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

Act I. Scene II.

Timon of Athens

The Same.A Room of State in TIMON’S House.

Hautboys playing loud music.A great banquet served in; FLAVIUS and Others attending: then enter LORD TIMON, ALCIBIADES, Lords, and Senators, VENTIDIUS and Attendants.Then comes, dropping after all, APEMANTUS discontentedly, like himself.

Ven.Most honour’d Timon,

It hath pleas’d the gods to remember my father’s age,

And call him to long peace.

He is gone happy, and has left me rich:

Then, as in grateful virtue I am bound

To your free heart, I do return those talents,

Doubled with thanks and service, from whose help

I deriv’d liberty.

Tim.O! by no means,

Honest Ventidius; you mistake my love;

I gave it freely ever; and there’s none

Can truly say he gives, if he receives:

If our betters play at that game, we must not dare

To imitate them; faults that are rich are fair.

Ven.A noble spirit.[They all stand ceremoniously looking on TIMON.

Tim.Nay, my lords, ceremony was but devis’d at first

To set a gloss on faint deeds, hollow welcomes,

Recanting goodness, sorry ere ’tis shown;

But where there is true friendship, there needs none.

Pray, sit; more welcome are ye to my fortunes

Than my fortunes to me.[They sit.

First Lord.My lord, we always have confess’d it.

Apem.Ho, ho! confess’d it; hang’d it, have you not?

Tim.O! Apemantus, you are welcome.


You shall not make me welcome:

I come to have thee thrust me out of doors.

Tim.Fie! thou’rt a churl; ye’ve got a humour there

Does not become a man; ’tis much to blame.

They say, my lords, Ira furor brevis est;

But yond man is ever angry.

Go, let him have a table by himself,

For he does neither affect company,

Nor is he fit for it, indeed.

Apem.Let me stay at thine apperil, Timon: I come to observe; I give thee warning on ’t.

Tim.I take no heed of thee; thou’rt an Athenian, therefore, welcome. I myself would have no power; prithee, let my meat make thee silent.

Apem.I scorn thy meat; ’twould choke me, for I should

Ne’er flatter thee. O you gods! what a number

Of men eat Timon, and he sees them not.

It grieves me to see so many dip their meat

In one man’s blood; and all the madness is,

He cheers them up too.

I wonder men dare trust themselves with men:

Methinks they should invite them without knives;

Good for their meat, and safer for their lives.

There’s much example for ’t; the fellow that

Sits next him now, parts bread with him, and pledges

The breath of him in a divided draught,

Is the readiest man to kill him: ’t has been prov’d.

If I were a huge man, I should fear to drink at meals;

Lest they should spy my wind-pipe’s dangerous notes:

Great men should drink with harness on their throats.

Tim.My lord, in heart; and let the health go round.

Sec. Lord.Let it flow this way, my good lord.

Apem.Flow this way! A brave fellow! he keeps his tides well. Those healths will make thee and thy state look ill, Timon.

Here’s that which is too weak to be a sinner,

Honest water, which ne’er left man i’ the mire:

This and my food are equals, there’s no odds:

Feasts are too proud to give thanks to the gods.

  • Immortal gods, I crave no pelf;
  • I pray for no man but myself:
  • Grant I may never prove so fond,
  • To trust man on his oath or bond;
  • Or a harlot for her weeping;
  • Or a dog that seems a-sleeping;
  • Or a keeper with my freedom;
  • Or my friends, if I should need ’em.
  • Amen. So fall to ’t:
  • Rich men sin, and I eat root.
  • [Eats and drinks.

    Much good dich thy good heart, Apemantus!

    Tim.Captain Alcibiades, your heart’s in the field now.

    Alcib.My heart is ever at your service, my lord.

    Tim.You had rather be at a breakfast of enemies than a dinner of friends.

    Alcib.So they were bleeding-new, my lord, there’s no meat like ’em: I could wish my best friend at such a feast.

    Apem.’Would all those flatterers were thine enemies then, that then thou mightst kill ’em and bid me to ’em.

    First Lord.Might we but have that happiness, my lord, that you would once use our hearts, whereby we might express some part of our zeals, we should think ourselves for ever perfect.

    Tim.O! no doubt, my good friends, but the gods themselves have provided that I shall have much help from you: how had you been my friends else? why have you that charitable title from thousands, did not you chiefly belong to my heart? I have told more of you to myself than you can with modesty speak in your own behalf; and thus far I confirm you. O you gods! think I, what need we have any friends, if we should ne’er have need of ’em? they were the most needless creatures living should we ne’er have use for ’em, and would most resemble sweet instruments hung up in cases, that keep their sounds to themselves. Why, I have often wished myself poorer that I might come nearer to you. We are born to do benefits; and what better or properer can we call our own than the riches of our friends? O! what a precious comfort ’tis, to have so many, like brothers, commanding one another’s fortunes. O joy! e’en made away ere it can be born. Mine eyes cannot hold out water, methinks: to forget their faults, I drink to you.

    Apem.Thou weepest to make them drink, Timon.

    Sec. Lord.Joy had the like conception in our eyes,

    And, at that instant, like a babe, sprung up.

    Apem.Ho, ho! I laugh to think that babe a bastard.

    Third Lord.I promise you, my lord, you mov’d me much.

    Apem.Much![Tucket sounded.

    Tim.What means that trump?

    Enter a Servant.

    How now!

    Serv.Please you, my lord, there are certain ladies most desirous of admittance.

    Tim.Ladies? What are their wills?

    Serv.There comes with them a forerunner, my lord, which bears that office, to signify their pleasures.

    Tim.I pray, let them be admitted.

    Enter CUPID.

    Cup.Hail to thee, worthy Timon; and to all

    That of his bounties taste! The five best senses

    Acknowledge thee their patron; and come freely

    To gratulate thy plenteous bosom. Th’ ear,

    Taste, touch, smell, pleas’d from thy table rise;

    They only now come but to feast thine eyes.

    Tim.They are welcome all; let ’em have kind admittance:

    Music, make their welcome![Exit CUPID.

    First Lord.You see, my lord, how ample you’re belov’d.

    Music.Re-enter CUPID, with a masque of Ladies as Amazons, with lutes in their hands, dancing and playing.

    Apem.Hoy-day! what a sweep of vanity comes this way:

    They dance! they are mad women.

    Like madness is the glory of this life,

    As this pomp shows to a little oil and root.

    We make ourselves fools to disport ourselves;

    And spend our flatteries to drink those men

    Upon whose age we void it up again,

    With poisonous spite and envy.

    Who lives that’s not depraved or depraves?

    Who dies that bears not one spurn to their graves

    Of their friend’s gift?

    I should fear those that dance before me now

    Would one day stamp upon me: it has been done;

    Men shut their doors against a setting sun.

    The Lords rise from table, with much adoring of TIMON; and to show their loves each singles out an Amazon, and all dance, men with women, a lofty strain or two to the hautboys, and cease.

    Tim.You have done our pleasures much grace, fair ladies,

    Set a fair fashion on our entertainment,

    Which was not half so beautiful and kind;

    You have added worth unto ’t and lustre,

    And entertain’d me with mine own device;

    I am to thank you for ’t.

    First Lady.My lord, you take us even at the best.

    Apem.Faith, for the worst is filthy; and would not hold taking, I doubt me.

    Tim.Ladies, there is an idle banquet

    Attends you: please you to dispose yourselves.

    All Lad.Most thankfully, my lord.[Exeunt CUPID and Ladies.


    Flav.My lord!

    Tim.The little casket bring me hither.

    Flav.Yes, my lord.[Aside.]More jewels yet!

    There is no crossing him in ’s humour;

    Else I should tell him well, i’ faith, I should,

    When all’s spent, he’d be cross’d then, an he could.

    ’Tis pity bounty had not eyes behind,

    That man might ne’er be wretched for his mind.[Exit.

    First Lord.Where be our men?

    Serv.Here, my lord, in readiness.

    Sec. Lord.Our horses!

    Re-enter FLAVIUS with the Casket.

    Tim.O, my friends! I have one word to say to you;

    Look you, my good lord,

    I must entreat you, honour me so much

    As to advance this jewel; accept it and wear it,

    Kind my lord.

    First Lord.I am so far already in your gifts—

    All.So are we all.

    Enter a Servant.

    Serv.My lord, there are certain nobles of the senate

    Newly alighted, and come to visit you.

    Tim.They are fairly welcome.

    Flav.I beseech your honour,

    Vouchsafe me a word; it does concern you near.

    Tim.Near! why then another time I’ll hear thee.

    I prithee, let’s be provided to show them entertainment.

    Flav.[Aside.]I scarce know how.

    Enter another Servant.

    Sec. Serv.May it please your honour, Lord Lucius,

    Out of his free love, hath presented to you

    Four milk-white horses, trapp’d in silver.

    Tim.I shall accept them fairly; let the presents

    Be worthily entertain’d.

    Enter a third Servant.

    How now! what news?

    Third Serv.Please you, my lord, that honourable gentleman, Lord Lucullus, entreats your company to-morrow to hunt with him, and has sent your honour two brace of greyhounds.

    Tim.I’ll hunt with him; and let them be receiv’d,

    Not without fair reward.

    Flav.[Aside.]What will this come to?

    He commands us to provide, and give great gifts,

    And all out of an empty coffer:

    Nor will he know his purse, or yield me this,

    To show him what a beggar his heart is,

    Being of no power to make his wishes good,

    His promises fly so beyond his state

    That what he speaks is all in debt; he owes

    For every word: he is so kind that he now

    Pays interest for ’t; his land’s put to their books.

    Well, would I were gently put out of office

    Before I were forc’d out!

    Happier he that has no friend to feed

    Than such as do e’en enemies exceed.

    I bleed inwardly for my lord.[Exit.

    Tim.You do yourselves

    Much wrong, you bate too much of your own merits:

    Here, my lord, a trifle of our love.

    Sec. Lord.With more than common thanks I will receive it.

    Third Lord.O! he’s the very soul of bounty.

    Tim.And now I remember, my lord, you gave

    Good words the other day of a bay courser

    I rode on: it is yours, because you lik’d it.

    Third Lord.O! I beseech you, pardon me, my lord, in that.

    Tim.You may take my word, my lord; I know no man

    Can justly praise but what he does affect:

    I weigh my friend’s affection with mine own;

    I’ll tell you true. I’ll call to you.

    All Lords.O! none so welcome.

    Tim.I take all and your several visitations

    So kind to heart, ’tis not enough to give;

    Methinks, I could deal kingdoms to my friends,

    And ne’er be weary. Alcibiades,

    Thou art a soldier, therefore seldom rich;

    It comes in charity to thee; for all thy living

    Is ’mongst the dead, and all the lands thou hast

    Lie in a pitch’d field.

    Alcib.Ay, defil’d land, my lord.

    First Lord.We are so virtuously bound,—

    Tim.And so

    Am I to you.

    Sec. Lord.So infinitely endear’d,—

    Tim.All to you. Lights, more lights!

    First Lord.The best of happiness,

    Honour, and fortunes, keep with you, Lord Timon!

    Tim.Ready for his friends.[Exeunt ALCIBIADES, Lords, &c.

    Apem.What a coil’s here!

    Serving of becks and jutting out of bums!

    I doubt whether their legs be worth the sums

    That are given for ’em. Friendship’s full of dregs:

    Methinks, false hearts should never have sound legs.

    Thus honest fools lay out their wealth on curtsies.

    Tim.Now, Apemantus, if thou wert not sullen,

    I would be good to thee.

    Apem.No, I’ll nothing; for if I should be bribed too, there would be none left to rail upon thee, and then thou wouldst sin the faster. Thou givest so long, Timon, I fear me thou wilt give away thyself in paper shortly: what need these feasts, pomps, and vain-glories?

    Tim.Nay, an you begin to rail on society once, I am sworn not to give regard to you.

    Farewell; and come with better music.[Exit.


    Thou wilt not hear me now; thou shalt not then;

    I’ll lock thy heaven from thee.

    O! that men’s ears should be

    To counsel deaf, but not to flattery.[Exit.