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Timon of Athens Scenes

Scene 1

The woods. Before Timon’s cave.

(Poet; Painter; Timon; Steward Flavius; First Senator; First Senator)

The poet and the painter, having heard that Timon is distributing gold, come to get their share. Timon overhears them plotting about how they will flatter him. Though he pretends to find them honest, when he gives them gold he beats them for villainy. Flavius leads two Senators to Timon’s cave, warning them that there’s no hope of a good welcome, but the Senators insist, since they have promised the Athenians. They tell Timon that the people of Athens want him to return and to run the city, in the hopes that he will be able to save it from Alcibiades. But Timon, after getting their hopes up, informs them that he does not care in the slightest what happens to Athens, and tells them that they should all go hang themselves. The Senators return to Athens to work out how else to save themselves. (260 lines)

Enter Poet and Painter; Timon watching them from his cave.


As I took note of the place, it cannot be far

Where he abides.


What’s to be thought of him?

Does the rumor hold for true that he’s

So full of gold?


Certain. Alcibiades reports it;

Phrynia and Timandra had gold of him.

He likewise enrich’d poor straggling soldiers with

Great quantity. ’Tis said he gave unto

His steward a mighty sum.


Then this breaking of his

Has been but a try for his friends?


Nothing else.

You shall see him a palm in Athens again, and flourish

With the highest. Therefore, ’tis not amiss

We tender our loves to him in this suppos’d

Distress of his; it will show honestly in us,

And is very likely to load our purposes

With what they travail for, if it be

A just and true report that goes of his having.


What have you now to present unto him?


Nothing at this time but my visitation;

Only I will promise him an excellent piece.


I must serve him so too: tell him of an intent

That’s coming toward him.


Good as the best.

Promising is the very air o’ th’ time;

It opens the eyes of expectation.

Performance is ever the duller for his act,

And but in the plainer and simpler kind of people

The deed of saying is quite out of use.

To promise is most courtly and fashionable;

Performance is a kind of will or testament

Which argues a great sickness in his judgment

That makes it.

Enter Timon from his cave.



Excellent workman! Thou canst not paint a man

So bad as is thyself.


I am thinking

What I shall say I have provided for him.

It must be a personating of himself;

A satire against the softness of prosperity,

With a discovery of the infinite flatteries

That follow youth and opulency.



Must thou needs

Stand for a villain in thine own work?

Wilt thou whip thine own faults in other men?

Do so, I have gold for thee.


Nay, let’s seek him:

Then do we sin against our own estate,

When we may profit meet, and come too late.



When the day serves, before black-corner’d night,

Find what thou want’st by free and offer’d light.




I’ll meet you at the turn. What a god’s gold

That he is worshipp’d in a baser temple

Than where swine feed!

’Tis thou that rig’st the bark and plough’st the foam,

Settlest admired reverence in a slave.

To thee be worship, and thy saints for aye

Be crown’d with plagues, that thee alone obey!

Fit I meet them.

Coming forward.


Hail, worthy Timon!


Our late noble master!


Have I once liv’d to see two honest men?



Having often of your open bounty tasted,

Hearing you were retir’d, your friends fall’n off,

Whose thankless natures (O abhorred spirits!)

Not all the whips of heaven are large enough—

What, to you,

Whose star-like nobleness gave life and influence

To their whole being! I am rapt and cannot cover

The monstrous bulk of this ingratitude

With any size of words.


Let it go naked, men may see’t the better.

You that are honest, by being what you are

Make them best seen and known.


He and myself

Have travail’d in the great show’r of your gifts,

And sweetly felt it.


Ay, you are honest men.


We are hither come to offer you our service.


Most honest men! Why, how shall I requite you?

Can you eat roots and drink cold water? No?


What we can do, we’ll do, to do you service.


Y’ are honest men; y’ have heard that I have gold,

I am sure you have. Speak truth, y’ are honest men.


So it is said, my noble lord, but therefore

Came not my friend nor I.


Good honest men! Thou draw’st a counterfeit

Best in all Athens; th’ art indeed the best,

Thou counterfeit’st most lively.


So, so, my lord.


E’en so, sir, as I say.—And, for thy fiction,

Why, thy verse swells with stuff so fine and smooth

That thou art even natural in thine art.

But for all this, my honest-natur’d friends,

I must needs say you have a little fault;

Marry, ’tis not monstrous in you, neither wish I

You take much pains to mend.


Beseech your honor

To make it known to us.


You’ll take it ill.


Most thankfully, my lord.


Will you indeed?


Doubt it not, worthy lord.


There’s never a one of you but trusts a knave

That mightily deceives you.


Do we, my lord?


Ay, and you hear him cog, see him dissemble,

Know his gross patchery, love him, feed him,

Keep in your bosom; yet remain assur’d

That he’s a made-up villain.


I know none such, my lord.


Nor I.


Look you, I love you well, I’ll give you gold,

Rid me these villains from your companies;

Hang them, or stab them, drown them in a draught,

Confound them by some course, and come to me,

I’ll give you gold enough.


Name them, my lord, let’s know them.


You that way and you this; but two in company;

Each man apart, all single and alone,

Yet an arch-villain keeps him company.

To one.

If where thou art, two villains shall not be,

Come not near him.

To the other.

If thou wouldst not reside

But where one villain is, then him abandon.—

Hence, pack! There’s gold; you came for gold, ye slaves.

To one.

You have work for me; there’s payment, hence!

To the other.

You are an alcumist, make gold of that.

Out, rascal dogs!

Exeunt both, driven out by Timon, who retires to his cave.

Enter Steward Flavius and two Senators.


It is vain that you would speak with Timon;

For he is set so only to himself,

That nothing but himself which looks like man

Is friendly with him.

1. SEN.

Bring us to his cave.

It is our part and promise to th’ Athenians

To speak with Timon.

2. SEN.

At all times alike

Men are not still the same; ’twas time and griefs

That fram’d him thus. Time with his fairer hand,

Offering the fortunes of his former days,

The former man may make him. Bring us to him,

And chance it as it may.


Here is his cave.

Peace and content be here! Lord Timon! Timon,

Look out and speak to friends. Th’ Athenians

By two of their most reverend Senate greet thee.

Speak to them, noble Timon.

Enter Timon out of his cave.


Thou sun that comforts, burn! Speak and be hang’d.

For each true word, a blister, and each false

Be as a cantherizing to the root o’ th’ tongue,

Consuming it with speaking!

1. SEN.

Worthy Timon—


Of none but such as you, and you of Timon.

1. SEN.

The senators of Athens greet thee, Timon.


I thank them, and would send them back the plague,

Could I but catch it for them.

1. SEN.

O, forget

What we are sorry for ourselves in thee.

The senators with one consent of love

Entreat thee back to Athens, who have thought

On special dignities, which vacant lie,

For thy best use and wearing.

2. SEN.

They confess

Toward thee forgetfulness too general gross;

Which now the public body, which doth seldom

Play the recanter, feeling in itself

A lack of Timon’s aid, hath sense withal

Of it own fall, restraining aid to Timon,

And send forth us to make their sorrowed render,

Together with a recompense more fruitful

Than their offense can weigh down by the dram;

Ay, even such heaps and sums of love and wealth

As shall to thee blot out what wrongs were theirs,

And write in thee the figures of their love,

Ever to read them thine.


You witch me in it;

Surprise me to the very brink of tears.

Lend me a fool’s heart and a woman’s eyes,

And I’ll beweep these comforts, worthy senators.

1. SEN.

Therefore so please thee to return with us,

And of our Athens, thine and ours, to take

The captainship, thou shalt be met with thanks,

Allow’d with absolute power, and thy good name

Live with authority; so soon we shall drive back

Of Alcibiades th’ approaches wild,

Who, like a boar too savage, doth root up

His country’s peace.

2. SEN.

And shakes his threat’ning sword

Against the walls of Athens.

1. SEN.

Therefore, Timon—


Well, sir, I will; therefore I will, sir, thus:

If Alcibiades kill my countrymen,

Let Alcibiades know this of Timon,

That Timon cares not. But if he sack fair Athens,

And take our goodly aged men by th’ beards,

Giving our holy virgins to the stain

Of contumelious, beastly, mad-brain’d war,

Then let him know, and tell him Timon speaks it,

In pity of our aged and our youth,

I cannot choose but tell him that I care not,

And let him take’t at worst—for their knives care not,

While you have throats to answer. For myself,

There’s not a whittle in th’ unruly camp

But I do prize it at my love before

The reverend’st throat in Athens. So I leave you

To the protection of the prosperous gods,

As thieves to keepers.


Stay not, all’s in vain.


Why, I was writing of my epitaph;

It will be seen tomorrow. My long sickness

Of health and living now begins to mend,

And nothing brings me all things. Go, live still;

Be Alcibiades your plague, you his,

And last so long enough!

1. SEN.

We speak in vain.


But yet I love my country, and am not

One that rejoices in the common wrack,

As common bruit doth put it.

1. SEN.

That’s well spoke.


Commend me to my loving countrymen—

1. SEN.

These words become your lips as they pass thorough them.

2. SEN.

And enter in our ears like great triumphers

In their applauding gates.


Commend me to them,

And tell them that, to ease them of their griefs,

Their fears of hostile strokes, their aches, losses,

Their pangs of love, with other incident throes

That nature’s fragile vessel doth sustain

In life’s uncertain voyage, I will some kindness do them:

I’ll teach them to prevent wild Alcibiades’ wrath.

1. SEN.

I like this well, he will return again.


I have a tree, which grows here in my close,

That mine own use invites me to cut down,

And shortly must I fell it. Tell my friends,

Tell Athens, in the sequence of degree,

From high to low throughout, that whoso please

To stop affliction, let him take his haste,

Come hither, ere my tree hath felt the axe,

And hang himself. I pray you do my greeting.


Trouble him no further, thus you still shall find him.


Come not to me again, but say to Athens,

Timon hath made his everlasting mansion

Upon the beached verge of the salt flood,

Who once a day with his embossed froth

The turbulent surge shall cover; thither come,

And let my grave-stone be your oracle.

Lips, let four words go by and language end!

What is amiss, plague and infection mend!

Graves only be men’s works, and death their gain!

Sun, hide thy beams, Timon hath done his reign.

Exit Timon.

1. SEN.

His discontents are unremovably

Coupled to nature.

2. SEN.

Our hope in him is dead. Let us return,

And strain what other means is left unto us

In our dear peril.

1. SEN.

It requires swift foot.



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