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The History of Timon of Athens, the Man Hater.

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The History of Timon of Athens, the Man Hater.

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The full title reads as follows:

"The History of Timon of Athens, the Man-Hater. As it is acted at the Dukes Theatre. Made into a Play. / By Tho. Shadwell. / Licensed, Feb. 18. 1678/7. / Ro. L’Estrange. / London, / Printed by J.M. for Henry Herringman, at the Blue Anchor, in the Lower Walk of the New Exchange.”

Issue Points

The first edition of Shadwell's revival of Shakespeare's 'Timon of Athens.'

This is also the first separate edition of 'Timon of Athens' in any format.

Historical Importance

TIMON OF ATHENS was composed by Shakespeare in about 1605-06, and has always been considered one of his ‘problem’ plays, since it does not fit easily within the standard modes of comedy, tragedy or history. It tells the story of the noble Athenian, Timon, who expends his fortune in acts of generosity, and then is made to suffer when his creditors demand payment, and the recipients of his generosity fail in their obligations of gratitude. In disgust, Timon becomes a misanthrope (hence the 1678 play’s title), leaves Athens after throwing a banquet of rocks and water for his malefactors, and takes up residence in a cave outside the city. There, he finds a trove of gold, and makes two final acts of generosity: he gives much of the gold to Alcibiades for the conquest of Athens, and the remainder to two prostitutes in order to spread disease amongst the Athenians. Timon dies as his last charges accomplish their respective tasks. It is a bleak play, like Lear, but is sparer than Lear. Timon, moreover, can fairly be considered an apogee of skepticism as a political philosophy in Early Modern England. It was not until Shadwell’s 1678 adaptation that Shakespeare’s ‘Timon’ enjoyed success upon the stage.

More précis information…

THOMAS SHADWELL followed Dryden as Poet Laureate, and lived from 1642 until 1692. Aside from the present adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Timon of Athens,’ Shadwell’s greatest play in his own right was ‘Epsom Wells.’ He also composed ‘Psyche,’ ‘The Virtuoso,’ ‘The Libertine,’ and ‘The Squire of Alsatia.’ Beyond his plays, Shadwell gained fame in his own time for ‘The Medal of John Bayes,’ his attack on Dryden, and in our time for his place in ‘Mac Flecknoe’ and ‘Absalom and Achitophel,’ Dryden’s counterattacks that stand as two of the greatest satires in English.

SHADWELL’S ‘TIMON OF ATHENS’ was one of the most successful Shakespeare revivals of the Restoration, and in many respects is solely responsible for the play’s popularity on stage during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was Shadwell, famously declaring that with his revival ‘Timon of Athens’ had now been “made into a play,” who showed that Shakespeare’s problematic tragedy could be a theatrical success.

As Stanley T. Williams writes in ‘Some Versions of ‘Timon of Athens’ on the Stage’:

 “real interest in Shakespeare’s ‘Timon of Athens,’ as an acting play, did not begin until the last quarter of the seventeenth century, long after its appearance in the First Folio as a Shakespearean tragedy. … No positive evidence exists of its having been acted either before or after this date until Thomas Shadwell’s version of the play in 1678.

“‘Timon of Athens, or The Man-Hater,’ by Thomas Shadwell, was acted at Dorset Garden in December 1678. In the ‘Epistle Dedicatory,’ in which occurs Shadwell’s famous declaration that ‘Timon of Athens’ was now ‘made into a play,’ the author deigns to pay tribute to Shakespeare: ‘I am now to present your Grace [the Duke of Buckingham] with this History of ‘Timon,’ which you were pleased to tell me you liked, and it is the more worthy of you, since it has the inimitable hand of Shakespeare in it, which never made more masterly strokes than in this.

“This was the first version of the tragedy. J. Drake refers to it in 1699 as one of ‘our best English Tragedies as our Hamlet, Macbeth … Timon of Athens,’ and Charles Gildon, writing a year earlier, says: ‘This play, as publish’d first by our Author, was not divided into Acts, but has been reviv’d with alterations, by Mr. Shadwell, and for a few years past, as often acted at the Theatre Royal, as any Tragedy I know.’ Perhaps Shadwell’s most striking change was in giving Timon two mistresses. Genest’s synopses of the play show how wide were his deviations. Act I ‘begins with a soliloquy by a new character called Demetrius’ and ‘concludes with a scene between Timon and Evandra, in which he professes a regard for her on account of former favours, but says he is so much in love with Melissa that he cannot live happily without her.’ In the second act we see Melissa with her maid Chloe, and in the act following ‘Melissa having heard of Timon’s distresses, orders her servants not to admit him.’ But Timon finds that in his reverses ‘Evandra consoles him.’ In the fourth act Melissa, who has, meanwhile, sworn her love to Alcibiades, hears that Timon has discovered gold. She searches him out, but he drives her away, asserting his love for Evandra. The fifth act is totally changed. After a scene between Timon and Evandra near the cave, Alcibiades enters to find that Timon is dead and the Evandra has stabbed herself. Melissa then strives to restore herself in the graces of Alcibiades, but is repulsed. The Senators, with halters about their necks, are harangued by Alcibiades. The play ends as all lament the deaths of Timon and Evandra. In this version Thomas Betterton played Timon.

“… Downes in ‘Roscius Anglicanus’ praises it [Shadwell’s revival of Shakespeare’s ‘Timon’]: ‘Timon of Athens, alter’d by Mr. Shadwell; ‘twas very well acted, and the music in’t well performed; it wonderfully pleased the Court and City; being an excellent moral.’ And, in fact, the stage history of this version leaves no doubt as to its success. As Genest says, it was ‘continued on the acting list for many years.’ The first revival occurred at the Haymarket Theater on June 27, 1707. Mills played Timon, Verbruggen Apemantus, and Booth Alcibiades. The parts of Evandra and Melissa were played, respectively, by Mrs. Porter and Mrs. Bradshaw. On December 8, 1720, the play was put on at Drury Lane with Booth as Timon and Mills as Apemantus, and on May 1, 1733, it was acted at Covent Garden with Milward as Timon and Quin as Apemantus. Walker played Alcibiades. Drury Lane offered the play again on March 20, 1740, for the benefit of Milward, who again played Timon. Finally, it was seen five years later at Covent Garden, on April 20, 1745, with Hale presumably in the title role.”


1. T. Connolly, Dublin bookseller (his 19th century ticket on the front endpaper).

Early Modern17th CenturyRestorationRestoration DramaShakespeare QuartosRestoration TheatreLiteraturePoetryTragedyThomas ShadwellT. ConnollyFirst Editions

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