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The Tragedy of Timon of Athens

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Act I, Scene 1

Athens. A hall in Timon’s house.


[Enter Poet, Painter, Jeweller, Merchant, and] [p]others, at several doors]

  • Poet. Good day, sir.
  • Poet. I have not seen you long: how goes the world? 5
  • 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 10
    Hath conjured to attend. I know the merchant.
  • Painter. I know them both; th' other's a jeweller.
  • Merchant. A most incomparable man, breathed, as it were, 15
    To an untirable and continuate goodness:
    He passes.
  • Merchant. O, pray, let's see't: for the Lord Timon, sir?
  • 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.'

[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. 30
    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? 35
  • Painter. A picture, sir. When comes your book forth?
  • Poet. Upon the heels of my presentment, sir.
    Let's see your piece.
  • Poet. So 'tis: this comes off well and excellent. 40
  • 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 45
    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 50
    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!
  • 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 60
    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. 65
  • 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 70
    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 75
    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 80
    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, 85
    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. 90
    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. 95
  • 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, 100
    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 105
    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:
    A thousand moral paintings I can show 110
    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 TIMON, addressing himself] 115
    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, 120
    His means most short, his creditors most strait:
    Your honourable letter he desires
    To those have shut him up; which failing,
    Periods his comfort.
  • Timon. Noble Ventidius! Well; 125
    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. 130
  • Timon. Commend me to him: I will send his ransom;
    And being enfranchised, bid him come to me.
    'Tis not enough to help the feeble up,
    But to support him after. Fare you well. 135


[Enter an old Athenian]

  • Timon. Freely, good father. 140
  • Timon. I have so: what of him?
  • Timon. Attends he here, or no? Lucilius!
  • Lucilius. Here, at your lordship's service. 145
  • 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. 150
  • 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 155
    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. 160
  • 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: 165
    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, 170
    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? 175
  • 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, 180
    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 185
    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: 190
    Go not away. What have you there, my friend?
  • Painter. A piece of painting, which I do beseech
    Your lordship to accept.
  • Timon. Painting is welcome.
    The painting is almost the natural man; 195
    or since dishonour traffics with man's nature,
    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. 200
  • Timon. Well fare you, gentleman: give me your hand;
    We must needs dine together. Sir, your jewel
    Hath suffer'd under praise.
  • Timon. A more satiety of commendations.
    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, 210
    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.
  • Merchant. No, my good lord; he speaks the common tongue, 215
    Which all men speak with him.
  • Timon. Look, who comes here: will you be chid?


  • Timon. Good morrow to thee, gentle Apemantus!
  • Apemantus. Till I be gentle, stay thou for thy good morrow;
    When thou art Timon's dog, and these knaves honest.
  • Timon. Why dost thou call them knaves? thou know'st them not.
  • Apemantus. Thou know'st I do: I call'd thee by thy name.
  • Timon. Thou art proud, Apemantus. 230
  • Apemantus. Of nothing so much as that I am not like Timon.
  • Timon. Whither art going?
  • 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. 235
  • Timon. How likest thou this picture, Apemantus?
  • 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. 240
  • Apemantus. Thy mother's of my generation: what's she, if I be a dog?
  • Timon. Wilt dine with me, Apemantus?
  • Timon. An thou shouldst, thou 'ldst anger ladies. 245
  • Apemantus. O, they eat lords; so they come by great bellies.
  • Timon. That's a lascivious apprehension.
  • 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 250
    man a doit.
  • Timon. What dost thou think 'tis worth?
  • Apemantus. Not worth my thinking. How now, poet!
  • Poet. How now, philosopher!
  • Poet. Then I lie not.
  • Apemantus. Then thou liest: look in thy last work, where thou
    hast feigned him a worthy fellow.
  • 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' 265
    the flatterer. Heavens, that I were a lord!
  • Timon. What wouldst do then, Apemantus?
  • Apemantus. E'en as Apemantus does now; hate a lord with my heart.
  • Apemantus. That I had no angry wit to be a lord.
    Art not thou a merchant?
  • Apemantus. Traffic confound thee, if the gods will not! 275
  • Merchant. If traffic do it, the gods do it.
  • Apemantus. Traffic's thy god; and thy god confound thee!

[Trumpet sounds. Enter a Messenger]

  • Timon. What trumpet's that?
  • Messenger. 'Tis Alcibiades, and some twenty horse, 280
    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
    Till I have thank'd you: when dinner's done, 285
    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! 290
    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 295
    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]

  • Apemantus. The more accursed thou, that still omitt'st it. 305
  • Apemantus. Ay, to see meat fill knaves and wine heat fools.
  • Apemantus. Thou art a fool to bid me farewell twice.
  • Apemantus. Shouldst have kept one to thyself, for I mean to
    give thee none.
  • Apemantus. No, I will do nothing at thy bidding: make thy
    requests to thy friend. 315
  • Second Lord. Away, unpeaceable dog, or I'll spurn thee hence!
  • Apemantus. I will fly, like a dog, the heels o' the ass.


  • First Lord. He's opposite to humanity. Come, shall we in,
    And taste Lord Timon's bounty? he outgoes 320
    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
    Sevenfold above itself; no gift to him,
    But breeds the giver a return exceeding 325
    All use of quittance.
  • First Lord. The noblest mind he carries
    That ever govern'd man.
  • Second Lord. Long may he live in fortunes! Shall we in?