Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare

Timon of Athens

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subjects: Plays: Classic & Pre-20th Century

Description

A wealthy citizen of ancient Greece, Timon delights in entertaining his friends and lavishing them with extravagant gifts. His largesse ultimately exceeds his means, and when creditors begin to press him for repayment, the open-handed host is devastated to discover that the guests — who gladly accepted everything he had — have now turned their backs on him. Profoundly disillusioned, Timon forswears society and retreats to the wilderness, where further discoveries await. In this deeply cynical drama, Shakespeare tells a thought-provoking tale of conspicuous consumption, debt, ruin, and misanthropy. Combining elements of tragedy, satire, and farce, Timon of Athens poses ever-relevant questions about the meaning of friendship, generosity, and gratitude.


78 pages, with a reading time of ~2.5 hours (19,517 words), and first published in 1606. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Excerpt

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: 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.

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. 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, 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 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?

Painter

A picture, sir. When comes your book forth?

Poet

Upon the heels of my presentment, sir. Let’s see your piece.

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   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?

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!

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 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.

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 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 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.

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, 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.

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 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.

Painter

Ay, marry, what of these?

Poet

When Fortune in her shift and change of mood 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.