Chapter One Theoretical Foundation
1.1 A Brief Introduction to Symbol
Symbol is one of the most frequently used artistic techniques in literary works.InWebster’s Dictionary,symbol is defined as“something that stands for something else byreason of relationship,association,convention,or accidental resemblance...a visiblesign of something invisible”(Lin Liuchen,2009:174).The word symbol originatesfrom the Greek verb“symballein”.Its meaning is“to throw together”.And the nounform of this word is“symbolon’,the meaning of which is“sign,emblem or token”.
In some literary works,symbols are often in the form of specific images,characters,objects,settings,plots,etc.And writers often use the concrete and vivid things toindicate some specific characters or express some special meanings,thus conveying toreaders sincere emotions and profound connotation.And the manifested effects ofsymbol can be summarized as follows:first,it has a profound meaning and is able toenrich people’s association;second,it can render readers the feeling of conciseness andvividness and express genuine affection.
Generally speaking,symbols are often classified into two different types:universal symbols and contextual symbols.Universal symbols refer to those symbols“whoseassociations are the common property of a society or culture and are so widelyrecognized and accepted that they can be said to be almost universal”(Lin Liuchen,2009:175).In most cases,universal symbols convey ideas or emotions that the writersand the readers share in common because of the fact that their social and culturalheritage is commonly recognized.As a result,universal symbols are also referred to ascultural symbols.By virtue of employing this kind of symbols,the author is able to havethe belief that readers already have a very good knowledge of what these symbolsrepresent or what implied meanings these symbols are aimed to convey.
1.2 The Significance of the Study on Symbol of Humanism inTimon of Athens
The study on symbol of humanism in Timon of Athens is significant in somedifferent aspects.It can help diversify the study of Timon of Athens,make people betterunderstand this play,and offer some guidance to people who are eager enough and ambitious enough to make the world a better place.
First,this study can be conductive to diversifying the study of Timon of Athens.Studiesconcerning the symbol of humanism in Timon of Athens are lacking.Though there is someliterature that focuses on clarifying the symbols in Timon of Athens,it is too limited.Aside fromthe fact that the amount of the literature in relation to symbols in Timon of Athens is small,therelative literature fails to illustrate the symbols in Timon of Athens in a very detailed andcomplete way.To be more specific,the contents are not rich enough.Moreover,logic andsystematicness,to some extent,are missing in the research of Timon of Athens.Therefore,studying the symbol of humanism in Timon of Athens is not without its significance.By carryingon this research,the quantity of the studies concerning Timon of Athens can be increased;thesymbolic meanings of more characters,objects,places and plots can be clarified so that theresearch can become more complete and more detailed;by revealing the symbols in Timon ofAthens from the aspects of humanistic ideals,humanistic crisis and humanistic spirit,this studycan become more logic and systematic.
Second,the study on symbol of humanism in Timon of Athens can help readersbetter understand the connotation and the profound meaning of this play.Personallyspeaking,exploring the meanings of the symbols in Timon of Athens is very necessaryfor us to truly get the connotation of the play,without which the understanding would besomething too superficial.Many of the characters,objects,settings and plots do notappear for their own sake.They are designed specially to convey some impliedmeanings or achieve some particular goals.
Chapter Two Symbols of the Humanistic Ideals inTimon of Athens
2.1 Symbols of the Hope for Humanistic Ideals
Athens and wood symbolize the hope for humanistic ideals.Athens,a holy placewith brilliant culture,great tradition and excellent morality,carries with it much moreprofound symbolic meaning in Timon of Athens.It is a symbol of returning tohumanistic holy land,a symbol of Shakespeare’s beautiful wishes at the very beginning.Wood,a green world where everything is pure,vibrant and poetic,symbolizes thereconstructing of humanistic ideal land after all the betrayals of the human world.Thetwo places,Athens and wood,reflect that humanistic ideals is sought after twicealtogether.
2.1.1 Returning to Humanistic Ideal Land
Athens,an European metropolis,is the economic,financial,technological,political,and cultural center of Ancient Greece.It is referred to as“the Cradle of Western Civilization”.Besides,it is the birthplace of European philosophy and it once had ahuge impact on European and even world culture.A lot of world-famous people likeSocrates，Plato and Aristotle were born there,so it is also known as the birthplace ofdemocracy.Athens,the Greek holy land that is in charge of all prosperity,and the placewhere every philosopher can voice their opinions and masters of humanism can expresstheir beautiful wishes,is in possession of much deeper symbolic meaning inShakespeare’s Timon of Athens.In the first half of Time of Athens,Shakespeare usesAthens as the setting of the story,which is of course of no coincidence.Athens is asymbol of an ideal world and a symbol of Shakespeare’s beautiful wishes.As ismentioned above,Athens is a wonderful and attractive place.Therefore,Shakespearehoped that the world he lived in could be as beautiful and civilized as Athens in ancientGreece.He had the most beautiful and sincere wish that harmony,peace and hope couldbe found in his home country.As a matter of fact,in Timon of Athens,the place Athenscan be understood as the perfect state of a country or a long-term goal of a state.Withpeople’s joint efforts it is hoped that Shakespeare’s motherland can be likeAthens.
2.2 Symbols of the Disillusionment of Humanistic Ideals
The cave and grave in Timon of Athens are used symbolically to express thedisillusionment of humanistic ideals.It is a common sense that caves are the habitats foranimals.Timon’s decision to live within a cave rather than man-made houses stands forthe ultimate darkness of human society and the meaninglessness of human beings’courses of life.And the emotions attached to the grave in Timon of Athens are evenmuch more depressing and pessimistic than those related to the cave.The grave standsfor the ultimate negation of human beings’self-salvation.Timon’s suicide manifests thatthere is no hope for people to save themselves.Human beings’destination is nothing but grave and death.The cave and the grave symbolize that the pursuit of humanisticideals ends up in failure.
2.2.1 The Ultimate Darkness of Human Society
In this play,cave is not only the shelter for Timon after his disillusionment,butalso is endowed with much symbolic significance.They are indicative of the ultimatedarkness of human society.
Chapter Three Symbols of the Humanistic Crisis in Timon of Athens .... 28
3.1 Symbols of the Deterioration of Humanistic Environment ............. 28
3.1.1 Decayed Political and Legal Environment ................................ 28
3.1.2 Disordered Social and Cultural Environment ............................ 33
Chapter Four Symbols of the Humanistic Spirit in Timon of Athens ...... 63
4.1 Symbols of the Connotation of Humanistic Spirit ........................... 63
4.1.1 Humanistic Spirit Characterized by “Fighting against Evil with Love” ............ 63
4.1.2 Humanistic Spirit Characterized by “Fighting against Evil with Evil” ................... 70
Conclusion ...................................... 80
Chapter Four Symbols of the Humanistic Spirit inTimon of Athens
4.1 Symbols of the Connotation of Humanistic Spirit
Gifts symbolizes the humanistic spirit characterized by“fighting against evil withlove”.In the first half of Timon of Athens,Timon gives away lots of gifts or golds to hisfriends and offers much assistance to people who are in trouble.That means in the firsthalf of the story Timon intends to achieve his humanistic ideal with love,devotion andenthusiasm.And the symbol of curses symbolizes the humanistic spirit characterized by“fighting against evil with evil”.In the second half of the play,Timon curses Athens andAthenians with bitter words and even tries to buy off some people to destroy Athenswith the golds found by him.These behaviors seem to be weird and confusing,but theyreflect that after all the setbacks Timon decides to realize his dream with his evilness.These two kinds of humanistic spirit work together to interpret the connotation ofhumanistic spirit in Timon of Athens.
4.1.1 Humanistic Spirit Characterized by“Fighting against Evil withLove”
To understand the humanistic spirit characterized by“fighting against evil withlove”,it is needed for us to see Timon as the center of research and analyze what is saidand what is done by him in the first half of the play.
In the first half of Timon of Athens,Timon’s generosity,philanthropy and universallove is depicted in a very detailed way.
First and foremost,Timon is a feudal lord with the conceptions that are consideredas necessary of his time and his position.Deep in his heart,he believes that it is a virtueas well as a duty to be bounteous and share his assets with others.In one of his banquets,he tells his friends:
Timon of Athens is believed to be Shakespeare’s last tragedy and was writtenduring Shakespeare’s later period.In his last tragedy,Shakespeare gave vent to hisinnermost feelings and expressed his own final understanding of Britain’s destiny.Thisthesis is based on the analysis of symbols of humanism in Timon of Athens.Threechapters are used to help explain the symbol of humanism in Timon of Athens.Thesecond chapter primarily focuses on the symbols of humanistic ideals.The third chaptermainly concentrates on the symbols of humanistic crisis.And the fourth chapteranalyzes the symbols of humanistic spirit.These symbols enable this play to beendowed with profound meanings and rich connotation.
In the second chapter,there are several symbols focusing on the humanistic idealsin Timon of Athens.The humanistic ideals can be divided into two types:the hope forhumanistic ideals and the disillusionment of humanistic ideals.Athens symbolizes thefirst humanistic ideal:returning to humanistic holy land.Athens is where the humanisticideal starts and is the symbol of the first humanistic dream.The cave appeared in thisplay is the symbol of the disillusionment of the first humanistic ideal.It conveys thesymbolic meaning that the human society is nothing but darkness.The wood,anotherimportant symbol in Timon of Athens,is symbolic of the second humanistic ideal:reconstructing humanistic ideal garden.In this play,wood is the starting point ofTimon’s humanistic dream after Timon’s greatest blow in Athens.In the end,Timoncommits suicide and flees to the grave.The grave expresses the symbolic meaning thatall the self-salvation of human beings is useless.