The Life of Timon of Athens, one of the most obscure and difficult works by William Shakespeare, celebrates the ideas of friendship in the Renaissance. Interestingly, this play is regarded as an unfinished and imperfect one by the Shakespearean critics…
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The presentation of male friendship in the play has attained serious critical attention and the readers are able to recognize that Timon’s investment in his male friends and his loss of friends symbolized by his vanished gold are central to the ideas of friendship in the Renaissance. It is fundamental to maintain that gold in the play is the essential instrument of ‘friendship’ and it takes the place of the phallus, which is not only the phallus as absence, castration, or fear of feminine, and maternal power. As Karen Newman maintains, “Timon of Athens’s world of male/male love and passionate friendship speaks through Plutarch and the ‘wild’ figure of Alcibiages, whose relation with Timon and his phallic, golden gifts adumbrates another view of Jacobean gift giving.” (Newman, 387) This paper undertakes a reflective exploration of the conventions of friendship in William Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens in relation to the ideas of friendship in the Renaissance in order to demonstrate how the conventions of friendship in the play are connected with Renaissance ideas of friendship.One of the major concerns of the studies in Renaissance literature has been to investigate the link between the conventions of friendship in the literary works and ideas of friendship in Renaissance. William Shakespeare is a dramatist who has dealt extensively with the conventions of friendship all through his literary career, by means of his sonnets, long poems, comedies, tragedies, romances, and histories. Significantly, the theme of friendship has been a central concern of the playwright and his famous works personify the theme of friendship through the friendship of Hamlet and Horatio in Hamlet, Rosalind and Celia in As You Like It, and Hal and Falstaff in the Henry IV plays. Therefore, it is an indisputable fact that Shakespeare’s plays deal with the theme of friendship and it is substantiated by his iconographic representation of false friendship in his late tragedy The Life of Timon of Athens. One of the most essential aspects of the concept of friendship as presented in this play is that Shakespeare presents it in contrast to the existing ideas of friendship in the Renaissance. As Graham Hammill observes, “While humanist models of male friendship emphasize the equality of friendships and the permanence of the bonds between them, early modern English drama stages friendship as exactly the opposite.” (Hammill, 924) Therefore, it is fundamental to comprehend that Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens provides a contrasting idea of friendship to the prevalent conventions of friendship during the Renaissance. One of the distinguishing features of the representation of friendship in Shakespearean plays, especially Timon of Athens, is the fact that they reflect the general method in Renaissance literature to represent friendship (frequently between males) in opposition to love and heterosexual union in marriage. Timon of Athens is a play which deals exclusively with the theme of
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