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

Act V. Scene I.

Timon of Athens

The Woods.Before TIMON’S Cave.

Enter Poet and Painter.

Pain.As I took note of the place, it cannot be far where he abides.

Poet.What’s to be thought of him? Does the rumour hold for true that he is so full of gold?

Pain.Certain: Alcibiades reports it; Phrynia and Timandra had gold of him: he likewise enriched poor straggling soldiers with great quantity. ’Tis said he gave unto his steward a mighty sum.

Poet.Then this breaking of his has been but a try for his friends.

Pain.Nothing else; you shall see him a palm in Athens again, and flourish with the highest. Therefore ’tis not amiss we tender our loves to him, in this supposed distress of his: it will show honestly in us, and is very likely to load our purposes with what they travel for, if it be a just and true report that goes of his having.

Poet.What have you now to present unto him?

Pain.Nothing at this time but my visitation; only, I will promise him an excellent piece.

Poet.I must serve him so too; tell him of an intent that’s coming towards him.

Pain.Good as the best. Promising is the very air o’ the time; it opens the eyes of expectation; performance is ever the duller for his act; and, but in the plainer and simpler kind of people, the deed of saying is quite out of use. To promise is most courtly and fashionable; performance is a kind of will or testament which argues a great sickness in his judgment that makes it.

Enter TIMON from his cave.

Tim.[Aside.]Excellent workman! Thou canst not paint a man so bad as is thyself.

Poet.I am thinking what I shall say I have provided for him: it must be a personating of himself; a satire against the softness of prosperity, with a discovery of the infinite flatteries that follow youth and opulency.

Tim.[Aside.]Must thou needs stand for a villain in thine own work? Wilt thou whip thine own faults in other men? Do so, I have gold for thee.

Poet.Nay, let’s seek him:

Then do we sin against our own estate,

When we may profit meet, and come too late.


When the day serves, before black-corner’d night,

Find what thou want’st by free and offer’d light.


Tim.[Aside.]I’ll meet you at the turn. What a god’s gold,

That he is worshipp’d in a baser temple

Than where swine feed!

’Tis thou that rigg’st the bark and plough’st the foam,

Settlest admired reverence in a slave:

To thee be worship; and thy saints for aye

Be crown’d with plagues that thee alone obey.

Fit I meet them.[Advancing.

Poet.Hail, worthy Timon!

Pain.Our late noble master!

Tim.Have I once liv’d to see two honest men?


Having often of your open bounty tasted,

Hearing you were retir’d, your friends fall’n off,

Whose thankless natures—O abhorred spirits!

Not all the whips of heaven are large enough—

What! to you,

Whose star-like nobleness gave life and influence

To their whole being! I am rapt, and cannot cover

The monstrous bulk of this ingratitude

With any size of words.

Tim.Let it go naked, men may see ’t the better:

You, that are honest, by being what you are,

Make them best seen and known.

Pain.He and myself

Have travell’d in the great shower of your gifts,

And sweetly felt it.

Tim.Ay, you are honest men.

Pain.We are hither come to offer you our service.

Tim.Most honest men! Why, how shall I requite you?

Can you eat roots and drink cold water? no.

Both.What we can do, we’ll do, to do you service.

Tim.Ye’re honest men. Ye’ve heard that I have gold;

I am sure you have: speak truth; ye’re honest men.

Pain.So it is said, my noble lord; but therefore

Came not my friend nor I.

Tim.Good honest men! Thou draw’st a counterfeit

Best in all Athens: thou’rt, indeed, the best;

Thou counterfeit’st most lively.

Pain.So, so, my lord.

Tim.E’en so, sir, as I say. And, for thy fiction,

Why, thy verse swells with stuff so fine and smooth

That thou art even natural in thine art.

But for all this, my honest natur’d friends,

I must needs say you have a little fault:

Marry, ’tis not monstrous in you, neither wish I

You take much pains to mend.

Both.Beseech your honour

To make it known to us.

Tim.You’ll take it ill.

Both.Most thankfully, my lord.

Tim.Will you indeed?

Both.Doubt it not, worthy lord.

Tim.There’s never a one of you but trusts a knave,

That mightily deceives you.

Both.Do we, my lord?

Tim.Ay, and you hear him cog, see him dissemble,

Know his gross patchery, love him, feed him,

Keep in your bosom; yet remain assur’d

That he’s a made-up villain.

Pain.I know none such, my lord.

Poet.Nor I.

Tim.Look you, I love you well; I’ll give you gold,

Rid me these villains from your companies:

Hang them or stab them, drown them in a draught,

Confound them by some course, and come to me,

I’ll give you gold enough.

Both.Name them, my lord; let’s know them.

Tim.You that way and you this, but two in company;

Each man apart, all single and alone,

Yet an arch-villain keeps him company.

If, where thou art two villains shall not be,

Come not near him.[To the Poet.]If thou would not reside

But where one villain is, then him abandon.

Hence! pack! there’s gold; ye came for gold, ye slaves:

You have done work for me, there’s payment: hence!

You are an alchemist, make gold of that.

Out, rascal dogs![Beats them out and then returns to his cave.

Enter FLAVIUS and two Senators.

Flav.It is in vain that you would speak with Timon;

For he is set so only to himself

That nothing but himself, which looks like man,

Is friendly with him.

First Sen.Bring us to his cave:

It is our part and promise to the Athenians

To speak with Timon.

Sec. Sen.At all times alike

Men are not still the same: ’twas time and griefs

That fram’d him thus: time, with his fairer hand,

Offering the fortunes of his former days,

The former man may make him. Bring us to him,

And chance it as it may.

Flav.Here is his cave.

Peace and content be here! Lord Timon! Timon!

Look out, and speak to friends. The Athenians,

By two of their most reverend senate, greet thee:

Speak to them, noble Timon.

Enter TIMON, from his cave.

Tim.Thou sun, that comfort’st, burn! Speak, and be hang’d:

For each true word, a blister! and each false

Be as a cauterizing to the root o’ the tongue,

Consuming it with speaking!

First Sen.Worthy Timon,—

Tim.Of none but such as you, and you of Timon.

Sec. Sen.The senators of Athens greet thee, Timon.

Tim.I thank them; and would send them back the plague,

Could I but catch it for them.

First Sen.O! forget

What we are sorry for ourselves in thee.

The senators with one consent of love

Entreat thee back to Athens; who have thought

On special dignities, which vacant lie

For thy best use and wearing.

Sec. Sen.They confess

Toward thee forgetfulness too general, gross;

Which now the public body, which doth seldom

Play the recanter, feeling in itself

A lack of Timon’s aid, hath sense withal

Of its own fail, restraining aid to Timon;

And send forth us, to make their sorrow’d render,

Together with a recompense more fruitful

Than their offence can weigh down by the dram;

Ay, even such heaps and sums of love and wealth

As shall to thee block out what wrongs were theirs,

And write in thee the figures of their love,

Ever to read them thine.

Tim.You witch me in it;

Surprise me to the very brink of tears:

Lend me a fool’s heart and a woman’s eyes,

And I’ll beweep these comforts, worthy senators.

First Sen.Therefore so please thee to return with us,

And of our Athens—thine and ours—to take

The captainship, thou shalt be met with thanks,

Allow’d with absolute power, and thy good name

Live with authority: so soon we shall drive back

Of Alcibiades the approaches wild;

Who, like a boar too savage, doth root up

His country’s peace.

Sec. Sen.And shakes his threat’ning sword

Against the walls of Athens.

First Sen.Therefore, Timon,—

Tim.Well, sir, I will; therefore, I will, sir; thus:—

If Alcibiades kill my countrymen,

Let Alcibiades know this of Timon,

That Timon cares not. But if he sack fair Athens,

And take our goodly aged men by the beards,

Giving our holy virgins to the stain

Of contumelious, beastly, mad-brain’d war;

Then let him know, and tell him Timon speaks it,

In pity of our aged and our youth

I cannot choose but tell him, that I care not,

And let him take ’t at worst; for their knives care not

While you have throats to answer: for myself,

There’s not a whittle in the unruly camp

But I do prize it at my love before

The reverend’st throat in Athens. So I leave you

To the protection of the prosperous gods,

As thieves to keepers.

Flav.Stay not; all’s in vain.

Tim.Why, I was writing of my epitaph;

It will be seen to-morrow. My long sickness

Of health and living now begins to mend,

And nothing brings me all things. Go; live still:

Be Alcibiades your plague, you his,

And last so long enough!

First Sen.We speak in vain.

Tim.But yet I love my country, and am not

One that rejoices in the common wrack,

As common bruit doth put it.

First Sen.That’s well spoke.

Tim.Commend me to my loving countrymen,—

First Sen.These words become your lips as they pass through them.

Sec. Sen.And enter in our ears like great triumphers

In their applauding gates.

Tim.Commend me to them;

And tell them, that, to ease them of their griefs,

Their fears of hostile strokes, their aches, losses,

Their pangs of love, with other incident throes

That nature’s fragile vessel doth sustain

In life’s uncertain voyage, I will some kindness do them:

I’ll teach them to prevent wild Alcibiades’ wrath.

Sec. Sen.I like this well; he will return again.

Tim.I have a tree which grows here in my close,

That mine own use invites me to cut down,

And shortly must I fell it; tell my friends,

Tell Athens, in the sequence of degree,

From high to low throughout, that whoso please

To stop affliction, let him take his haste,

Come hither, ere my tree hath felt the axe,

And hang himself. I pray you, do my greeting.

Flav.Trouble him no further; thus you still shall find him.

Tim.Come not to me again; but say to Athens,

Timon hath made his everlasting mansion

Upon the beached verge of the salt flood;

Who once a day with his embossed froth

The turbulent surge shall cover: thither come,

And let my grave-stone be your oracle.

Lips, let sour words go by and language end:

What is amiss plague and infection mend!

Graves only be men’s works and death their gain!

Sun, hide thy beams! Timon hath done his reign.[Exit.

First Sen.His discontents are unremovably

Coupled to nature.

Sec. Sen.Our hope in him is dead: let us return,

And strain what other means is left unto us

In our dear peril.

First Sen.It requires swift foot.[Exeunt.