Article Title

James I and Timon of Athens


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

Timon explores the lethal ambiguities underlying the gifts and loans through which power was brokered in the courts of Elizabeth and James.

---Coppelia Kahn1

It might be argued that Shakespeare's Timon of Athens presents a malign version of the dangers of prodigality, fitting a time when the monarch lived on credit and depended on others to manage his affairs.

-Jonathan Goldberg2

Kahn and Goldberg have laid before us the proposition that Timon of Athens needs to be understood in the context of Jacobean court politics, along with other plays like Measure for Measure, Macbeth, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, and Henry VIII, for which similar claims have been made. Whereas Goldberg mentions Timon only briefly in his absorbing study James I and the Politics of Literature, his argument that representation provides the essential link between politics and literature in the period has important implications for Timon. Kahn provides a substantial and fascinating analysis of the play in relation to Jacobean patronage, stressing the immense scale on which the Jacobean court indulged in "socially coded gift-giving." King and courtiers alike spent beyond their means, borrowing heavily without realistic hope of being able to repay. Kahn's anecdotes do indeed resonate with suggestive parallels to Shakespeare's misanthropic play about extravagant borrowing and ingratitude.

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