Timon of Athens: The Misanthrope/Cynic Exchange

The title of this entry sounds like some kind of bizarre Dow Jones/NASDAQ average, doesn’t it? But no, we’re not going to Wall Street. We’re still in (ancient?) Greece and Timon of Athens.

No, what I’m referring to is the interplay between Timon and Apemantus in Act Four, Scene Three…

Timon is ragin’ full on, in total Misanthropos mode. He’s found the gold. Been visited by and driven off the general Alcibiades and his two, uh, companions. Then Apemantus comes to visit because he “was directed hither. Men report // {Timon] dost affect [his] manner and dost use them” (IV.iii.198-99). And the cynic wants to see if the reports are true.

Then they insult each other for the next 200 lines.

But how do you play this? Yelling, screaming, real hatred? (that would get old) Almost over the top, as if aware of how ridiculous they sound? Does it ping-pong back and forth between emotions? Does Apemantus toy with Timon (cynically) while Timon rages?

I think this could be a very interesting rehearsal piece.

So as a thought experiment: What is the history of these two?

Obviously, Timon has some affection for the cynic. Why else would he allow the buzzkill at his parties? I don’t think it’s for entertainment value. (the opposite may not hold logic: Apemantus may just want to kill everyone’s buzz regardless of identity)

So how do you play this? Maybe this is why the BBC version had such severe cuts to the last two acts…

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