Revisiting the courtesans

A couple of days back, when discussing (or should that be “disgust-ing”) bawdy in Timon of Athens, I made reference to Alcibiades’ two whores, er, mistresses, er, concubines, er, companions in Act Four, Scene Three. Today, a quick re-set on this brace of bimbos…

First, these two women are the ONLY named female characters in the play.

Yes, there are the mostly mute dancers at Act One, Scene Two’s feast, “certain ladies most desirous of admittance” (I.ii.113). They enter “as Amazons” (I.ii.126 stage direction), and later dance with the party guests. One of these ladies has a solo line, all the rest answer as a chorus in a single line as well.

And Alcibiades has Phrynia and Timanda.

Earlier in the week, I mentioned that the name Phrynia seems to be a reference to the ancient Greek courtesan Phryne, who while on trial–according to legend–flashed her “milk paps” (IV.iii.116) at the jury, and was subsequently acquitted.

And Timanda?

Her name matches that of the Greek mythological daughter of Leda and Tyndareus. Timanda married the king of Arcadia, Echemus, but left him for Phyleus, the king of Dulichium. So the name doesn’t exactly have a faithful connotation. Note: Timanda’s sisters Helen and Clytemnestra (Helen was a half-sister) were also known–in some versions of their myths–for extra-marital shenanigans.

These two companions account for a whopping four solo lines and three choral lines.

Three-plus females in a play with fifty-plus characters, accounting for less than ten speeches.

Females in Timon of Athens: ignored AND insulted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *