Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > Timon of Athens
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William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
 
Timon of Athens
 
Act I. Scene I.
 
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?        5
  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        10
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,        15
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—        20
  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.        25
  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        30
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.        35
Let’s see your piece.
  Pain.  ’Tis a good piece.
  Poet.  So ’tis: this comes off well and excellent.
  Pain.  Indifferent.
  Poet.        Admirable! How this grace        40
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.        45
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.
        50
  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,        55
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;        60
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—        65
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        70
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.        75
  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        80
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        85
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        90
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        95
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?        100
  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.        105
  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        110
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:        115
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        120
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;        125
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.
        130
  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.        135
  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,        140
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:        145
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;        150
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.        155
  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?        160
  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.        165
  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,        170
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.        175
  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!        180
  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.        185
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        190
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.        195
  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        200
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.        205
  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?
 
Enter APEMANTUS.
  Jew.  We’ll bear, with your lordship.        210
  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.        215
  Apem.  Are they not Athenians?
  Tim.  Yes.
  Apem.  Then I repent not.
  Jew.  You know me, Apemantus?
  Apem.  Thou know’st I do; I call’d thee by thy name.        220
  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.        225
  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.        230
  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.        235
  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.        240
  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?        245
  Apem.  Yes.
  Poet.  Then I lie not.
  Apem.  Art not a poet?
  Poet.  Yes.
  Apem.  Then thou liest: look in thy last work, where thou hast feigned him a worthy fellow.        250
  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?        255
  Apem.  Ay.
  Tim.  Wherefore?
  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!        260
  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,        265
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.        270
 
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,        275
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!        280
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.        285
  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.        290
  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.        295
  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.        300
  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.        305
  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.        310
 
 
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