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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act III. Scene V.

Timon of Athens

The Same.The Senate House.

The Senate sitting.

First Sen.My lord, you have my voice to it; the fault’s

Bloody; ’tis necessary he should die;

Nothing emboldens sin so much as mercy.

Sec. Sen.Most true; the law shall bruise him.

Enter ALCIBIADES, attended.

Alcib.Honour, health, and compassion to the senate!

First Sen.Now, captain.

Alcib.I am a humble suitor to your virtues;

For pity is the virtue of the law,

And none but tyrants use it cruelly.

It pleases time and fortune to lie heavy

Upon a friend of mine, who, in hot blood,

Hath stepp’d into the law, which is past depth

To those that without heed do plunge into ’t.

He is a man, setting his fate aside,

Of comely virtues;

Nor did he soil the fact with cowardice,—

An honour in him which buys out his fault,—

But, with a noble fury and fair spirit,

Seeing his reputation touch’d to death,

He did oppose his foe;

And with such sober and unnoted passion

He did behave his anger, ere ’twas spent,

As if he had but prov’d an argument.

First Sen.You undergo too strict a paradox,

Striving to make an ugly deed look fair:

Your words have took such pains as if they labour’d

To bring manslaughter into form, and set quarrelling

Upon the head of valour; which indeed

Is valour misbegot, and came into the world

When sects and factions were newly born.

He’s truly valiant that can wisely suffer

The worst that man can breathe, and make his wrongs

His outsides, to wear them like his raiment, carelessly,

And ne’er prefer his injuries to his heart,

To bring it into danger.

If wrongs be evils and enforce us kill,

What folly ’tis to hazard life for ill!

Alcib.My lord,—

First Sen.You cannot make gross sins look clear;

To revenge is no valour, but to bear.

Alcib.My lords, then, under favour, pardon me,

If I speak like a captain.

Why do fond men expose themselves to battle,

And not endure all threats? sleep upon ’t,

And let the foes quietly cut their throats

Without repugnancy? If there be

Such valour in the bearing, what make we

Abroad? why then, women are more valiant

That stay at home, if bearing carry it,

And the ass more captain than the lion, the felon

Loaden with irons wiser than the judge,

If wisdom be in suffering. O my lords!

As you are great, be pitifully good:

Who cannot condemn rashness in cold blood?

To kill, I grant, is sin’s extremest gust;

But, in defence, by mercy, ’tis most just.

To be in anger is impiety;

But who is man that is not angry?

Weigh but the crime with this.

Sec. Sen.You breathe in vain.

Alcib.In vain! his service done

At Lacedæmon and Byzantium

Were a sufficient briber for his life.

First Sen.What’s that?

Alcib.I say, my lords, he has done fair service,

And slain in fight many of your enemies.

How full of valour did he bear himself

In the last conflict, and made plenteous wounds!

Sec. Sen.He has made too much plenty with ’em;

He’s a sworn rioter; he has a sin that often

Drowns him and takes his valour prisoner;

If there were no foes, that were enough

To overcome him; in that beastly fury

He has been known to commit outrages

And cherish factions; ’tis inferr’d to us,

His days are foul and his drink dangerous.

First Sen.He dies.

Alcib.Hard fate! he might have died in war.

My lords, if not for any parts in him,—

Though his right arm might purchase his own time,

And be in debt to none,—yet, more to move you,

Take my deserts to his, and join ’em both;

And, for I know your reverend ages love

Security, I’ll pawn my victories, all

My honour to you, upon his good returns.

If by this crime he owes the law his life,

Why, let the war receive ’t in valiant gore;

For law is strict, and war is nothing more.

First Sen.We are for law; he dies: urge it no more,

On height of our displeasure. Friend, or brother,

He forfeits his own blood that spills another.

Alcib.Must it be so? it must not be. My lords,

I do beseech you, know me.

Sec. Sen.How!

Alcib.Call me to your remembrances.

Third Sen.What!

Alcib.I cannot think but your age has forgot me;

It could not else be I should prove so base,

To sue, and be denied such common grace.

My wounds ache at you.

First Sen.Do you dare our anger?

’Tis in few words, but spacious in effect;

We banish thee for ever.

Alcib.Banish me!

Banish your dotage; banish usury,

That makes the senate ugly.

First Sen.If, after two days’ shine, Athens contain thee,

Attend our weightier judgment. And, not to swell our spirit,

He shall be executed presently.[Exeunt Senators.

Alcib.Now the gods keep you old enough; that you may live

Only in bone, that none may look on you!

I am worse than mad: I have kept back their foes,

While they have told their money and let out

Their coin upon large interest; I myself

Rich only in large hurts: all those for this?

Is this the balsam that the usuring senate

Pours into captains’ wounds? Banishment!

It comes not ill; I hate not to be banish’d;

It is a cause worthy my spleen and fury,

That I may strike at Athens. I’ll cheer up

My discontented troops, and lay for hearts.

’Tis honour with most lands to be at odds;

Soldiers should brook as little wrongs as gods.[Exit.