Abbildungen der Seite



“THE Life of Tymon of Athens” appeared first in the folio of 1623. At what period it was written we have no evidence, though Malone. assigns it to the year 1610. The story, originally derived from Lucian, was a popular one in Shakespeare's time, and must have been known to him from its forming the subject of a novel in Paynter's “ Palace of Pleasure," and from the account of Timon given in North’s translation of Plutarch. The immediate archetype of the play, however, was probably some old and now lost drama, remodelled and partially re-written by our author, but of which he permitted much of the rude material to remain, with scarcely any

alteration, It is upon this theory alone we find it possible to reconcile the discordance between the defective plan, and the faultless execution of particular parts,-between the poverty and negligence observable in some scenes, and the grandeur and consummate finish displayed in others. The basis of Shakespeare's “ Timon ” was long supposed to be an anonymous piece, the man

anuscript of which was in the possession of Mr. Strutt, and is now the property of Mr. Dyce. But this manuscript was printed in 1842, for the Shakespeare Society; and although it is found to have one character, Laches, who is a coarse counterpart to the faithful steward, Flavius, and two or three incidents, particularly that of the mock banquet, where the misanthrope regales his parasites with stones, painted to look like artichokes, which correspond in some measure with transactions in the piece before us, there is not the slightest reason for believing Shakespeare ever saw it. These resemblances are no doubt merely owing to both plays being founded on a common origin; for the subject was evidently familiar to the stage long before we can suppose Shakespeare to have produced his version. In Guilpin's Collection of Epigrams and Satires, called “ Skialetheia,” 1598, we have in Epigram 52 :

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

which, as Mr. Collier says, apparently points to some scene wherein, Timon had been represented; and he is again mentioned, in a way to show that his peculiarities were well understood, in the play of “Jack Drum's Entertainment,” printed in 1601 :—" But if all the brewers' jades in the town can drag me from the love of myself, they shall do more than e'er the seven wise men of Greece could. Come, come; now I'll be as sociable as Timon of Athens."

[blocks in formation]


SCENE I.-Athens. A Hall in Timon's House.

Enter Poet and Painter.
Poet. Good day, sir.

I am glad you ’re well.
Poet. I have not seen you long; how goes the world?
Pain. It wears, sir, as it grows.

Ay, that's well known ;
But what particular rarity? what strange,
Which manifold record not matches ?-See,

Enter Jeweller, Merchant, and others, at several doors.
Magic of bounty! all these spirits thy power
Hath conjur'd to attend. I know the merchant.

Pain. I know them both; the other 's a jeweller.
MER. O, 't is a worthy lord !

Nay, that's most fix’d.
MER. A most incomparable man; breath’d, as it were,
To an untirable and continuate goodness,
He passes."

JEW. I have a jewel here-
MER. O, pray, let's see't: for the lord Timon, sir ?
Jew. If he will touch the estimate: but, for that,
POET. [Reciting aside.] When we for recompense have prais'd the

It stains the glory in that happy verse
Which aptly sings the good.

'T is a good form. [Looloing at the jewel. JEW. And rich: here is a water, look ye.

Pain. You are rapt, sir, in some work, some dedication
To the great lord.

A thing slipp'd idly from me.
Our poesy is as a gum, which oozesh
From whence 't is nourished. The fire i’ the flint
Shows not, till it be struck; our gentle flame

breath'd, as it were,
To an untirable and continuate goodness,

He passes.] In the accepted reading of this passage, a colon is placed after “goodness," and the phrase " He passes," interpreted to mean, he surpasses or exceeds, is made a separate member of the sentence. From the expressions "breath'd" and "untirable,” it may well be questioned, however, whether "He passes” should not be immediately connected with what goes before, and be understood in the same sense, of runs, which it bears in “ Henry V.” Act II. Sc. 1:4" He passes some humours and careers.”

b Our poesy is as a gum, which oozes-] In the old text the latter portion of this line is ludicrously misprinted, -as a Gowne, which uses,&c. Pope corrected goune to "gum," and Johnson very happily changed uses to "oozes."

Provokes itself, and, like the current, flies
Each bound it chafes.* What have


Pain. A picture, sir.—When comes your book forth?

Poet. Upon the heels of my presentment, sir.
Let's see your piece.

'Tis a good piece.
POET. So 'tis: this comes off well and excellent.
PAIN. Indifferent.
PoET. .
Admirable! how this

Speaks his own standing! what a mental power
This eye shoots forth! how big imagination
Moves in this lip! to the dumbness of the gesture
One might interpret.

Pain. It is a pretty mocking of the life.
Here is a touch; is't good?

I'll say of it,
It tutors nature: artificial strife
Lives in these touches, livelier than life.

Enter certain Senators, and pass over.
PAIN. How this lord is follow'd!
Poet. The senators of Athens:-happy men la
Pain. Look, more!f

POET. You see this confluence, this great flood of visitors.
I have, in this rough work, shap'd out a man,
Whom this beneath world doth embrace and hug
With amplest entertainment: my free drift
Halts not particularly, but moves itself
In a wide sea of wax:b no levelled malice
Infects one comma in the course I hold ;
But flies an eagle flight, bold, and forth on,
Leaving no track behind.

Pain. How shall I understand you ?

I'll unbolt to you.
You see how all conditions, how all minds,
(As well of glib and slippery creatures, as
Of grave and austere quality) tender down
Their services to lord Timon: his large fortune,
Upon his good and gracious nature hanging,
Subdues and properties to his love and tendance
All sorts of hearts; yea, from the glass-fac'd flatterer
To Apemantus, that few things loves better
Than to abhor himself; even he drops down
The knee before him, and returns in peace,
Most rich in Timon's nod.

(*) Old text, chases.

(+) Old text, moe. Happy men!] Theobald reads “happy man," perhaps rightly:

In a wide sea of wax:] The allusion is presumed to point to the Roman practice of writing on waxen tablets : a practiee prevalent in England until about the end of the fourteenth century; but the word wax is more probably a misprint, though not certainly, for verse, which Mr. Collier's annotator substitutes for it.

c Properties--] Appropriates. See note ®), p. 280, Vol. III.

« ZurückWeiter »