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Timon of Athens
Allegedly Shakespeare's least popular play, written in collaboration with Thomas Middleton who wrote at least the whole of Act 3. Timon is astonishingly one-dimensional both as a play and a character who falling from power through naive and extreme generosity, turns into an extreme exemplar of misanthropy when he finds his friends faithless. It's like Lear raging against his fate but for two acts...the passion and vitriol is magnificently expounded but it does pall after a while. It's also a surprising contrast to the famously complex characterisation found in Shakespeare's major Tragedies. The plot is also exceedingly simplistic, even more so than a lot of the shenanigans of the Comedies.
Middleton's contributions, whilst not reaching the heights of Shakespeare's are nevertheless not bad in any way. Reading Shakespeare's collaborative plays is teaching me that many of his contemporaries, whether rivals or colleagues, were very able dramatists and worth pursuing on their own merits. Jonson is widely considered closest in stature to Shakespeare but Middleton is the collaborator/adaptor of MacBeth, which is many people's favourite "Shakespeare" play and his passages here stand up pretty well, too. I am, therefore, looking forward to tackling Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works (which cost a fortune but was a very well received gift.)
This feels in some ways like very early Shakespeare and it is therefore surprising to find it is supposed to have been written between the Quarto Lear and MacBeth. Some believe that the misanthropic tone professed by Timon, along with the already noted similarity to Lear's raging, are indicative of some kind of crisis in Shakespeare's life during this period that left him feeling exceedingly negative about human nature - if so, it might also explain why the late comedies are "darker" in tone, too.
I find myself in agreement with the critics who say Timon is great poetry but not great drama and that most audiences will little appreciate it because they will not be in sympathy with its mood.