If you were asked to name as many Shakespeare plays as you could, would you Timon of Athens be one of those you forgot?

Timon is a maligned Shakespeare play. Critics make sure it is not performed by disparaging it. Timon is either unfinished or collaborative effort between Shakespeare and an other author. It may well be both. The point is because it cannot be attributed as complete, sole work by The Great Man, Timon can be silently dropped from the cannon. However, whether a work of Art is finished and whether it is sole-authored is a crazy way of judging the quality and importance of a work of Art.

Kafka's The Trial was unfinished, but it is one of the greatest works 20th Century works of Fiction. The satirical The Diary of a Nobody was a collaborative effort of the Grossmith brothers, but is still widely read as a spoof diary, akin to Townsend's Diaries of Adrian Mole. So, why is Timon ignored? Personally, I believe there is a conspiracy to silence it because it is just too relevant.

OK, it is set in Ancient Athens, but it is a vicious portrayal of the hypocrisy of Mankind. It is brutal. It's discussion of how Money (or Capital, as Marx would say) is revered, abused, and leads to ruin is pertinent whether it is Ancient Greece, Tudor England, Industrial/Victorian Britain, or 21 Britain.

Timon's generously throws his money around, bailing out his "friends" and throwing lavish feasts. However, when he is in debt, he realises he is alone, and is refused help. He leaves Athens, and retreats to a cave to be alone. The Play has some of the most quotable bits of misanthropy ever written, including the quote in the subtitle.

It contains the usual brilliant soliloquys you would expect from Shakespeare; but they are, at times, written in brutally modern language that seems to deliberately set out to shock with its profanity, even 400 years on. The wonderful Timon is disturbingly misanthropic today:

"As Timon grows, his hate may grow

To the whole race of mankind, high and low!"

Or his wonderful take on Grace, where he says to the Gods:

"For these my present friends - as they are to me nothing, so in nothing bless them, and to nothing are they welcome"

Timon is an utterly modern play - it is not about power politics between Kings - but about the greed of humanity.

It is ignored, not because it is an irrelevant history, but it because it is just too close to the bone, just too contemporary, just too true, and just too misanthropic. A modern audience would not like a lead character who spurns vile on all of humanity. Personally, I think Timon is Shakespeare's greatest character; and a fantastic anti-hero.