Document Type




Publication Date

Summer 1980


The realization that iconographic tableaux appear at central points in the drama of Shakespeare no longer seems to involve a radical critical perspective. Thus a recent study is able to show convincingly that the playwright presented audiences with a Hamlet who upon his first appearance on stage illustrated what the Renaissance would certainly have recognized as the melancholic contemplative personality. As I have noted in a previous article, the hero of Macbeth when he sees the bloody dagger before him is in fact perceiving the image which most clearly denotes tragedy itself; in the emblem books, the dagger is indeed the symbol of tragedy, which will be Macbeth's fate if he pursues his bloody course of action. Such tableaux, it must be admitted, are often central to the meaning and the action of the plays. In what Glynne Wickham has called "emblematic" theater, therefore, the spectacle itself has become of prime importance in the structure of each play. The visual is not something tacked loosely to the text, but is an integral part of the whole. My argument in this paper is that the emblematic nature of Shakespeare's art can very properly be studied through the iconography of false friendship in Timon of Athens, a play which has commonly been called unfinished or imperfect even when critics have not brought Shakespeare's sole authorship into question .

Published Citation

Davidson, C. (1980). "Timon of athens": The iconography of false friendship. Huntington Library Quarterly, 43(3), 181-200.