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CRITICAL OPINIONS ON TIMON OF ATHENS.
“TIMON OF ATHENS, of all the works of Shakspeare, possesses most the character of satire :laughing satire in the picture of the parasites and flatterers, and Juvenalian in the bitterness of Timon's imprecations on the ingratitude of a false world. The story is very simply treated, and is definitely divided into large masses :-in the first act, the joyous life of Timon, his noble and hospitable extravagance, and around him the throng of suitors of every description; in the second and third acts, his embarrassment, and the trial which he is thereby reduced to make of his supposed friends, who all desert him in the hour of need ;—in the fourth and fifth acts, Timon's flight to the woods, bis misanthropical melancholy, and his death. The only thing which may be called an episode is the banishment of Alcibiades, and his return by force of arms. However, they are both examples of ingratitude,—the one of a state towards its defender, and the other of private friends to their benefactor. As the merits of the General towards his fellow-citizens suppose more strength of character than those of the generous prodigal, their respective behaviours are not less different : Timon frets himself to death, Alcibiades regains his lost dignity by force. If the poet very properly sides with Timon against the common practice of the world, he is, on the other hand, by no means disposed to spare Timon. Timon was a fool in his generosity; in his discontent he is a madman; he is everywhere wanting in the wisdom which enables a man in all things to observe the due measure. Although the truth of his extravagant feelings is proved by his death, and though when he digs up a treasure he spurns the wealth which seems to tempt him, we yet see distinctly enough that the vanity of wishing to be singular, in both the parts that he plays, had some share in his liberal self-forgetfulness, as well as in his anchoritical seclusion. This is particularly evident in the incomparable scene where the cynic Apemantus visits Timon in the wilderness. They have a sort of competition with each other in their trade of misanthropy: the Cynic reproaches the impoverished Timon with having been merely driven by necessity to take to the way of living which he himself had long been following of his free choice, and Timon cannot bear the thought of being merely an imitator of the Cynic. In such a subject as this, the due effect could only be produced by an accumulation of similar features; still, in the variety of the shades, an amazing degree of understanding has been displayed by Shakspeare. What a powerfully diversified concert of flatteries and of empty testimonies of devotedness! It is highly amusing to see the suitors, when the ruined circumstances of their patron had dispersed, immediately flock to him again when they leam that he has been revisited by fortune. On the other hand, in the speeches of Timon, after he is undeceived, all hostile figures of speech are exhausted, -it is a dictionary of eloquent imprecations." -SCHLEGEL.
The earliest known copy of this popular tragedy is a quarto published in 1597, entitled, “ The Tragedy of King Richard the Third. Containing, His treacherous Plots against his brother Clarence: the pittiefull murther of his innocent nephewes : His tyrannicall vsurpation : with the whole course of his detested life, and most deserued death. As it hath beene lately acted by the Right honourable the Lord Chamberlaine, his seruants. At London, Printed by Valentine Sims, for Andrew Wise, dwelling in Paules Church-yard, at the signe of the Angell, 1597.” In 1598, another edition appeared bearing the same title, and in addition the author's
“William Shake-speare.” The next impression, brought out in 1602, professes to be · Newly augmented;" this was followed by a fourth in 1605, and a fifth in 1613, which was the last quarto copy prior to the publication of the folio in 1623. Subsequently, three other quarto editions, dated respectively 1624, 1629, and 1634, were published, not one of which however, it is noticeable, contains the passages first found in the folio. Although an historical piece on the same subject,-“ The True Tragedie of Richard the Third: wherein is showne the death of Edward the fourth, with the smothering of the two young Princes in the Tower : with a lamentable ende of Shores wife, an example for all wicked women. And lastly, the conjunction and ioyning of the two noble houses, Lancaster and Yorke. As it was playd by the Queenes Maiesties Players,”—was issued in 1594, there are no proofs that Shakespeare has any obligations to it: his only authorities appear to have been the old chroniclers.
Malone has remarked that the textual variations between the quarto version of this play and the folio are more numerous than in any other of our author's works. This is true, and the diversity has proved, and will continue to prove, a source of incalculable trouble and perpetual dispute to his editors, since, although it is admitted by every one properly qualified to judge, that a reasonably perfect text can only be formed from the two versions, there will always be a conflict of opinions regarding some of the readings. Upon the whole, we prefer the quarto text, though execrably deformed by printing-office blunders, and can by no means acquiesce in the decision that those passages found only in the folio are "additions” made by the poet, subsequent to the publication of the early quartos. On the contrary, we believe those very passages to have been structural portions of the piece, and the real additions to be the terse and vigorous bits of dialogue peculiar to the quartos. Is it credible that so accomplished a master of stagecraft as Shakespeare, after witnessing the representation of Richard the Third, would have added above eighty lines to the longest scene in this or perhaps any other play? Is it not far more probable that these lines in Act IV., those touching the young prince's train in Act II., the nine in Gloucester's mock reply to the Mayor and Buckingham, and some others, formed originally part of the text and were omitted to accelerate the action, and afford space for the more lively and dramatic substitutions which are met with in the quartos alone? But although in these and a few other instances the folio copy appears to have been an earlier one than that used by the printers of the quartos, it must be admitted that there are numerous places in which the text of the former has undergone minute and careful correction, and where, both in rhythm and in language, it is superior to the previous editions.
Malone conjectured that Shakespeare wrote “Richard the Third” in 1593; the received impression at the present day is, that he produced it very shortly before its first publication in 1597.
KING EDWARD THE FOURTH.
Sons to the King.
Brothers to the King.
ELIZABETH, Queen of King Edward IV.
married to the Duke of Gloucester. A Young Daughter of CLARENCE.
Lords, and other Attendants ; two Gentlemen, a Pursuivant, Scrivener, Citizens,
Murderers, Messengers, Ghosts, Soldiers, &c.