Timon of Athens is one of William Shakespeare’s least known, and out of fairness, least liked tragedies.
There is an impassioned academic debate today whether the playwright and cynic, Thomas Middleton, co-wrote this play (and others) with Shakespeare. Scholars believe the distinctive style differences between The Bard and Middleton detract from the play’s cohesiveness.
Interesting to note that Middleton also helped with Macbeth, yet you do not hear many scholars nitpicking that play, do you? Even intelligentsia play favorites, too.
Being a Bill Shakespeare enthusiast, I think Timon of Athens is deceptively underrated. The titular Timon (FYI – he does not have a friend named Pumbaa) is a character study and cautionary tale of excess, betrayal, and the profound bitterness that inevitably follows.
2 Angry Men
For simplicity’s sake, let us winnow down the characters to two angry men – Timon and Alcibiades.
- Timon. After a lifetime of squandering his money on fake friends who abandon him in his time of need, an angry and betrayed Timon exiles himself from Athens, escaping this corrupt society forever. Ending up misanthropic and alone, Timon conveniently discovers some gold, which he ironically uses to exact his revenge. Money may be the root of all evil, but before he dies, it buys Timon the final word with all the parasites who wronged him. He even gives a small bit of his gold to some whores so they can spread their venereal diseases across the world he has come to loathe.
- Alcibiades. It is the general, Alcibiades, who always captured my attention. First, super cool name. Second, is his line, “To be in anger is impiety; But who is man that is not angry?” Alcibiades’ defense of a soldier from the death penalty falls on deaf ears when pleading his case to the Senate. Because of his persistence and irreverence to the Senators, Alcibiades is banished from Athens. Vowing revenge on Athens, Alcibiades finds the embittered Timon living in a cave outside the city, and Timon gives much of his treasure to subsidize Alcibiades’ army and pending attack on Athens.
Shakespeare (and Middleton) present us with two angry characters. Timon, hateful and vengeful. Alcibiades, just and vengeful. One seeks to destroy, and the other seeks to rebuild.
But as Alcibiades says, and Timon personifies, are we not all just a bit angry? Don’t we all have triggers that set us off and show our lower, more ignoble character?
I sure as hell do.
Because you are my invisible Internet friends, we need to develop this digital relationship based on printed, albeit brilliant, words. So, please indulge me with the opportunity to opine on a brief, potentially quirky list of things that truly make me angry.
8 Angry Things
- Buffets. Everything sucks about buffets. But my real flashpoint—aside from the cheesy ambiance, abject gluttony, and poor food quality—is those disgusting plastic sneeze shields that pretend to protect your food trough from the next zombie apocalypse. While the underpaid buffet workers sit mindlessly in the corner huffing the cleaning fluid instead of using it to create a germfree line of sight over the slop, Wayne-Doug is peaking underneath, dirty fingernails and overgrown nose hair and all, trying to figure out how to work a pair of salad tongs.
- Slow Drivers. If you cannot drive the speed limit, call an Uber, grandma. Seriously, if your faculties can no longer afford you the ability to be a productive contributor to the interstate highway community, don’t get mad at me when I am riding your ass to move out of the passing lane. This is totally your fault, Mildred. When I blaze by you, rest assured I relish you giving me the finger. It reinforces that I am a true highway Alpha. And it is not just old people. That is far too lenient. A special “fuck you” shoutout goes to truckers in the passing lane, Canadians in the passing lane, and Prius drivers in general.
- Like. Overuse of the word “like” when speaking is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Not sure if this generation has become amazingly inarticulate or irretrievably stupid, but this unconscious speech pattern needs to end. It is bad enough I watch The Bachelor at all (and maybe enjoy it). But by the end of the season, not only do I hate every twenty-something in America for being so vapid and self-absorbed, but I have also heard the word “like” used more times than a poorly applied simile in a stuttering contest. Since the current populist trend in politics seems to want to give everything away for free, why not give away some elocution and public speaking lessons as precondition to graduating high school? I am, like, soooo done with it.
- Spitting. This is so unhygienic and unnecessary on every conceivable level. Unless you are a conscientious porn star, I struggle to conceive where spitting is remotely acceptable. Watching baseball is difficult for me because of all the rampant spitting. It’s like a side competition for who can be the biggest douche. Baseball is considered a sport, right? What other professional athlete can chew tobacco like a redneck at the fair, guzzle mouthfuls of seeds like some starving chipmunk, or chew wads of gum like some lonely fat kid with halitosis? And then spit it all over the place? Disgusting. Basic rule of etiquette: if you cannot swallow something in your mouth, don’t put it there in the first place.
- Fairs. Speaking of fairs (and spitting) – I hate going to them. I have commented about my intense fear of clowns (see additional reference in Quit Clowning Around blog post) and inability to connect with carnie culture. But our state fair draws some of the most inbred hill-folk that I only thought existed in movies like Deliverance. One ironic year, my wife finally convinced me to go to the fair and spend some family time with her and our toddler daughters. It was a sweltering day. A thin layer of grime quickly adhered to us after jostling through the dense crowds who milled mindlessly about. The air was rife with competing smells of fried food, body odor, and cow shit. All this was marginally tolerable, until a drunken old hillman spit a massive mouthful of chewing tobacco across my oldest daughter’s legs, replacing the dusty grime with his black saliva. After the fisticuffs were over, and the police escorted us out, we have never returned to the fair since.
- Uncontrolled Children. Whatever happened to parenting? The artful delivery of a well-planted bitch slap upside the head of a loud, unruly, mouthy child? I travel a lot for work. Air travel is particularly uncomfortable, stressful and nasty, made infinitely worse by the caterwaul of an unmuzzled toddler. I am working on an invention: a sleeping pod where you put a one-year old child in, and six years later, out comes a grown seven-year old who knows how the fuck to properly behave and communicate in public. Maybe mom and/or dad will take a parenting class during this hiatus, too!
- Everything Disney. – Happiest place on earth, my ass. Isn’t a giant rat mascot a clear sign of infestation and decay? It is a documented, journalistic fact that beneath the Magic Kingdom, there is a secret lab (and temple) where Walt Disney’s reanimated head communicates plans for world domination to his adoring devotees. The whole experience is designed around mind control. Otherwise how could we logically spend so much money on such a shitty experience? Disney is a fair on steroids. Spoiled screaming children not getting overpriced trinkets, massive crowds melting in sweltering heat, and lame rides with wait times that defy the patience of any reasonable human? Evil genius at work.
- Covidiots. As I often tell my twenty-something daughters, it is not always all about you. We exist in a world of seven billion people. In this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are only as successful curtailing the spread of the disease as the shittiest person or the biggest idiot. As I watch these moronic children (raised by even more stupid, indulgent parents) ignoring warnings and partying on Florida beaches, I think this is a great opportunity for a shark attack. It will only take the bloody mutilation of a few Brookes and Addisons in front of a massive mob of shrieking Gen Z’ers to demonstrate the point: random shit happens. Is it the shark’s fault for eating sweet Emily? Hell no. He was hungry, and the water was conveniently stocked with fresh food. Is it a virus’ fault it infests thousands of asymptomatic spring breakers, and then it kills their at-risk grandparents when Brandon comes home to visit? Think people. Funny not funny.
Sadly, most of you my deer fans won’t never get to see me storm out of Athens like Timon like some spoilt child that just figured out that life sucks. He shoulda subscribed to this here blog.
Hell, most of you won’t never even see me accept for my boyish good looks and smiling mug on the About PS Conway page. Some of you been asking about the possibility for a vlog or podcast down the road. Write now, my righting is my priority, but you never know!
Oh, I forgot! Bad grammer, pisses me off two!
Let’s open a digital dialogue. Scroll down to LEAVE A REPLY. Thanks!