with Shakespeare's peculiar rhythm and harmony, we miss also,
oijd in an equal degree, his characteristic diction and imagery :
Ihe rujjgedness and irregularity are not those of one who, having
mastered the resources of harmony, knew how to heighten and
enrich it with discords, but of one who was ignorant of its laws
and incapable of its powers. Other parts, again, exhibit the sus-
tained grandeur of the Poet's noblest and most varied music.
And in these parts the true Shakespearian cast of thought and
imagery comes upon us in all its richness gushing, apparently,
from the deepest fountains of his genius, and steeped in its most
characteristic potencies.


As to the dale of the composition we have no external evidence
whatsoever ; and the internal evidence, so far as there is any, all
makes for a place somewhere in the period between 1600 and
1606 ; the same period which gave us Measure for Measure,
Hamlet. Othello, and Lear Wherever Shakespeare's hand is
most clearly traceab'e in Timon of Athens, the peculiarities of
style, of thought, and sentiment, as in ihe..other plays just men-
tioned, refer us to a time when, for some unknown cause, the
Poet's mind seems to have dwelt, wilh a sort of melancholy, self-
brooding earnestness, among the darker issues of human life and
passion, as if his spirit were haunted and oppressed by the mys-
lery of evil as residing in the heart of man. We had occasion
to enlarge somewhat on this point in our Introduction to Measure
for Measure ; so that there is the less need of pursuing it h<*re.
We there remarked, however, that there was no proof of Timon
having been written during the period in question ; a remark
which a much closer study of that play has since convinced us
was unadvisedly made. The texture of the diction, which is
about midway between the mellow, gliding smoothness of the Poet's
second period, and the stern, rugged energy of his last, ever and
anon striking in flashes of light and glory by the very quickness
and abruptness of its movements, this, no less than the tone and
bias of feeling manifested in Timon of Athens, certainly shows a
strong resemblance to that of the other plays known to have been
written during the time specified.

As regards the fact of Shakespeare's having been for some
time in a melancholy, not to say morbid, state of mind, such as
may have disposed him to hang over the fiercer passions of our
nature, and to speak as the " stern censurer of mankind," per-
haps the strongest argumeijt is furnished by the play in hand.
For the subject is certainly ill-adapted to dramatic uses, has very
few capabilities of sound and legitimate stage-effect. This lack
of any thing in the matter that should have determined the Poet's
choice to it, may well lead us to suspect that the determining cause
lay in himself. So that the most likely conclusion in this case
seems to be, that some ill-starred experience, such as human life
offers to most men who are observant and thoughtful enough lo be
capable of it, had planted in him so strong a sympathy with the
state of feeling predominant in Timon, as to turn the scale ngair st
his better judgment as a dramatic poet and artist. Such, or
something such, appears to us the most probable account why he
should have pitched upon a theme so manifestly uusuited to bis
purpose, and so barren of those qualities that wculd recommend
it for dramatic treatment. In our Introduction to Measure for
Measure we quoted a passage of some length from Hallam, where-
in that judicious critic assigns much the same reason for what i*
staled by him in the words following : " The fable, if fable it can
be called, is so extraordinarily deficient in action, a fault of


which Shakespeare is not guilty in any other instance, that we
may wonder a little how he should have seen in the single delii ea-
tion of Timou a counterbalance for the manifold objections to fliis
subject." Mr. Verplanck, also, a critic of equal soundness and
rectitude of judgment, holds to the same view; and Mr. Collier
informs us that Coleridge in 1815 gave it as his opinion that the
subject had been taken up by the Poet "under some temporary
feeling of vexation and disappointment."

We have already intimated a belief that Shakespeare is not
responsible for the whole of this play. Some parts are in his best
manner, while others are not above his worst, or rather are not in
his manner at all. In this nearly all the critics and commentators
are agreed, though they differ much in their ways of accounting
for it. One theory is, that Shakespeare wrote the whole of the
play as we have it, but left some parts in a very crude and un-
finished slate, giving indeed little more than a loose sketch or
outline of what he intended to make them. To this there are
insuperable objections. For the parts in question are nowise in a
sketchy state ; the outline is generally filled up, but not with the
Poet's genuine stuff; the fault lies not in a defect of execution,
such as it is, but rather in an uncharacteristic style of workman-
ship : in short, they are in no sort like an unfinished work of the
same hand which finished the other parts, but show a totally differ-
ent cast of thought, of diction, and imagery, from what we find
in any other of the Poet's plays, or in those parts of this play
where the authorship is not and cannot be questioned. Take, for
instance, the fifth scene in Act iii., which is highly episodical in
its character, insomuch that if entirely thrown out it would scarce
be missed in the action of the play. Now, it is precisely in such
an episode that we should naturally expect to find the work left
either in a most finished or in a most sketchy slate, because it is
the very part of all others that could best be worked out by il-
*elf. Accordingly we have nothing of mere outline here : tV>e
fi!!ir!g-up is apparently complete, but it has to our taste no rei'isn
of Shakespeare : perhaps there is no part of the drama less uu
finished, nor any more tin-Shakespearian, than this scene.

Another theory is, that the manuscript of this play underwent
in some parts much corruption and mutilation at the hands of tbo
players, and that the edition of 1623 was printed from a copy
thus mutilated and deformed. Such, Mr. Collier tells us, was the
view given out by Coleridge in his lectures in 1815 ; his opinion
being, tiiat the play was Shakespeare's throughout, and that, as
originally written, it was one of his most complete performances ;
but that the players bad done the Poet great injustice, and that
the ruggedness and inequality of the versification were owing to
the fact that only a corrupt and imperfect copy came into th
bauds of the original editors. The objections to the former theory
hold, for ughl we can see, equally good against this. Besukw,



ihe play, as we have seen, is preeminently unsuited to the stage
and the failure of modern diligence to discover any contemporary
notices of its performance strongly argues that it was so regarded
at the time : all which would naturally render it the less likely to
suffer, in the manner supposed, from being " clapper-clawed will,
the palms of the vulgar :" not to mention, that in case of sucL
mutilation and corruption the fault would be apt to lie mainly, it
not wholly, in the expression of the thought ; whereas it hire lies
rather in the very spirit and substance of the thought itself.

A third view suggested, we believe, by Farmer, ard argued
out with much ability and learned diligence in Knight's edition
is, that Shakespeare did not originate the play, but took thti woik
manship of some inferior writer, recast certain of the scenes, en
riched others with some touches of his own, and supplied the pait
of Tinioii, as we have it, entirely from himself: all which is
thought to account for the circumstance of the man-hater's char-
acter being " left standing apart in its naked power and majesty,
without much regard lo what surrounded it." To this theory Mr
Verplauck objects, that great as is the discrepancy of style and
execution, yet, in the plot, the characters, and the incidents, there
is an entire unity of thought and purpose, as if the whole pro-
ceeded from a single mind. The objection seems to us far from
conclusive, as we are not aware of any sufficient reason for pre
suming that Shakespeare could not rewrite parts of a drama,
without losing or marring the proper unity of plot and character-
isation. A much more likely objection, as it appears to us, is
this, that Shakespeare's approved severity of taste and strength
of judgment at that period of bis life, together with his fulness
and availability of resource, would hardly have endured to retain
certain parts in so crude and feeble a state as we here find them.
I'or the parts supposed to be borrowed are so grossly inadequate
in style and spirit to those acknowledged lo he hi hat it seems
not easy to conceive how the instincts of his genius should have
suffered him to let them pass. So that we can scarce help think-
ing, that if he had thus undertaken to remodel the work of another,
his mind would not have rested from the lask, till he had informed
tht: Wiiole with a larger measure of that surpassing energy and
grace of thought and diction which mark the part of Timon him-
self, showing that the powers and resources of the Poet wore then
in their most palmy state.

The fourth, and, in our view, the most probable, theory is that
proposed by Mr. Verplanck ; who thinks that Shakespeare planned
the whole drama substantially as we have it, made an outline of
all the parts, including the entire course and order of the action,
wrole out the part of Timon in its present form, added, besides,
some whole scenes as they now stand, and furnished some pas-
sages for others ; but, perceiving more and more, as he went on /
uie intiiness of the subject for his purpose, finally gave up the


work, and threw it aside in an unfinished state : (hat this was af-
terwards taken up by some inferior hand, who retained all thai
Shakespeare had written, and wrote out the other parts in ac-
cordance, as nearly as might be, with the original plan. What-
soever may be judged of this theory in other respects, it seems
to make clear work with the question why there should be in this
case so great discrepancy of style and execution joined with such
general unity of purpose and movement. And it legitimates the
supposal, that in this instance the Poet's choice of subject was
determined l>y personal sympathy with the mood and temper of
mind here exhibited, not by his judgment of dramatic fitness.
For, supposing such choice to have proceeded on the former
ground, his interest would naturally draw first to those parts which
struck in with and gave vent to his overruling passion ; and then
begin to flag and fall away as soon as, upon coming to those where
such personal respects had no place, his dramatic judgment re-
gained the upper hand. At all events, we must needs think that
both the subject and the workmanship were here governed by
somewhat else than poetical or artistic inspiration ; in which case
his interest would be apt to break down when he reached a poiiil
where nothing but such inspiration would suffice to keep it up and
carry it along.

It is nowise improbable, therefore, that in one of these two lat
ter theories is to be found the true solution of divers questions that
have been raised touching this play. And there are at least two
instances of incompleteness, resulting, apparently, from oversight,
which may be in this way satisfactorily explained. One is in
Act ii., where there seems a want of due connection between the
first and second scenes, since we have the Fool speaking of his
mistress, and the Page out on her errands, while as yet no hint
has been given as to who or what their mistress is. Dr. Johnson
saw this gap, and remarked upon it thus : "I suspect some scene
to be lost, in which the entrance of the Fool and the Page was
prepared by some introductory dialogue, wherein the audience was
informed that they were the fool and page of Phrynia, Timandra,
or some other courtesan, upon the knowledge of which depends
the greater part of the ensuing jocularity." The other is in the
fifth scene of Act iii., where we have Alcibiades pleading with the
Senate in behalf of a condemned soldier whose name has not beeu
mentioned, nor has any representation or statement been made of
lit', act for which the Senate are passing upon his life. The whole
matter comes in most abruptly, insomuch that our thoughts can
hardly choose but revert to some scene or dialogue which has
been omitted.

Now, upon the supposal, which bears such and so many marks
of likelihood that we have little doubt of its truth. that different
parts of the play were from different hands ; whether certain parts
were borrowed from an earlier drama ; or whether certain were


supplied by a later hand ; or whether, according to a frequent
usage of this time, the play were the joint production of several
hands working out a preconcerted plan ; iu either case these in-
stances of abruptness and seeming omission may be easily ac-
counted for ; as any one can understand, whose experience in
composition has taught him how difficult it is for one mind to re-
produce, in all its details and the proper order of its parts, the
conception of another. Indeed it is scarce possible, in such a
case, that all the parts of a work should duly remember each
other ; or that any one, having some portions done to his hand,
should so work in and adjust others of his own but that somewhat
of connection and continuity will be lost.

As we have been arguing that different parts of this play were
by different hands, the reader ma}' naturally hold us bound to make
some sign towards discriminating what parts belong to the Fuel.
This, certainly, is a somewhat delicate and hazardous undertaking,
and one iu which some approximation to the truth is the utmost
that can be reached. Of course we can more confidently atfinn
what parts are Shakespeare's, than what are not ; it being easier
for him to fall below his height, than for another to raise himself
up to it. And perhaps the line may be indicated the more safely
in the present instance, forasmuch as some portions of the play
which relish least of Shakespeare are written with a good deal of
vigour and spirit; but the vigour and spirit are thoroughly differ-
ent from his : so that we ma}- justly affirm that the nearer such
portions come up in these respects to the level of his, the more
appreciable is the difference between them.

Not to be too positive, then, in the matter, our own judgment
runs something thus : The first scene in Act i., down to the en-
trance of Apemantus ; the first scene in Act ii., and the latter half
of the second scene, from the re-entrance of Timon and Flavius ;
the first and third scenes in Act iv., with the exception of Flavius'
first speech in the latter scene ; the first and second scenes in Act
v. ; these portions, we should say, are wholly Shakespeare's.
Besides these, there are divers passages scattered here and there,
in which we distinctly taste the Poet's hand ; as in the latter half
of the first scene in Act i.. after the entrance of Alcibiades ; also,
in the second scene of the same act, especially just after Apeman-
tus' Grace ; again, in the latter part of the sixth scne iu Act iii. ;
in the first half of the second scene in Act iv. ; and in the fifth
scene in Act v. There are, also, several portions which we should
set down as of doubtful authorship; such as the dialogue between
Apemantus, the Merchant, the Jeweller, the Poet, and Timon, in
'.he first scene of the play; the first half of the second scene in/"
Act ii. ; some parts of the second and fourth scenes in Act iii.

It a ay be worth the while to mention, as further evidence of
different hands in ihe play, that in the sixth scene of Act iii.. the
itage-direction of tne original is. " Enter divers friends at several


doors," and the prefixes to the speeches are 1 Lord. 2 Lord, ana
3 Lord, where the course of the action renders it all hut certain
ihat Lucius, Lucullus, and Sempronius are the persons meant.
These, be it observed, are the three friends named by Timon,
when he is sending out servants to borrow money, in the latter
half of the second scene in Act ii., which we have assigned to
Shakespeare. The same persons are also named, near the close
of the fourth scene in Act iii., as the chief of those whom Timon
orders to be invited tt the banquet. Our belief is, that in both
these instances we hav .be Poet's hand ; and that in the sixth
scene of Act iii. the giving of thanks, and the subsequent speech
of Timon's, is all that can be set down as Shakespeare's. At all
events, it can scarce be denied that these incoherence? in Ihe
naming and ordering of the persons strongly argue that the whole
of the play did not proceed from one and Ihe same mind. Aud
a like inference may be fairly drawn from the confusion in regard
to Timon's epitaph, in the last scene of the play.

It is also worth noting, that in those parts of the play which
teJish clearly of Shakespeare there is little if any difficulty in dis-
tinguishing what is meant for verse and what for prose ; while in
the other parts the two are often hardly possible to be distinguished.
For instance, the speech of Apemautus in the first scene of Act i.,
-'Aches contract and starve your supple joints," &c.,is printed
in the original as prose ; yet any good ear accustomed to Shake-
speare's language can hardly fail to pronounce it verse, and such
verse as carries the mind at once to the greatest of poets. The
other parts, on the contrary, abound in speeches, which are given
in the original as verse, but which run in so hobbling, disjointed, and
unrhythmical a fashion that neither the ear nor the mind can pos-
sibly receive or read them as such. Several of these we have set
forth as prose, though good prose they certainly are not, in
order to save the reader from the vexation of endeavoring to read
as verse what cannot be so read ; as, for example, the first speech
of VentHius, the second and fourth speeches of Timou, the first
speech of Apemantus after the Masque of Ladies, and the speech
at Flavius beginning, " What will this come to 1 " in the sec-
ond scene of Act i. ; also, the speech of Sempronius in the tliinl
cone of Act iii.

The story of Timon the Misanthrope seems to have been some-
thing of a common-place in the literature of Shakespeare's time.
We have an allusion to it in Love's Labour's Lost, Act iv. sc. 3:
" And critic Timon laugh at idle toys." And in a collection 0*"
Epigrams and Satires, entitled Skialetheia, and published in 15LI8,
occ'irs the line, ''Like hate-man Timon in his cell he sits."
Also, in the anonymous play called Jack Drum's Entertainment,
llJOl, is found the following : " But if all th. brewers' jades in the
town can drag me from the love of myself, they shall do mor
than e'er the seven wise men of Greece could. Come, come ;


now I'll be as sociable as Timon of Alhens." But by far the
most note-worthy use of the subject is in the form of a play which
has come down to our time in manuscript, supposed to have been
written or transcribed about the year 1600. The original manu-
script was consulted by Steevens, being then in the possession of
Mr. Strutt the engraver. Some years ago it passed into the
hands of Mr. Dyce, who set forth an edition of it for the Shake-
speare Society, in 1842. The play is referred to by Malone in
the following terms : " Here Shakespeare found the faithful stew-
ard, the banquet-scene, and the story of Timon's being possessed
of great sums of gold which he had dug up in the woods ; a cir-
cumstance which he could not have had from Lucian, there being
then no translation of the dialogue that relates to this subject."
Mr. L)yce thinks the play "was evidently intended for the amuse-
ment of an academic audience," and that there is " strong pre-
sumptive proof of its having been really acted. Touching the
point affirmed by Malone, he speaks thus : " 1 leave to others a
minute discussion of the question, whether or not Shakespeare was
indebted to the present piece. I shall merely ohserve, that I en-
tertain considerable doubts of his having been acquainted with a
drama, which was certain^' never performed in the metropolis
and which was likely to have been read only by a few of the
author's particular friends, to whom transcripts of it had been

It is not our purpose to enter upon the "minute discussion''
which Mr. Dyce has left to others. In the incidents of the play
there are certainly divers close resemblances to Shakespeare's
Timon. But beyond this there is not the slightest trace of sim-
ilarity ; and the resemblance here is such as to infer nothing more
than a drawing from a common source. The anonymous play,
as a whole, is indescribably flat and worthless, thoroughly charged
with a kind of sophomoric pedantry, and with the most lame and
abortive attempts at wit and humour : Timon himself being but a
debauched and low-minded spendthrift and prodigal, unredeemed
by a single noble or even respectable quality ; and the whole char-
acterisation, if such it can be termed, being in a style of vulgar
and vapid extravagance mistaking itself for something brilliant
and spirited, like the unwitting caricatures of a boyish awkward-
ness. The material of the piece was evidently borrowed from
J.urian. all that is properly characteristic of the Greek satirist
being lost in the borrowing.

The most common authority for the character of Timon in
Shakespeare's time was Paynter's Palace of Pleasure, in the first
volume of which, published before 1567, " the strange and beastly
nature of Timon of Athens " is briefly set forth, the matter being
professedly derived from Plutarch's Life of Mark Antony. We
subjoin the paisage relating to Timon, as given in Sir Ttiomai
North's translation of Plutarch, which came out in 1579 :


"Antonius forsook the city and company of his friends, and
built him a house in the sea, by the isle of Pharos, and dwelt there
as a man that banished himself from all men's company ; saying
he would lead Timon's life, because he had the like wrong offered
him that was before offered unlo Timon ; and that, for the un-
thankfulness of those he had done good unto, and whom he took
to be his friends, he was angry with all men, and would trust no

Online LibraryWilliam ShakespeareThe works of Shakespeare: the text carefully restored according to the first editions; with introductions, notes original and selected, and a life of the poet; (Volume 9) → online text (page 1 of 31)