Many scholars believe the epitaph at the conclusion of Timon Of Athens is contradictory and flawed; I write to refute that claim, and to say that the epitaph is completely cohesive and sensical; you just have to dig a little deeper (no pun intended). Here it is in its entirety:
“Here lies a wretched corse of wretched soul bereft.
Seek not my name. A plague consume you wicked caitiffs left.
Here lie I, Timon, who alive all living men did hate.
Pass by and curse thy fill, but pass and stay not here thy gait.”
Now the two parts that have scholars in a fever pitch are: “Seek not my name,” and “Here lie I, Timon.” At first glance they do seem to be contradictory as one seems to be saying don’t look for my name, and then the very next line it gives it out, but here’s how I make sense of it with my paraphrase of lines 2-4 of Timon’s epitaph; which all parts of are derived from the text: “Don’t waste your time trying to figure out who I was, you creatures of evil, but if you must know, it is Timon that here lies buried; whom if he were alive, would hate you without exception. Walk by and curse at me all you want as that bothers me nothing, but do not abuse my bones by submitting them to a lengthy visitation with your abonimable company. Be gone!”
Scholars have been so unimaginitive in promulgating that the epitaph must be the product of a collaborative effort when with a few inferences and imagination its a brilliant piece of writing. I personally believe very little if any of Timon Of Athens is by Middleton. At the very most he may of suggested some plot elements, but most of the writing of Timon of Athens is way over his head. Recently I have been reading some of Middleton’s plays and they are beyond mediocre. Why would Shakespeare colloborate with such an inferior dramatist when he was at the height of his dramatic power, between 1604 and 1608, turning out such tragedies as King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra. My personal belief is that Shakespeare didn’t colloborate with any writers till after The Tempest in his retirement. Making his collaborative plays merely: The Two Noble Kinsmen, Henry VIII, Cardenio, & Cardenna. Pericles is often considered a collaboration but I don’t think George Wilkins, the supposed collaborator of Pericles, was capable of writing a dramatic work to the level of success that Pericles was. Shakespeare drew heavily on George Wilkin’s novel, “The Painful Adventures Of Pericles”for the structure of the story and even imitated Wilkin’s sometimes Middle-English-like writing style in the Chorus of John Gower to give it an ancient vibe, but as far as writing the authentic play, I strongly believe that was left up to the master. Bottom line; before Shakespeare retired, he had no use for collaboration; only inspiration!