The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 25.379 Thursday, 28 August 2014
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: August 27, 2014 at 9:21:30 AM EDT
Subject: Timon of Athens and Depression
Shakespeare could have been depressed when he wrote King Lear and Timon of Athens, the actor Simon Russell Beale suggests
By Hannah Furness, Arts Correspondent
Shakespeare could have been depressed when he wrote his finest and most puzzling works, the actor Simon Russell Beale has suggested, as he examines what inspired the playwright’s “torrent of bile” during a “bad patch”.
Russell Beale, the acclaimed stage actor, said two of Shakespeare’s plays are so extraordinary they must have signalled a darkness in his personal life.
Suggesting Timon of Athens and King Lear are so “savage” they must have been written during a “bad patch”, the actor argues Shakespeare may have “temporarily lost faith in human nature.”
Russell Beale has now examined the First Folio as part of a new BBC Four series, The Secret Life of Books.
Speaking of Timon of Athens, which some believe is unfinished, he said: “To my inexpert eye it looks potentially like rather a good play, but it must have been very depressing to write,
“It’s as if Shakespeare can’t stop this flow of invective and bile, like a nervous tic.
“So perhaps, I’m suggesting, he himself was depressed. He temporarily lost faith in human nature.”
The actor, who has recently played Lear at the National Theatre, added even that play shows the “savage rewriting” of the ending, to kill off key characters and “obliterate a happy ending entirely”.
Comparing the early “quarto” version of the play with the later publication of the First Folio, he noted changes in the play he believes reflected a darkening of mood.
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