...............Down with the nose,
Down with it flat; take the bridge quite away ..."
The "damned earth" even is "the common whore of mankind."
"Timon" is the true sequel to "The Merchant of Venice." Antonio gives
lavishly, but is saved at the crisis by his friends. Timon gives with
both hands, but when he appeals to his friends, is treated as a bore.
Shakespeare had travelled far in the dozen years which separate the two
All Shakespeare's tragedies are phases of his own various weaknesses,
and each one brings the hero to defeat and ruin. Hamlet cannot carry
revenge to murder and fails through his own irresolution. Othello comes
to grief through mad jealousy. Antony fails and falls through excess of
lust; Lear through trust in men, and Timon through heedless generosity.
All these are separate studies of Shakespeare's own weaknesses; but the
ruin is irretrievable, and reaches its ultimate in Timon. Trust and
generosity, Shakespeare would like to tell us, were his supremest
faults. In this he deceived himself. Neither "Lear" nor "Timon" is his
greatest tragedy; but "Antony and Cleopatra," for lust was his chief
weakness, and the tragedy of lust his greatest play.
Much of "Timon" is not Shakespeare's, the critics tell us, and some of
it is manifestly not his, though many of the passages rejected with the
best reason have, I think, been touched up by him. The second scene of
the first act is as bad as bad can be; but I hear his voice in the line:
"Methinks, I could deal kingdoms to my friends,
And ne'er be weary."
At any rate, this is the keynote of the tragedy, which is struck again
and again. Shakespeare probably exaggerated his generosity out of
aristocratic pose; but that he was careless of money and freehanded to a
fault, is, I think, certain from his writings, and can be proved from
the facts known to us of his life.