By Bill Walthall

As you all digest from yesterday’s turkey-fest, a question about our titular Timon of Athens:

What is his history exactly?

When Timon is visited by Alcibiades in Act Four, Scene Three, the general says,

I have heard and grieved
How cursèd Athens, mindless of thy worth,
Forgetting thy great deeds when neighbor states,
But for thy sword and fortune, trod upon them—
  • IV.iii.93-96

So. Timon has protected Athens before, when foreign invaders meant to conquer Athens. But not only with his fortune–which is not surprising, given his generosity of the first two acts–but with his sword.

Timon, soldier, military leader.

This explains the Athenian senators request that Timon return to Athens to take on the state’s “captainship … with absolute power … [and] live with authority” (V.i.160, 161, 162).

It would also explain the relationship he has with Alcibiades, and the stage directions from the various editions for their meeting in the play’s opening scene. In the Folger Library Digital Texts “they bow to each other” (I.i.280 stage direction), which is respectful enough, but in the Penguin Shakespeare edition, “they salute” (I.i.249 stage direction). A salute would infer the meeting of two military men.

Were they both generals? Was one subordinate to the other? If so, who was the superior?

No answers, just questions.

The post Timon’s past appeared first on The Bill / Shakespeare Project.

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