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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: March ::
Re: How Old is Timon of Athens
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0493  Friday, 14 March 2003

[1]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Thursday, 13 Mar 2003 11:05:26 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0488 How Old is Timon of Athens?

[2]     From:   Matt Henerson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 13 Mar 2003 17:22:10 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0488 How Old is Timon of Athens?

[3]     From:   Karma Sami <
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        Date:   Friday, 14 Mar 2003 01:06:38 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0488 How Old is Timon of Athens?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Thursday, 13 Mar 2003 11:05:26 -0800
Subject: 14.0488 How Old is Timon of Athens?
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0488 How Old is Timon of Athens?

There is suggestion of a previous play to Timon being extant called "Old
Timon." This might indicate the Elizabethan audience already had a
preconceived notion of him as old.

Of course, during the Peloponnesian War anything over 25 might be
considered old!

If Alcibiades is considered a close contemporary to Timon, this may help
you. Alcibiades is between 35 and 43 years old. He was banished in 415
BC and made his triumphant return to Athens in 407 BC. Of course, if you
take Sir Walter Raleigh's suggestion that Timon is a template for Lear,
then he's 80.

I do get a feeling that Timon is not that old from references of other
characters.  In I, I, Shakespeare has a character enter who is labeled
as 'old Athenian.' This man talks to Timon. Timon refers to the man as
"good father." In the next scene Ventidius, in a speech to Timon, refers
to his father's age. Again, it seems, with a suggestion that the father
was older than Timon. Timon is fond of the hunt and an active huntsmen.
Another suggestion, to me, that he may not be of an ancient physique.
The Timon in Lucian's version becomes a farm-labourer and works the
field. Again, activity requiring an able body.

In his early forties would be my guess. (Shakespeare was 43 at the time
of writing, if we accept the 1607 dating).

In Love's Labour's Lost Shakespeare refers to Timon as 'critic Timon'
(IV, iii). Then the question posed is how old is a critic? Sounds like
another thread, n'est pas?

Cheers,
Colin Cox
Artistic Director
Will & Company

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matt Henerson <
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Date:           Thursday, 13 Mar 2003 17:22:10 EST
Subject: 14.0488 How Old is Timon of Athens?
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0488 How Old is Timon of Athens?

I've seen "Timon" three times live and once on film.  I've also
performed in it once myself, and in each case, Timon began the play as a
man in his early 40's.  This is the age Paul Scofield was when he
performed it for the RSC in the mid 1960's, and although Ralph
Richardson was some ten years older when he did the role at the Old Vic
in 1958 or 59, I can cite neither textual evidence nor theatrical
tradition for an elderly Timon.

However...

The most compelling performance of the play I've ever seen was at the
Cassius Carter space at the Globe Theatres in San Diego in the mid
1980's.  Jonathan McMurtrey, a fixture at the Globe since the late 60's,
was the Timon, and Tony Amendola was Apemantus.  I'm very sorry not to
be able to name the director.

The Carter is the smallest of the Globe spaces, and the play was done in
the round.  The first half of the play was set in a Jacobean Athens.
The costumes were muted browns, blacks, and greys, with high collars,
small ruffs and feathered hats.  In the center of the floor was a large
gold lozenge-shaped device, which Timon splintered in his rage at his
friends' ingratitude.  The act break occurred directly after Timon's
second banquet, on or immediately after the lines "Burn house, sink
Athens, henceforth hated be/Of Timon man and all humanity." (III, vi,
105-6)

When we returned from intermission, what classical set pieces there had
been were gone.  In their place was the back end of an old Mercedes,
sticking out of the ground at about a 45-degree angle.  Timon lived in a
hole under the rear bumper.  He was dressed in nothing but a
loincloth--neither period nor otherwise--just a piece of cloth to ensure
the more prudish members of the audience stayed in the theatre.  Nor, as
I recall, had he aged himself with make-up.  Everybody else wore
contemporary costume, and the strong impression all this made upon me
was that Timon had lived on, in his hole, for some two thousand years,
and he now emerged, with his rage in tact, to savage the
great-great-great-great-etc. grandsons of the men who had betrayed his
trust ages before.  The gold he dug out of the ground was the splintered
fragments of the lozenge which had decorated the floor of his mansion in
Athens.

Beyond the design elements, there was no particular insistence on either
this time scheme, or on Timon's longevity, but, as I say, I was
convinced, as I sat in the audience, that it was so.  I was also
convinced that it was the meeting with Flavius, and the necessity of
admiting the existence of a single honorable person, which killed Timon,
or allowed him to die, depending on your ideas about quality-of-life in
a hole under the arse-end of a car for the rest of whatever.  It was one
of the most harrowing evenings I've ever spent in the theatre, and the
bleakness of the whole idea increased as I thought about it.  I'd love
to know who directed it.

Matt Henerson

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karma Sami <
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Date:           Friday, 14 Mar 2003 01:06:38 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 14.0488 How Old is Timon of Athens?
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0488 How Old is Timon of Athens?

Teaching Timon a couple of years ago, I drew my students' attention to
the similarities of tone between Timon's and Shakespeare's epitaphs. The
play was written in 1607, a later stage in the bard's career. It
suggests a more exasperated, lonely, and disillusioned Shakespeare.

I hope this can be of help.

Karma Sami
Ain Shams University

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