ACT I SCENE I

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.
Painter I am glad you’re well.
Poet I have not seen you long: how goes the world?
Painter It wears, sir, as it grows.
Poet Ay, that’s well known: 5
But what particular rarity? what strange,
Which manifold record not matches? See,
Magic of bounty! all these spirits thy power
Hath conjured to attend. I know the merchant.
Painter I know them both; th’ other’s a jeweller. 10
Merchant O, ’tis a worthy lord.
Jeweller Nay, that’s most fix’d.
Merchant A most incomparable man, breathed, as it were,
To an untirable and continuate goodness:
He passes. 15
Jeweller: I have a jewel here–
Merchant O, pray, let’s see’t: for the Lord Timon, sir?
Jeweller: If he will touch the estimate: but, for that–
Poet [Reciting to himself] ‘When we for recompense have
praised the vile, 20
It stains the glory in that happy verse
Which aptly sings the good.’
Merchant ‘Tis a good form.
[Looking at the jewel]
Jeweller And rich: here is a water, look ye.
Painter You are rapt, sir, in some work, some dedication 25
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 30
Provokes itself and like the current flies
Each bound it chafes. What have you there?
Painter A picture, sir. When comes your book forth?
Poet Upon the heels of my presentment, sir.
Let’s see your piece. 35
Painter ‘Tis a good piece.
Poet So ’tis: this comes off well and excellent.
Painter Indifferent.
Poet Admirable: how this grace
Speaks his own standing! what a mental power 40
This eye shoots forth! how big imagination
Moves in this lip! to the dumbness of the gesture
One might interpret.
Painter It is a pretty mocking of the life.
Here is a touch; is’t good? 45
Poet I will say of it,
It tutors nature: artificial strife
Lives in these touches, livelier than life.
[Enter certain Senators, and pass over]
Painter How this lord is follow’d!
Poet The senators of Athens: happy man! 50
Painter Look, more!
Poet You see this confluence, this great flood
of visitors.
I have, in this rough work, shaped out a man,
Whom this beneath world doth embrace and hug 55
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, 60
Leaving no tract behind.
Painter 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 65
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-faced flatterer 70
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.
Painter I saw them speak together. 75
Poet Sir, I have upon a high and pleasant hill
Feign’d Fortune to be throned: 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, 80
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. 85
Painter ‘Tis conceived to scope.
This throne, this Fortune, and this hill, methinks,
With one man beckon’d from the rest below,
Bowing his head against the sleepy mount
To climb his happiness, would be well express’d 90
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, 95
Rain sacrificial whisperings in his ear,
Make sacred even his stirrup, and through him
Drink the free air.
Painter Ay, marry, what of these?
Poet When Fortune in her shift and change of mood 100
Spurns down her late beloved, 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.
Painter ‘Tis common: 105
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. 110
[ Trumpets sound. Enter TIMON, addressing himself courteously to every suitor; a Messenger from VENTIDIUS talking with him; LUCILIUS and other servants following ]
TIMON Imprison’d is he, say you?
Messenger 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, 115
Periods his comfort.
TIMON 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: 120
Which he shall have: I’ll pay the debt,
and free him.
Messenger Your lordship ever binds him.
TIMON Commend me to him: I will send his ransom;
And being enfranchised, bid him come to me. 125
‘Tis not enough to help the feeble up,
But to support him after. Fare you well.
Messenger All happiness to your honour!
[Exit]
[Enter an old Athenian]
Old Athenian Lord Timon, hear me speak.
TIMON Freely, good father. 130
Old Athenian Thou hast a servant named Lucilius.
TIMON I have so: what of him?
Old Athenian Most noble Timon, call the man before thee.
TIMON Attends he here, or no? Lucilius!
LUCILIUS Here, at your lordship’s service. 135
Old Athenian This fellow here, Lord Timon, this thy creature,
By night frequents my house. I am a man
That from my first have been inclined to thrift;
And my estate deserves an heir more raised
Than one which holds a trencher. 140
TIMON Well; what further?
Old Athenian 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 145
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.
TIMON The man is honest. 150
Old Athenian Therefore he will be, Timon:
His honesty rewards him in itself;
It must not bear my daughter.
TIMON Does she love him?
Old Athenian She is young and apt: 155
Our own precedent passions do instruct us
What levity’s in youth.
TIMON [To LUCILIUS] Love you the maid?
LUCILIUS Ay, my good lord, and she accepts of it.
Old Athenian If in her marriage my consent be missing, 160
I call the gods to witness, I will choose
Mine heir from forth the beggars of the world,
And dispossess her all.
TIMON How shall she be endow’d,
if she be mated with an equal husband? 165
Old Athenian Three talents on the present; in future, all.
TIMON This gentleman of mine hath served 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, 170
And make him weigh with her.
Old Athenian Most noble lord,
Pawn me to this your honour, she is his.
TIMON My hand to thee; mine honour on my promise.
LUCILIUS Humbly I thank your lordship: never may 175
The state or fortune fall into my keeping,
Which is not owed to you!
[Exeunt LUCILIUS and Old Athenian]
Poet Vouchsafe my labour, and long live your lordship!
TIMON I thank you; you shall hear from me anon:
Go not away. What have you there, my friend? 180
Painter A piece of painting, which I do beseech
Your lordship to accept.
TIMON Painting is welcome.
The painting is almost the natural man;
or since dishonour traffics with man’s nature, 185
He is but outside: these pencill’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.
Painter The gods preserve ye! 190
TIMON Well fare you, gentleman: give me your hand;
We must needs dine together. Sir, your jewel
Hath suffer’d under praise.
Jeweller What, my lord! dispraise?
TIMON A more satiety of commendations. 195
If I should pay you for’t as ’tis extoll’d,
It would unclew me quite.
Jeweller My lord, ’tis rated
As those which sell would give: but you well know,
Things of like value differing in the owners 200
Are prized by their masters: believe’t, dear lord,
You mend the jewel by the wearing it.
TIMON Well mock’d.
Merchant No, my good lord; he speaks the common tongue,
Which all men speak with him. 205
TIMON Look, who comes here: will you be chid?
[Enter APEMANTUS]
Jeweller We’ll bear, with your lordship.
Merchant He’ll spare none.
TIMON Good morrow to thee, gentle Apemantus!
APEMANTUS Till I be gentle, stay thou for thy good morrow; 210
When thou art Timon’s dog, and these knaves honest.
TIMON Why dost thou call them knaves? thou know’st them not.
APEMANTUS Are they not Athenians?
TIMON Yes.
APEMANTUS Then I repent not. 215
Jeweller You know me, Apemantus?
APEMANTUS Thou know’st I do: I call’d thee by thy name.
TIMON Thou art proud, Apemantus.
APEMANTUS Of nothing so much as that I am not like Timon.
TIMON Whither art going? 220
APEMANTUS To knock out an honest Athenian’s brains.
TIMON That’s a deed thou’lt die for.
APEMANTUS Right, if doing nothing be death by the law.
TIMON How likest thou this picture, Apemantus?
APEMANTUS The best, for the innocence. 225
TIMON Wrought he not well that painted it?
APEMANTUS He wrought better that made the painter; and yet
he’s but a filthy piece of work.
Painter You’re a dog.
APEMANTUS Thy mother’s of my generation: what’s she, if I be a dog? 230
TIMON Wilt dine with me, Apemantus?
APEMANTUS No; I eat not lords.
TIMON An thou shouldst, thou ‘ldst anger ladies.
APEMANTUS O, they eat lords; so they come by great bellies.
TIMON That’s a lascivious apprehension. 235
APEMANTUS So thou apprehendest it: take it for thy labour.
TIMON How dost thou like this jewel, Apemantus?
APEMANTUS Not so well as plain-dealing, which will not cost a
man a doit.
TIMON What dost thou think ’tis worth? 240
APEMANTUS Not worth my thinking. How now, poet!
Poet How now, philosopher!
APEMANTUS Thou liest.
Poet Art not one?
APEMANTUS Yes. 245
Poet Then I lie not.
APEMANTUS Art not a poet?
Poet Yes.
APEMANTUS 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.
APEMANTUS 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!
TIMON What wouldst do then, Apemantus? 255
APEMANTUS E’en as Apemantus does now; hate a lord with my heart.
TIMON What, thyself?
APEMANTUS Ay.
TIMON Wherefore?
APEMANTUS That I had no angry wit to be a lord. 260
Art not thou a merchant?
Merchant Ay, Apemantus.
APEMANTUS Traffic confound thee, if the gods will not!
Merchant If traffic do it, the gods do it.
APEMANTUS Traffic’s thy god; and thy god confound thee! 265
[Trumpet sounds. Enter a Messenger]
TIMON What trumpet’s that?
Messenger ‘Tis Alcibiades, and some twenty horse,
All of companionship.
TIMON Pray, entertain them; give them guide to us.
[Exeunt some Attendants]
You must needs dine with me: go not you hence 270
Till I have thank’d you: when dinner’s done,
Show me this piece. I am joyful of your sights.
[Enter ALCIBIADES, with the rest]
Most welcome, sir!
APEMANTUS So, so, there!
Aches contract and starve your supple joints! 275
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.
ALCIBIADES Sir, you have saved my longing, and I feed 280
Most hungerly on your sight.
TIMON 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? 285
APEMANTUS Time to be honest.
First Lord That time serves still.
APEMANTUS The more accursed thou, that still omitt’st it.
Second Lord Thou art going to Lord Timon’s feast?
APEMANTUS Ay, to see meat fill knaves and wine heat fools. 290
Second Lord Fare thee well, fare thee well.
APEMANTUS Thou art a fool to bid me farewell twice.
Second Lord Why, Apemantus?
APEMANTUS Shouldst have kept one to thyself, for I mean to
give thee none. 295
First Lord Hang thyself!
APEMANTUS No, I will do nothing at thy bidding: make thy
requests to thy friend.
Second Lord Away, unpeaceable dog, or I’ll spurn thee hence!
APEMANTUS I will fly, like a dog, the heels o’ the ass. 300
[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.
Second Lord He pours it out; Plutus, the god of gold,
Is but his steward: no meed, but he repays 305
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. 310
Second Lord Long may he live in fortunes! Shall we in?
First Lord I’ll keep you company.
[Exeunt]