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the thieves who came to visit him are also "true men” in their way.-- An exception to this general picture of selfish depravity is found in the old and honest steward Flavius, to whom Timon pays a full tribute of tenderness. Shakspeare was unwilling to draw a picture “ all over ugly with hypocrisy." He owed this character to the good natured solicitations of his Muse. His mind was well said by Ben Jonson to be the “sphere of humanity.”
The moral sententiousness of this play equals that of Lord Bacon's Treatise on the Wisdom of the Ancients, and is indeed seasoned with greater variety. Every topick of contempt or indignation is here exhausted; but while the sordid licentiousness of Apemantus, which turns every thing to gall and bitterness, shews only the natural virulence of his temper and antipathy to good or evil alike, Timon does not utter an imprecation without betraying the extravagant workings of disappointed passion, of love altered to hate. Apemantus sees nothing good in any object, and exaggerates whatever is disgusting: Timon is tormented with the perpetual contrast between things and appearances, between the fresh, tempting outside, and the rottenness within, and invokes mischiefs on the heads of mankind proportioned to the sense of his wrongs and of their treacheries. He impatiently cries out, when he finds the gold,
“ This yellow slave
That makes the wappen'd widow wed again;
One of his most dreadful imprecations is that which occurs immediately on his leaving Athens.
“Let me look back upon thee, O thou wall,
Timon is here just as ideal in his passion for ill, as he had before been in his belief of good. Apemantus was satisfied with the mischief existing in the world, and with his own ill-nature. One of the most decisive intimations of Timon's morbid jealousy of appearances is in his answer to Apemantus, who asks him,
" What things in the world can’st thou nearest compare with
thy flatterers ? Timon. Women nearest : but men, men are the things them
Apemantus, it is said, "loved few things better than to abhor himself.” This is not the case with Timon, who neither loves to abhor bimself nor others. All his vehement misanthropy is forced, uphill work. From the slippery turns of fortune, from the turmoils of passion and adversity, he wishes to sink into the quiet of the grave. On that subject his thoughts are intent, on that he finds time and place to grow romantick. He digs his own grave by the sea shore; contrives his funeral ceremonies amidst the pomp of desolation, and builds his mausoleum of the elements.
“ Come not to me again; but say to Athens,
And again, Alcibiades, after reading his epitaph, says of him,
“These well express in thee thy latter spirits :
thus making the winds his funeral dirge, his mourner the murmuring ocean, and seeking, in the everlasting solemnities of nature, oblivion of the transitory splendour of his life-time.
SHAKSPEARE has in this play shewn himself well versed in history and state affairs. CORIOLANUS is a storehouse of political common places. Any one who studies it may save himself the trouble of reading Burke's Reflections, or Paine's Rights of Man, or the Debates in both Houses of Parliament since the French Revolution or our own. The argnments for and against aristocracy, or democracy, on the privileges of the few and the claims of the many, on liberty and slavery, power and the abuse of it, peace and war, are here very ably handled, with the spirit of a poet and the acuteness of a philosopher. Shakspeare himself seems to have had a leaning to the arbitrary side of the question, perhaps from some feeling of contempt for his own origin ; and to have spared no occasion of baiting the rabble. What he says of them is very true : what he says of their betters is also very true, though he dwells Jess upon it.—The cause of the people is indeed but little calculated as subject for poetry : it admits of rhetorick, which goes into argument and explanation, but it presents no imme