Timon of Athens
The real Timon of Athens lived there in the fifth century BCE, making him a contemporary of Socrates and Pericles. Shakespeare presents Timon as a figure who suffers such profound disillusionment that he becomes a misanthrope, or man-hater. This makes him a more interesting character than the caricature he had become to Shakespeare's contemporaries, for whom "Timonist" was a slang term for an unsociable man.
Timon of Athens, one of William Shakespeare's plays includes the wealthy, magnificent, and extravagantly generous figure of Timon before his transformation. Timon expects that, having received as gifts all that he owned, his friends will be equally generous to him.
Once his creditors clamor for repayment, Timon finds that his idealization of friendship is an illusion. He repudiates his friends, abandons Athens, and retreats to the woods. Yet his misanthropy arises from the destruction of an admirable illusion, from which his subsequent hatred can never be entirely disentangled.
Many scholars believe that Timon of Athens is an unfinished play, one that Shakespeare never polished into final form, and that is was not performed during his lifetime. He is thought to have written it in 1605-08, and it was published in the 1623 First Folio. Among Shakespeare's sources was North's translation of Plutarch's Lives.
Productions at the Folger
Hamnet link to Folger Edition: PR2753 .M6 1992 copy 2 v.32
In popular culture
The Folger owns at least 20 stand-alone translations of Timon of Athens in various languages (not including collected works). Cataloging of these works is ongoing as of early 2015, and many have full-level catalog records, but some works still have only partial records. Translations can be found Hamnet in by searching for "Translations"in the Genre/Form Term field, or by searching the Call Number (Left-Anchored) field for call numbers starting with PR2796 (see the list of Sh.Col. translations call numbers for specific language call numbers). Since not all translations are fully cataloged, some items may only turn up in one of these searches.
Explore the curated image group for Timon of Athens in the Folger digital image collection.
Content Advisory: this image group contains representations of nudity.
Listen to Essence Newhoff, the Folger's director of development, discuss a captivating illustration of Timon of Athens by Wyndham Lewis.
- Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 2001 Folger Shakespeare Library.