Monday, January 10, 2011

First Post-Tumble Run; Disappointing Timon

This morning I went for my first run since that one last week during the course of which I fell and hurt my ankle and I'm not providing a link to that older post because let's face it: I've proved I can read stats and my stats invariably show me that my linking to an older does not lead to your clicking through to that post and reading it; so ... Way to defeat the whole purpose of hyperlinks and perhaps the whole idea of Teh Interwebs, People Who "Read" My Blog! Thanks to you, Teh Terrorists have won.

Lately, since the fall1, I've just been riding Morrissey so as not to aggravate the ankle. I rode him — HARD!1! — for like 23.2 miles in four rides. But I figured today was the day to test the ankle out with a short run.

So I headed out the door on to the still-partially-icy sidewalks for a short run that turned out to be 4.04 miles in 37:40; which is 6.4 mph and a 9:18 pace. Not great or even, strictly speaking, good, but I'll take it because it was the first run in a week on an ankle still a little sore; and it was icy out so there were a few turns where I slowed down to something approaching a sub-walking pace.

I finished Timon of Athens last week and I guess it had to happen that I would eventually run across a Shakespeare play that would be disappointing. It's not so much that Timon is bad — though it is by no means good — it's just that, being a (supposed) late-era Shakespeare play, I expected much better. I didn't expect great because I knew enough about the play's checkered history to know it is considered one of Shakespeare's "problem plays"— themselves a pretty heterogeneous group because there are different reasons each is considered a "problem". In the case of Timon, one of the "problems" is ... what the fuck is this thing, exactly? Because in the 1623 First Folio, it was listed among the tragedies, and while it could technically qualify as a tragedy, it's a pretty crappy one. But it certainly isn't a comedy, a romance or a history. In being difficult to classify if you limit your options to Comedy, Tragedy, History, Romance, Timon is kinda like Troilus; only you can say about Troilus, "Okay, this is Shakespeare's one and only satire." No such Option E exists for Timon.

Timon's transformation from paragon of generosity to wilderness-dwelling misanthrope is sudden and, to my mind at least, lacks what Eliot, in his characterization of Hamlet as an "artistic failure", called an objective correlative. There's nothing in the play that allows the reader (or viewer) to feel, and thereby validate, Timon's emotional reactions. My feeling was, Dude, bit of an over-reaction there, dontcha think?

The introduction to the Riverside Shakespeare edition of Timon was written by Frank Kermode, who evidently just died this past August. In grad school, I took a Shakespeare seminar with Kermode and pretty much disliked it, largely because I got the feeling that he was trying to drive at something but I just could not for the life of me grasp what it was. I started getting a bit panicky as the semester ended because I knew I would have to write a paper of at least 20 pages, but I had no idea what angle he could possibly be looking for, even though I was equally certain it was something specific. I finally ended up writing a paper on Hamlet that had like zero to do with what Kermode discussed in the seminar and, in his comments on it, he essentially said, "This is well-written enough, a close reading of the play, but I don't see what it has to do with what we discussed all semester." To which my reaction was, Yeah and whose fault is that, Commode? because I was a real dick of a 24-year-old back then and I would make fun of people's names like that though now I'm far too mature for puerile things like that.

Anyroad, Kermode, in his introduction, offers a number of possible explanations for Timon's crappiness, and even floats the theory that it wasn't supposed to be included in the First Folio at all but was a replacement for another play that the compilers of the First Folio were having difficulties with and so they replaced that latter one with this, essentially, unfinished early draft of a play. Kinda interesting.

Also, in Act V, i 18, Kermode, in his role as editor of the play, provides the following footnotal gloss: "visitation: visit. Shakespeare knew the word visit only as a verb."

I didn't know that. So now, 25 year later, I can finally say that I learned something from Sir John Frank Kermode, may he Rest in Peace.

1 N.B.: Not Teh Fall, i.e., the one in Eden where, With Adam's Fall/ We Sinnéd All. I'm talking about the more significant fall, the one that gave me my hand and ankle boo-boos.


  1. Let me be the first to say:

    I rode him — HARD!1!

    That's what said!

  2. Is "anyroad" a regionalism? It's very distracting; you use it almost every post.

    Option E for Timon: Shakespeare didn't write it.

  3. I'm so used to anyroad it doesn't even phase me anymore. I do, however, still get a kick out of n@ts%cks!!!!!!!!! That's what SHE said!!!

    I don't know how you run in this crap.

  4. It's a Liverpudlianism, I assume. Paul uses "anyroad" like 4 times in this deleted scene from AH¹D'sN. (I don't think there's an "anyroad" in the scenes that made it to the screen, though.) I thought I had acknowledged that's where I got it from before in one of my blog posts from years ago, but now that I think about it, I think I caught Cletus using "anyroad" on his blog and I told him, unless he was $ir Paul himself, he owed me royalties for using "anyroad" because he had obviously stolen it from me.

    And it's mine, cos I stole it from Paul first.
    ¹ THAT'S WHAT SUN RUNNER SAID!1! - what with the "H" standing for "Hard" and all.

  5. Incidentally, Cletus still hasn't paid me.

  6. Quit makin' fun of Cletus. He's actually quite articulate, clean, and non-rednecky in person.

  7. Oh, my. I've never even HEARD of Timon of Athens. And unlike you, in my college Shakespeare class, I wrote my papers basically saying exactly what Prof W had said. He then told me he had given me the one and only A+ he'd ever given - HAH! And then he invited me over to look at "art" at his house - and I suddenly realized maybe it wasn't my papers he liked!

    It's weird, I thought exactly what Steve Q wrote about Shakespeare not even writing Timon when you described it. Sounds like a better option than Shakespeare just having a really bad month (or however long it took him to write a play). How long did it take him to write his plays, anyway?

  8. I once had a guy ask me if I wanted to see his moth collection.

  9. @slg - Shakespeare is credited with 38 plays, which he wrote, in all likelihood, over the course of 22 or so years - an average of nearly two per year, especially if you don't count the plague years, during which he probably wasn't writing any because the theaters were closed and there was no reason to write new plays. (He may have written the sonnets and his other dramatic poems during these interregnums.)

    Shakespeare is considered great not merely because of the quality of his plays, but also the quantity of them that were still so good. When people run across clunkers, like Timon, the first thing they want to do is say, O, come on! NO WAY Teh Swan of Avon wrote this dreck! But the amazing thing isn't that Shakespeare (possibly) authored (or co-authored) some relatively bad stuff; the amazing thing is how little of it is bad, considering the prodigious output.

    Some people say other playwrights, such as C. Marlowe, would be considered rivals for the crown of Best Playwright 4Evah if only he had lived long enough to write as many plays. Having never read any Marlowe (a reading gap I hope to fill in soon), I can't weigh in on that either way. But I have heard people whose opinions I respect adduce that argument. My point in bringing it up is to emphasize the importance of Shakespeare's output in garnering him his reputation. Those lesser plays that are "merely" good-not-great are, in the aggregate, as important as the eight or nine truly great ones when it comes to establishing his reputation.

    When we run across a bad one (or a bad passage in a good one), it seems the first thing people want to say, though, is "Shakespeare didn't write that."

    I think he was great enough to be capable of some bad writing and surviving it.

    @SR (D-MI) - He should have said, "Wanna see my moth balls", I think.

    Stupid luuuzer missed the perfect opportunity

  10. Congrats on a nice run (status-post)ankle injury! While I love winter running a lot more than summer running, it's always scary being out there with ice. I hope you "screw" your shoes for the winter!!

  11. ummm....what did your rule mean?

    (re:neil sent me)

  12. Your check is in the mail......

    and I'd have to admit that 4+ miles at a 6.4 speed on a busted up old geezer ankle is kind of impressive. For an old hippie geezer and all. Well done!

  13. LOL...screw your shoes...

    I'll bet Shakespeare never wrote that, but he probably didn't run on ice either...

  14. I've read Marlowe's plays (everyone chime in... of course) and he had only one I'd deem timeless. He had a wider sense of wit than Shakespeare, if not keener, but his plays seem a bit forced and contrived and his characters frequentl lack the depth of Shakespeare's. Of the other contemporaries, Beaumont and Fletcher had some good plays; there's a tremendous amount of overlap, it appears, as most of the playwrights of the time tinkered with each others' work. In the works of Fletcher without Beaumont, some passages read like pure Shakespeare and indeed may be.

  15. I waiting now for your Pericles review. It is being performed at this moment in St. Louis and has received very good reviews, yet it is about 100% likely I won't attend. Which is a shame because how often is this play actually performed?