I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Timon of Athens is a bitterly intriguing study of a fabulously rich man who wastes his wealth on his friends, and, when he is finally impoverished, learns to despise humanity with a hatred that drives him to his grave.
This is probably the Shakespearean play that I like the least of those that I have seen thus far. The plot line reminded me strongly of many celebrities today, who have made a ton of money and don’t really pay attention to the details of it. They spend wildly on themselves and their hangers-on, and then suddenly find themselves bankrupt. Just as suddenly, all of their “friends” disappear, leaving them holding the bills. Timon follows this pattern to a T.
But, more often than not, today’s celebrities pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and reorganize their lives and end up living in a more modest, reasonable way. They realize their part in the whole debacle. Timon doesn’t—he blames everyone, even the people who tried to help him. And it’s all everyone else’s fault, he doesn’t accept a bit of blame for his misfortunes. He goes from one extreme to the other—from wealth to living in a cave eating roots. When he discovers buried treasure, instead of taking responsibility & getting his life back on track, he once again uses it to prove that he is hard-done by.
I can see why this play is rarely performed now—Timon’s form of self-denial after his ruin is hard for me to empathize with. I can understand being more careful in relations with other people, but I don’t understand his Unabomber-like withdrawal from human society. For me, roughing it is a cheap motel, so you won’t find me living in cave no matter how low my fortunes may fall.