The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0488 Thursday, 13 March 2003
Date: Wednesday, 12 Mar 2003 21:13:01 -0500
Subject: How Old is Timon of Athens?
I'm preparing my presentation for one of the upcoming RSA sessions on
"Growing Old in the Renaissance," and am struck by similarities between
two "old" characters, King Lear and Prospero, and one of indeterminate
age: Timon of Athens. Timon behaves in many ways like a disgruntled old
man, yet I can find no clues in the text of the play about his age
(unlike, say, Prospero, who appears to be past about 45 years old [e.g.,
Tmp 4.1.3]). An informal poll of colleagues who have read or taught the
play suggests that Timon is often imagined as an older character, but
beyond that no-one seems to have given the matter much thought. Is there
a theatrical tradition of playing him as an old (or older) man? Is there
an iconographical tradition linking his misanthropy, melancholy, and
misogyny, to advancing age? I find little help in the sources and
analogues reprinted in Bullough's _Narrative and Dramatic Sources_ (vol.
VI), except for one puzzling reference in the anonymous ms play _Timon_
(c.1601) to Timon as "a golden youthe" (III.2 [p.315]). In this last
case, however, it is possible that the character Philargurus is merely
being sarcastic, attempting to convince his daughter Callimela to
abandon her previous match, Gelasimus, and wed the wealthy (old?) man
So here's my question: How old is Shakespeare's Timon?
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