The Dramatic Function of Syphilis in "Troilus and Cressida,</I> "Measure for Measure,</I> and "Timon of Athens</I>
Chapter IV. ''gainst the stream of virture": SYPHILIS AND USURY IN TIMON OF ATHENS 139
Chapter IV "gainst the stream of virtue": Syphilis and Usury in Timon of Athens Unlike Troilus and Cressida and Measure for Measure, Timon of Athens has never been formally classified as one of Shakespeare's "Problem Plays." 1 Although the chief proponents for categorizing a group of plays as "Problem Plays" were largely dissatisfied with the idea, it seemed the only suitable designation under which to group those works that shared such "dark" qualities as intense gloom, dis- illusionment, and morbidity. Besides these characteristics, the desig- nation hinted at other qualities that these plays had in common. For instance, their complexity seemed almost to defy analysis and they were perplexing to a frustrating degree. In addition, some were thought to show signs of multiple authorship, of structural unevenness, or seemed simply to be unfinished. Though omitted from this group, Timon could easily have been included, for it not only discloses deep currents of gloom and disillusionment, but also because critics, for decades, have assumed that the play was either a collaboration, or incomplete, or uneven. 2 As scholarly and critical research continues, however, commentators are discovering that Timon-like the so-called 139 Problem Plays-is more coherent and complete than previously thought. Critics still have vigorous disagreements about Timon, producing numerous and varied interpretations of the play. But the reasons for their division differ considerably from those of the previous genera- tion. While few critics today assume that Timon is immature or in- complete, most agree that its richness and complexity allow for-and...
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