Doubts have been expressed about the extent of Shakespeare's authorship of this incomplete tragedy,2 but a common view today is that the text represents Shakespeare's rough draft of a play which he never finished, and that it was printed either from his own 'foul papers' or from a scribe's copy made from them.3 If this be so then the play, however defective, may throw light on Shakespeare's practice in composition. Some of the many textual oddities may be due to the scribe or the compositors, but some may be accounted for by author's inconsistencies not properly revised, e.g. the spellings Apemantus and Apermantus, Ventidius, Ventidgius, Ventigius, etc. There are wide discrepancies in the references to 'talents', which Professor T. J. B. Spencer has accounted for by the theory that 'in the course of writing the play Shakespeare (i) became aware that he did not know the value of the talent, (ii) found out this piece of information from some person or book, and (iii) then in several places got his figures right.'4 I incline to believe that Shakespeare did not know the value of a talent, and (with Mr MaxwellS) that he got into difficulties by conflating two
accounts, the one in Lucian's Timon whence he took Ventidius's debt and dowry, with small amounts [inJ. 273], and that in Plutarch [sup. V. 255] where the amounts are larger.