Boozy Books: Timon of Athens

Heyo!

First off, I am a little sad no one loved the title of Monday’s Muse as much as I did. I put effort into these things, people, and I am made glorious by your praise…

But there was no praise. Not even a titter. And now I don’t feel glorious at all. I feel unloved and underappreciated.

Which is perfect for today’s pairing, so…thanks guys! I knew you’d always come through for me! You’re the bestest!

So. Today is the second of four pairings we’ll be doing in our run-up to Strat Fest 2017. And, just like last year (you’ll notice a pattern), I’m doing the plays that aren’t as exciting. Like, I did the histories last year while A got to do Macbeth and As You Like It. I’m not complaining, though, because I love the histories as much as the tragedies and, truth be told, more than most of the comedies. It’s like seeing Shakespeare’s version of Hamilton. (Or would Hamilton be Lin-Manuel Miranda’s version of Shakespeare’s histories? The eternal questions being asked here at Nerd Cactus, folks.) But, basically, I seem to be drawn to the plays that no one else likes, or has even heard of.

Except this year, of course, because I swore I was going to pair Tartuffe and, by gum, I am going to pair Tartuffe!

But not this week, of course. Because this week is Timon of Athens.

OK. Where to begin? I guess the most important thing to remember about Timon is that Shakespeare collaborated (probably) with Thomas Middleton in writing it. I mean, there’s no primary sources that say, “Hey, I totes collaborated with Middleton/Shakespeare on this,” but we’re pretty sure. There’s lots of things in the play that seem nothing like Shakespeare but seem very much like Middleton, so… yeah. It’s a collaborative work. Which, given the arrangement here at Cactus, I very much approve of.

Now, like I said on Monday, a lot of things are affected by whether or not Timon is seen as being truly ascetic or merely using it as a device in the second act. In one instance, Timon is sympathetic; in the other, he’s far more petulant. But, basically… Timon is a really rich guy who wants friends. And he is exceptionally generous, giving away his money left and right to support these friends, patronizing the arts, getting people out of debt, etc. He is warned that he is spending his money too quickly by one of his few true friends, but ignores these warnings and continues to spend until it is revealed that he is completely broke. Timon turns to his friends–the ones he has helped and been so magnanimous toward–and, one by one, they turn him down, some even railing against him. Needless to say, Timon is not happy.

What follows is a delicious mix of revenge, misanthropy, anger, the paying off of prostitutes to purposely spread venereal diseases, and what could only be described as the greatest Misanthrope-Off in the history of theater. Like… if Lin-Manuel Miranda could take the humanity sucks battle between Timon and Apemantus and write them like a rap battle, I think the whole world would be in a MUCH, MUCH better place. Eventually, Timon tells the world to go fuck itself… and dies.

Also, Alcibiades is in it, and he isn’t much happier with Athens than Timon, having been banished. But that’s OK. He’s going to tear down the city in revenge using all that gold Timon found in the cave.

Right. Yes. Timon finds gold in a cave. Because of course.

This play is a lot more interesting than I think people give it credit for. I guess no one wants to read about misanthropy and cynicism, but COME ON. Who among us hasn’t wanted to tell everyone to go fuck themselves and then chill out in a cave with a bunch of gold? OK, so I probably wouldn’t give money to prostitutes to spread STDs (I’d give them the money to get treatment and, if they so chose, get out of sex work. Or at least into a safer form of sex work, where they aren’t quite so likely to get STDs) and I wouldn’t live in a cave, but there are days I want to hide in the woods and not talk to anyone for a while. And Timon is basically living out that fantasy.

Also, I really want to see Nathan Lane play him one day. Just for the funsies.

So. What to drink? Well, if you’re a truly ascetic Timon, caring only for earning friends and a good man in a messed up world, you’ll stick to water and roots (the only explicitly mentioned part of Timon’s diet in the text). No wine or meat for you. But personally, I’d much rather be like Cersei Lannister* and drink wine as my enemies suffer (or, you know, something that isn’t wine because I don’t actually like wine), so I think a nice Cabernet Sauvignon will do. The savage red. Because, personally, I think it fits.

OK. That’s it for me. I’ll be back Sunday with some sillies. If sillies even exist for this play…

C

*I am not Team Lannister, for the record, but I can really admire a woman who can watch the world burn (or, at least, the Sept) and drink wine. And at least she doesn’t pretend to be better than everyone else like a certain blonde woman whose titles are really just a bit much. SHUT UP, DANY. YOU NEED JON JUST AS MUCH AS HE NEEDS YOU. LET THE KNEE THING GO, WILL YOU? Ugh.

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