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one of the rout exclaims, "One day he gives us diamonds, next day stories." This incongruity seems manifestly due to a reminiscence of the academic play; of which Shakespeare might have heard an account, or which might have been known to the writer of a dramatic " Life of Tymon" more or less antecedent to that one which has caused all others to be forgotten.
For as to this play we have yet again a question of uncertain authorship. The internal evidence entirely sustains Heminge and Condell in setting it forth as one of Shakespeare's tragedies. The more important part of it, if not the larger, seems not onlj to be Shakespeare's, but to be eminently Shakespearian in style. Nor can we attribute to the subject of this tragedy alone the fierce misanthropy with which it is pervaded; for this, like strata heaved up by hidden fires, crops out elsewhere from the gentle and smiling surface of our author's most human and charitable nature. There is an intensity in the hatred, and a relish in its expression, which could only spring from profoundest knowledge of mankind. But other parts are just as clearly not Shakespeare's ; — so clearly that any critic who should say, like Coleridge, that he found "the same vigorous hand at work throughout" this play,* would expose the unsoundness of his own judgment hardly less than Schlegel did when he pronounced Thomas Lord Cromwell, Sir John Oldcastle, and A Yorkshire Tragedy, "not only unquestionably Shakespeare's," but worthy "to be classed among his best and maturest works."
We are entirely without external evidence as to the heterogeneous composition of this tragedy; and in the time that I could give to the subject, I have been unable to discover any internal evidence of such a kind that it could be logically set forth as premise leading to conclusion. What a closer study might give me confidence to do, I cannot say; but at present I shall only venture to give an opinion in very general terms, upon the following enumeration of the Acts and Scenes : —
Scene 1. Shakespeare's until the entrance of Apemantus* The Apemantus of this Scene seems like a poor imitation of Shakespeare's Thersites.
Scene 2. Not Shakespeare's.
* As reported in Collier's Shakespeare, 1843, Vol. VI. p. 501.
Act II. Scene 1. Shakespeare's, although so brief and apparently unimportant. The following passage unmistakable : — "nor then silenc'd, when — « Commend me to your master,' — and the cap Plays in the right hand thus ; — but tell him My uses cry to me." Scene 2. Shakespeare's, except the passage in which the Fool appears.
Scene 1. Not Shakespeare's, except, perhaps, the last speech.
Scene 2. Somewhat doubtful; but most probably not Shakespeare's.
Scene 3. Not Shakespeare's.
Scene 4. Not Shakespeare's.
Scene 5. Not Shakespeare's.
Scene 6. Not Shakespeare's; except TimorCs last speech, •'May you a better feast," &c, and perhaps his grace, "You great benefactors," &c.
Scene 1. Shakespeare's.
Scene 2. Shakespeare's, mostly; but in thought and in versification the latter part of Flavins* last speech is inferior to, and unlike, those parts of the play which are unmistakably Shakespeare's.
Scene 3. Shakespeare's, and in his largest style.
Scene 1. But partly Shakespeare's, whose hand does not appear until the entrance of Timon.
Scenes 2 and 3. Not Shakespeare's.
Scene 4. [Sc. 5 according to division.] Shakespeare's beyond a question.*
* As I am giving now a mere opinion, I venture to add that it was formed in this manner. When, on reading Mr. Knight's Introductory Notice to this play, about ten years ago, I came upon the passage in which he declares his conviction that it is not wholly of Shakespeare's writing, (his reasons for which he afterwards sets forth with such ability, and, with a single exception, such discrimination,) I immediately closed the volume, and read through the play in my Chiswick unannotated edition, making a brief memorandum of the Impression left upon me by each Scene as T read it. This I did purely for my own satisfaction, and without a thought that I should ever trouble the ptudents of Shakespeare with my notions about this play or any other. From that time to the present I have not seen these memorandums, (of which I have given above almost a literal transcript,) or had occasion to consult Mr. Knight's Introductory Essay to this play; and now upon comparing them, I find that they accord in all essential particulars, with one important exception. — I mention, by the way, my making of these memorandums independently, not, I believe, from mere egotism; still less from a desire to set up for myself any claim to the credit of first pronouncing upon the heterogeneousness of this play, which belongs exclusively, as far as I know, to Mr. Knight; but merely because if I were reader instead of editor, I should be pleased if, in a like case, the editor did as I have done. — But to my point of difference with Mr. Knight, as to which not even my high respect f< r his sympathetic appreciation of Shakespeare's thought can make me doubt. He says of "' the concluding Scene of the fifth Act," that it " presents nearly every characteristic by which the early contemporaries of Shakespeare are to be distinguished from him; and the negation, in the same degree, of all those qualities which render him so immeasurably superior to every other dramatic poet." This must be mere matter of opinion; and I can only cite the following passages in supuort of mine.
It will be observed that the Scenes above attributed to Shakespeare are, with one or two exceptions, those in which Timon is the principal personage; and this supports the conjecture either that the play was sketched by another dramatist, wTho himself furnished only inferior Scenes, Shakespeare writing all those of most importance, or that it is made up of an older play which Shakespeare undertook to furbish and embellish, and upon which he was led to bestow more labor than he at first intended, without, however, making his rifacciamento complete. The latter alternative accounts the better for the introduction of the Scenes between Alcibiades and the Senators of Athens, which have no connection whatever with the progress of the play. But upon this subject we cannot even argue ; wre can only guess: and so I leave it; merely remarking that the story of Timon is one which would be likely to attract the eye of a London dramatist in Shakespeare's earlier years, in spite of its unfitness for dramatic treatment, on account of the eccentricity of its principal, or rather its only, character, and the fact that it was very generally known to the public which a London company of players would wish to attract and please.
"Alcib. Sound to this coward and lascivious town
Enter Senators on tJie walls.
The date of the production of this tragedy, in the form in which it has come down to us, is uncertain. There is an entire absence of external evidence upon that point, and also of other internal evidence than its style. This places it among the plays which we owe to the last period of Shakespeare's productive life. His work upon it was probably performed between 1605 and 1610.
The first folio is the only source of the text of Timon of Athens; and there it is found in a very corrupted state. Its versification in certain Scenes was probably never smooth, but in this regard it has doubtless suffered greatly in the printing office or in transcription. In the latter part of the play the broken lines are scattered sparsely along the page of the folio, —the very
Shall sit and pant in your great chairs of ease;
And pursy insolence shall break his wind,
With fear and horrid flight."
Who were the motives that you first went out;
Shame that they wanted cunning, in excess
Hath broke "their hearts. March, noble lord,
Into our city with thy banners spread:
By decimation, and a tithed death
(If thy revenges hunger for that food,
Which nature loathes,) take thou the destined tenth;
And by the hazard of the spotted die,
Let die the spotted."
(i Though thou abhorr'dst in us our human griefs,
Scorn'dst our brain's flow, and those our droplets which
From niggard nature fall, yet rich conceit
Taught thee to make vast Neptune weep for aye
On thy low grave, on faults forgiven." It seems to me that the discriminating and frequent reader of Shakespeare cannot fail to trace in these lines, especially in those which I have emphasized, Shakespeare's peculiar variety of rhythm and spontaneousness of utterance, and even his way of punning himself into a conceit, as well as his grand compulsion of the greatest of Nature's forces into the train of similes which bear along his thought.
Compare, too, the last words of the play, •' Let the drums strike," with the corresponding words of Much Ado about Nothing, Love's Labour's Lost, The Second Part of King Henry the Fourth, Coriolanus, Hamlet, and Pericles. I remember no other dramatist who ends his plays with such simple and apparently matter-of-course speeches
wrecks of well-proportioned verses. Something has been done to remedy this misfortune; but little can be safely attempted; and the present editor, like his immediate predecessors, has in many cases preserved the derangement of the folio, hopeless of all effort for its rectification. The sense of the text is in better condition than its form, especially in certain entire Scenes ; which again favors the conjecture that these Scenes are the work of an inferior artist. But throughout the play there is sufficient obscurity and corruption to make probable restoration welcome, even at the cost of unusual violence to the readings of the only authoritative edition.
The period of the action, according to the passage in Plutarch, is about the time of the Peloponnesian war — B. C. 432. The costume, of course, is to be found in the remains of Greek art of the Periclean period, and that which followed it.