Sir John Falstaff is a river who has burst his banks. He has taken on a life beyond Shakespeare’s plays and become a myth in his own right. Anybody who has a thirst for life is described as Falstaffian, he has had operas written for him, actors at the mature height of their comic powers have repeatedly enjoyed success as this embodiment of festivity and he remains an unassailable favourite with audiences. Is he just very entertaining, or is there more to it than that?
London was growing up fast in Shakespeare’s day. Whether you’re familiar with Shakespeare or not, Timon of Athens seems a very peculiar play. But armed with some context, its connection with Renaissance finance and city drama become apparent.