Article Title

A Dramatic History of Misanthropes


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The misanthrope is not merely different from other men; he judges them, and does so on what he takes to be their own terms. He perceives himself as the representative of a social ideal which others have betrayed, and condemns his fellows for their perversity and hypocrisy. And yet society abides, and it is the misanthrope who cannot fit. He is rigid and surly, a natural target for comic deflation. Were he asocial·, like the cyclops or the anchorite, the codes of communal life would not be an issue for him. But he is antisocial, and bears within him the image of the thing he opposes. This tension demands dialogue, as Cicero perhaps divined when he said of Timon, the renowned misanthrope of Athens, that even he "could not endure to be excluded from one associate, at least, before whom he might discharge the whole rancour and virulence of his heart."1 The misanthrope comes on as a satirist, and is kin to the stern Umbricius in Juvenal, who delivers his tirade against the corruption of Rome as he lingers by its gates, before abandoning the city forever. Juvenal had vision when he named his spokesman after shadows (umbra), for the railer shapes his critique of society according to its own occluded ideals.

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