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‘There’s none / Can truly say he gives, if he receives’: Timon of Athens and the Possibilities of Generosity Or The Gift of a Stranger

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Abstract

Timon of Athens, like King Lear, charts a man’s tragic trajectory from largesse to misanthropy. Faced with his daughters’ ingratitude, Lear experiences what one of the most sensitive of contemporary readers of Shakespeare, Stanley Cavell, has described as a classically Shakespearean reaction to loss: a ‘self-consuming disappointment that seeks world-consuming revenge’ (Cavell 1987, 6) a phrase which just as aptly describes Timon’s reaction to the apprehension, into which the play compels him, of the failure of his own generosity. The disappointment that he feels is nothing if not self-consuming; the revenge he seeks encompasses the consumption of his world: the sack of Athens. Indiscriminate and absolute philanthropy metamorphoses into its opposite, as the very figure of friendship becomes that of absolute enmity: ‘I am Misanthropos, and hate mankind’ (4.3.54).

Keywords

Symbolic Recognition Generalize Reciprocity Contemporary Reader Symbolic Equivalent Monetary Inflation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2007

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