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Timon of Athens was the twenty-first story in The Shakespeare Notebooks.


Editors have often agreed that the text of Timon and Athens we have is problematic. "The copy from which the folio was printed had been mangled and interpolated" (Deighton, 1905). There has been much speculation as to whether this was caused by the theatre company or the printers of the 1623 Folio, but there is broad consensus that the play we have is incomplete.

The first three acts in the Folio show us Timon, a retired soldier who has become fabulously wealthy. He is surrounded by flatterers who he makes extravagant gifts to, until his gold runs out. He appeals to his friends and the Athenian government for a loan, and is turned away by them all.

In Act IV we find Timon a starving beggar in the desert. Digging for roots, he finds more gold, but instead of rejoining society, he rails against his false friends and the Athenians, seeming to encourage the exiled General Alcibiades to attack the city.

In Act V the play ends suddenly, with Timon seemingly dead and Alcibiades rather abruptly the master of Athens. Several scenes appear to have been written by other hands ("There can be little doubt that the whole scene [V.III], which is quite irrelevant, is an interpolation." Deighton, 1905)

For many centuries, Timon has been regarded as an incomplete or troubling masterpiece little suited to the stage. The Stationer's Register for 1618 contains notice of the intention by the printer Henry Dunwich to publish "The Tragedie of Timon, or All For Gold". The inclusion in the Shakespeare Notebooks of a partial and corrupt copy of this recently discovered and anonymous 'Bad Quarto' allows us to reconstruct some of the last two acts of the play.


  • Timon
  • General Alcibiades
  • Axonia
  • The Senators
  • The Messenger


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