A-Z Shakespeare: Timon of Athens

“Who would not wish to be from wealth exempt,
Since riches point to misery and contempt?”

William Shakespeare

Awesomeness: 2/10

Because…if anyone ever tries to tell you that Shakespeare never wrote a bad play, point at Timon of Athens. It is simplistic in its moral, two-dimensional in its characterisation, and generally spiteful towards humanity.

Colour: Green

Date: c.1604

Events: Timon of Athens is a Really Nice Guy. He gives money out to everyone on the smallest pretext. Understandably, he quickly becomes bankrupt; when it becomes apparent that he’s not going to give anyone any money, his friends desert him. He runs off into the wilderness, becomes a misanthropist, lives off roots and berries, and still manages to dig up some gold from the ground. (Apparently you can do this readily in Athens.) His friends come back for the gold; he curses them and tells them to go away. Then he kills himself. The End. Literally.

First line: “Good day, sir.”

Genre: Tragedy

High point: Timon’s vitriolic, virtuoso cursing of Athens in Act 4 Scene 1.

Interesting fact: Timon of Athens may have been a collaboration with playwright Thomas Middleton, which presumably explains why it is so bad.

Joke: “Thou art the cap of all the fools alive.”

Killed: Timon. Aand…that’s it. It’s a terrible tragedy.

Laughed at: The Fool (unsurprisingly)

Musical: Nope.

Number of scenes: 18 spread over 5 acts.

Obscurity: 4/10

Place: Athens

Quote: “The world is but a word.”

Role I’d play: Oh gods. Literally the only named female characters are whores. Can’t I just be an extra?

Stolen from Plutarch’s Lives and a Greek dialogue by Lucian, according to my Complete Oxford Shakespeare.

Time: Ancient Greece


Voiced in my head by: Derek Jacobi as Timon.

Would I see it in a theatre? Probably not. It hardly ever gets staged anyway.

X: The Tenth Line: “A most incomparable man, breathed, as it were”

“Yes? Hello? What?” (The Snappy Quip): “All villains that do stand by thee are pure.”

Z: The Last Line: “Let our drums strike.”


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