Non/Human Entanglement in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens
Vrcek, Maria Elenora
In this thesis, I explore the contours of the non/human through Shakespeare's Timon of Athens. A term that describes a figure that is simultaneously human and non-human, "non/human" puts pressure on the boundary between categories of existence by suggesting that human and non-human share and exchange certain features. Timon, the protagonist of the play is a non/human. Throughout the play, his subjectivity is transferred onto non-human objects such that these objects begin to reflect aspects of his humanness. Likewise, he is able to live through these objects and experience life beyond what his human body allows. I suggest that Timon's hybridity challenges traditional Renaissance humanism which saw the human as complete and agential. Timon, however, is fragmented and dynamic--qualities that enable him to surpass the limits of what it meant to be a human. At the same time that this project highlights the philosophical sophistication of one of Shakespeare's most overlooked plays, I also attend to how Timon can help develop present-day conversations around the term "non/human."In the first chapter, I explore who or what is the non/human. I focus specifically on the ways in which Timon's body is de-prioritized as the primary container of his subjectivity and humanness. I look at the ways in which Timon's gravestone, a wax impression of his epitaphs, and gold modify Timon's capabilities in the world. In examining how these non-human objects fragment and distribute Timon throughout Athens, I also think about how Timon's relationship with gold creates an alternative economy in which the gold has both financial and affective significance--that is, the gold is not just money but also a symbol of Timon's feelings and desires.In the second chapter, I investigate the consequences of Timon's fragmentation in time and space as a result of inhabiting multiple material bodies. I employ ecocriticism and René Descartes' theorization of the mind-body dualism to understand how Timon's existence is impacted by his non/humanness. This chapter is organized around an insult by the play's churlish philosopher Apemantus, who says to Timon, "Thou hast cast away thyself, being like thyself / A madman so long, now a fool."
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