Home  »  The Oxford Shakespeare  »  Timon of Athens

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

Act I. Scene I.

Timon of Athens

Athens.A Hall in TIMON’S House.

Enter Poet, Painter, Jeweller, Merchant, and Others, at several doors.

Poet.Good day, sir.

Pain.I am glad you’re well.

Poet.I have not seen you long. How goes the world?

Pain.It wears, sir, as it grows.

Poet.Ay, that’s well known;

But what particular rarity? what strange,

Which manifold record not matches? See,

Magic of bounty! all these spirits thy power

Hath conjur’d to attend. I know the merchant.

Pain.I know them both; th’ other’s a jeweller.

Mer.O! ’tis a worthy lord.

Jew.Nay, that’s most fix’d.

Mer.A most incomparable man, breath’d, as it were,

To an untirable and continuate goodness:

He passes.

Jew.I have a jewel here—

Mer.O! pray, let’s see ’t: for the Lord Timon, sir?

Jew.If he will touch the estimate: but, for that—

Poet.When we for recompense have prais’d the vile.

It stains the glory in that happy verse

Which aptly sings the good.

Mer.[Looking at the jewel.]’Tis a good form.

Jew.And rich: here is a water, look ye.

Pain.You are rapt, sir, in some work, some dedication

To the great lord.

Poet.A thing slipp’d idly from me.

Our poesy is as a gum, which oozes

From whence ’tis nourish’d: the fire i’ the flint

Shows not till it be struck; our gentle flame

Provokes itself, and, like the current flies

Each bound it chafes. What have you there?

Pain.A picture, sir. When comes your book forth?

Poet.Upon the heels of my presentment, sir.

Let’s see your piece.

Pain.’Tis a good piece.

Poet.So ’tis: this comes off well and excellent.


Poet.Admirable! How this grace

Speaks his own standing! what a mental power

This eye shoots forth! how big imagination

Moves in this lip! to the dumbness of the gesture

One might interpret.

Pain.It is a pretty mocking of the life.

Here is a touch; is ’t good?

Poet.I’ll say of it,

It tutors nature: artificial strife

Lives in these touches, livelier than life.

Enter certain Senators, who pass over the stage.

Pain.How this lord is follow’d!

Poet.The senators of Athens: happy man!

Pain.Look, more!

Poet.You see this confluence, this great flood of visitors.

I have, in this rough work, shap’d out a man,

Whom this beneath world doth embrace and hug

With amplest entertainment: my free drift

Halts not particularly, but moves itself

In a wide sea of wax: no levell’d malice

Infects one comma in the course I hold;

But flies an eagle flight, bold and forth on,

Leaving no tract behind.

Pain.How shall I understand you?

Poet.I will unbolt to you.

You see how all conditions, how all minds—

As well of glib and slippery creatures as

Of grave and austere quality—tender down

Their services to Lord Timon: his large fortune,

Upon his good and gracious nature hanging,

Subdues and properties to his love and tendance

All sorts of hearts; yea, from the glass-fac’d flatterer

To Apemantus, that few things loves better

Than to abhor himself: even he drops down

The knee before him and returns in peace

Most rich in Timon’s nod.

Pain.I saw them speak together.

Poet.Sir, I have upon a high and pleasant hill

Feign’d Fortune to be thron’d: the base o’ the mount

Is rank’d with all deserts, all kind of natures,

That labour on the bosom of this sphere

To propagate their states: amongst them all,

Whose eyes are on this sovereign lady fix’d,

One do I personate of Lord Timon’s frame,

Whom Fortune with her ivory hand wafts to her;

Whose present grace to present slaves and servants

Translates his rivals.

Pain.’Tis conceiv’d to scope.

This throne, this Fortune, and this hill, methinks,

With one man beckon’d from the rest below,

Bowing his head against the steepy mount

To climb his happiness, would be well express’d

In our condition.

Poet.Nay, sir, but hear me on.

All those which were his fellows but of late,

Some better than his value, on the moment

Follow his strides, his lobbies fill with tendance,

Rain sacrificial whisperings in his ear,

Make sacred even his stirrup, and through him

Drink the free air.

Pain.Ay, marry, what of these?

Poet.When Fortune in her shift and change of mood

Spurns down her late belov’d, all his dependants

Which labour’d after him to the mountain’s top

Even on their knees and hands, let him slip down,

Not one accompanying his declining foot.

Pain.’Tis common:

A thousand moral paintings I can show

That shall demonstrate these quick blows of Fortune’s

More pregnantly than words. Yet you do well

To show Lord Timon that mean eyes have seen

The foot above the head.

Trumpets sound.Enter LORD TIMON, addressing himself courteously to every suitor; a Messenger from VENTIDIUS talking with him; LUCILIUS and other servants following.

Tim.Imprison’d is he, say you?

Mess.Ay, my good lord: five talents is his debt,

His means most short, his creditors most strait:

Your honourable letter he desires

To those have shut him up; which, failing,

Periods his comfort.

Tim.Noble Ventidius! Well;

I am not of that feather to shake off

My friend when he must need me. I do know him

A gentleman that well deserves a help,

Which he shall have: I’ll pay the debt and free him.

Mess.Your lordship ever binds him.

Tim.Commend me to him. I will send his ransom;

And being enfranchis’d, bid him come to me.

’Tis not enough to help the feeble up,

But to support him after. Fare you well.

Mess.All happiness to your honour.[Exit.

Enter an Old Athenian.

Old Ath.Lord Timon, hear me speak.

Tim.Freely, good father.

Old Ath.Thou hast a servant nam’d Lucilius.

Tim.I have so: what of him?

Old Ath.Most noble Timon, call the man before thee.

Tim.Attends he here or no? Lucilius!

Luc.Here, at your lordship’s service.

Old Ath.This fellow here, Lord Timon, this thy creature,

By night frequents my house. I am a man

That from my first have been inclin’d to thrift,

And my estate deserves an heir more rais’d

Than one which holds a trencher.

Tim.Well; what further?

Old Ath.One only daughter have I, no kin else,

On whom I may confer what I have got:

The maid is fair, o’ the youngest for a bride,

And I have bred her at my dearest cost

In qualities of the best. This man of thine

Attempts her love: I prithee, noble lord,

Join with me to forbid him her resort;

Myself have spoke in vain.

Tim.The man is honest.

Old Ath.Therefore he will be, Timon:

His honesty rewards him in itself;

It must not bear my daughter.

Tim.Does she love him?

Old Ath.She is young and apt:

Our own precedent passions do instruct us

What levity’s in youth.

Tim.[To LUCILIUS.]Love you the maid?

Luc.Ay, my good lord, and she accepts of it.

Old Ath.If in her marriage my consent be missing,

I call the gods to witness, I will choose

Mine heir from forth the beggars of the world,

And dispossess her all.

Tim.How shall she be endow’d,

If she be mated with an equal husband?

Old Ath.Three talents on the present; in future, all.

Tim.This gentleman of mine hath serv’d me long:

To build his fortune I will strain a little,

For ’tis a bond in men. Give him thy daughter;

What you bestow, in him I’ll counterpoise,

And make him weigh with her.

Old Ath.Most noble lord,

Pawn me to this your honour, she is his.

Tim.My hand to thee; mine honour on my promise.

Luc.Humbly I thank your lordship: never may

That state or fortune fall into my keeping

Which is not ow’d to you![Exeunt LUCILIUS and Old Athenian.

Poet.Vouchsafe my labour, and long live your lordship!

Tim.I thank you; you shall hear from me anon:

Go not away. What have you there, my friend?

Pain.A piece of painting, which I do beseech

Your lordship to accept.

Tim.Painting is welcome.

The painting is almost the natural man;

For since dishonour traffics with man’s nature,

He is but outside: these pencil’d figures are

Even such as they give out. I like your work;

And you shall find I like it: wait attendance

Till you hear further from me.

Pain.The gods preserve you!

Tim.Well fare you, gentleman: give me your hand;

We must needs dine together. Sir, your jewel

Hath suffer’d under praise.

Jew.What, my lord! dispraise?

Tim.A mere satiety of commendations.

If I should pay you for ’t as ’tis extoll’d,

It would unclew me quite.

Jew.My lord, ’tis rated

As those which sell would give: but you well know,

Things of like value, differing in the owners,

Are prized by their masters. Believe ’t, dear lord,

You mend the jewel by the wearing it.

Tim.Well mock’d.

Mer.No, my good lord; he speaks the common tongue,

Which all men speak with him.

Tim.Look, who comes here. Will you be chid?


Jew.We’ll bear, with your lordship.

Mer.He’ll spare none.

Tim.Good morrow to thee, gentle Apemantus!

Apem.Till I be gentle, stay thou for thy good morrow;

When thou art Timon’s dog, and these knaves honest.

Tim.Why dost thou call them knaves? thou know’st them not.

Apem.Are they not Athenians?


Apem.Then I repent not.

Jew.You know me, Apemantus?

Apem.Thou know’st I do; I call’d thee by thy name.

Tim.Thou art proud, Apemantus.

Apem.Of nothing so much as that I am not like Timon.

Tim.Whither art going?

Apem.To knock out an honest Athenian’s brains.

Tim.That’s a deed thou’lt die for.

Apem.Right, if doing nothing be death by the law.

Tim.How likest thou this picture, Apemantus?

Apem.The best, for the innocence.

Tim.Wrought he not well that painted it?

Apem.He wrought better that made the painter; and yet he’s but a filthy piece of work.

Pain.You’re a dog.

Apem.Thy mother’s of my generation: what’s she, if I be a dog?

Tim.Wilt dine with me, Apemantus?

Apem.No; I eat not lords.

Tim.An thou shouldst, thou’dst anger ladies.

Apem.O! they eat lords; so they come by great bellies.

Tim.That’s a lascivious apprehension.

Apem.So thou apprehendest it, take it for thy labour.

Tim.How dost thou like this jewel, Apemantus?

Apem.Not so well as plain-dealing, which will not cost a man a doit.

Tim.What dost thou think ’tis worth?

Apem.Not worth my thinking. How now, poet!

Poet.How now, philosopher!

Apem.Thou liest.

Poet.Art not one?


Poet.Then I lie not.

Apem.Art not a poet?


Apem.Then thou liest: look in thy last work, where thou hast feigned him a worthy fellow.

Poet.That’s not feigned; he is so.

Apem.Yes, he is worthy of thee, and to pay thee for thy labour: he that loves to be flattered is worthy o’ the flatterer. Heavens, that I were a lord!

Tim.What wouldst do then, Apemantus?

Apem.Even as Apemantus does now; hate a lord with my heart.

Tim.What, thyself?



Apem.That I had no angry wit to be a lord. Art not thou a merchant?

Mer.Ay, Apemantus.

Apem.Traffic confound thee, if the gods will not!

Mer.If traffic do it, the gods do it.

Apem.Traffic’s thy god, and thy god confound thee!

Trumpet sounds.Enter a Servant.

Tim.What trumpet’s that?

Serv.’Tis Alcibiades, and some twenty horse,

All of companionship.

Tim.Pray, entertain them; give them guide to us.[Exeunt some Attendants.

You must needs dine with me. Go not you hence

Till I have thanked you; when dinner’s done,

Show me this piece. I am joyful of your sights.

Enter ALCIBIADES, with his Company.

Most welcome, sir!

Apem.So, so, there!

Aches contract and starve your supple joints!

That there should be small love ’mongst these sweet knaves,

And all this courtesy! The strain of man’s bred out

Into baboon and monkey.

Alcib.Sir, you have sav’d my longing, and I feed

Most hungerly on your sight.

Tim.Right welcome, sir!

Ere we depart, we’ll share a bounteous time

In different pleasures. Pray you, let us in.[Exeunt all except APEMANTUS.

Enter two Lords.

First Lord.What time o’ day is ’t, Apemantus?

Apem.Time to be honest.

First Lord.That time serves still.

Apem.The more accursed thou, that still omitt’st it.

Sec. Lord.Thou art going to Lord Timon’s feast?

Apem.Ay; to see meat fill knaves and wine heat fools.

Sec. Lord.Fare thee well, fare thee well.

Apem.Thou art a fool to bid me farewell twice.

Sec. Lord.Why, Apemantus?

Apem.Shouldst have kept one to thyself, for I mean to give thee none.

First Lord.Hang thyself!

Apem.No, I will do nothing at thy bidding: make thy requests to thy friend.

Sec. Lord.Away, unpeaceable dog! or I’ll spurn thee hence.

Apem.I will fly, like a dog, the heels of an ass.[Exit.

First Lord.He’s opposite to humanity. Come, shall we in,

And taste Lord Timon’s bounty? he outgoes

The very heart of kindness.

Sec. Lord.He pours it out; Plutus, the god of gold,

Is but his steward: no meed but he repays

Sevenfold above itself; no gift to him

But breeds the giver a return exceeding

All use of quittance.

First Lord.The noblest mind he carries

That ever govern’d man.

Sec. Lord.Long may he live in fortunes!

Shall we in?

First Lord.I’ll keep you company.[Exeunt.