UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Timon unmasqued : Shakespeare's Timon of Athens and the ecopolitics of the Jacobean masque Wang, Zhishu


Belonging to the “Tragedies” section of the Folio, Timon of Athens spotlights an Athenian lord who resorts to misanthropy after experiencing the ingratitude of his flatterers. Conventional readings of this play have largely focused on an allegorical aspect that regards Timon as a personification of Fortuna, a feminist approach by Coppélia Kahn that assigns Timon as a maternal figure, or an economic lens by Jody Greene that examines the sodomitic relationship between men. While all these directions offer critical understandings of the play, this thesis adopts methods of ecocriticism to follow Shakespeare’s ecological thinking. It aims to communicate that Timon of Athens is as much of a play about man and nature/earth as it is about man and man, as it stages both environmental issues that stem from an economy of excessive consumption and an ecology of living with nature. Through an ecocritical approach toward early modern historiography, court banquet culture, and the literary genre of Jonsonian masque, the chapters jointly demonstrate a shift in mindset toward the early modern ecological condition, through the change of nature in Timon’s character. The first chapter focuses on the early modern banquet, or the “void,” which exposes itself as a cover for exploitation of nature and the New World. The second chapter examines the inconsistency of the play and reimagines it as a Jonsonian masque in terms of structure. This method of interpretation provides an alternate speculation of Timon’s change in nature but also gives prominence to the Shakespearean ecological contemplations. Together, the chapters present a shift from ideologies of anthropocentrism and exploitative consumption of nature to a sense of recognition and consciousness of how the world operates without us and what mankind’s place is in nature.

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