The real Timon of Athens lived there in the fifth century BCE, making him a contemporary of Socrates and Pericles. Shakespeare presents Timon as a figure who suffers such profound disillusionment that he becomes a misanthrope, or man-hater. This makes him a more interesting character than the caricature he had become to Shakespeare’s contemporaries, for whom “Timonist” was a slang term for an unsociable man.
Shakespeare’s play includes the wealthy, magnificent, and extravagantly generous figure of Timon before his transformation. Timon expects that, having received as gifts all that he owned, his friends will be equally generous to him.
Once his creditors clamor for repayment, Timon finds that his idealization of friendship is an illusion. He repudiates his friends, abandons Athens, and retreats to the woods. Yet his misanthropy arises from the destruction of an admirable illusion, from which his subsequent hatred can never be entirely disentangled.
This edition includes:
-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play
-Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play
-Scene-by-scene plot summaries
-A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases
-An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language
-An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play
-Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books
-An annotated guide to further reading
Essay by Coppélia Kahn
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About the Author
Barbara A. Mowat is Director of Research emerita at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Consulting Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, and author of The Dramaturgy of Shakespeare’s Romances and of essays on Shakespeare’s plays and their editing.
Paul Werstine is Professor of English at the Graduate School and at King’s University College at Western University. He is a general editor of the New Variorum Shakespeare and author of Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare and of many papers and articles on the printing and editing of Shakespeare’s plays.
Date of Death:2018
Place of Birth:Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
Place of Death:Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
Read an Excerpt
Timon of Athens
By WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Alison Daurio
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
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?
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 Hath conjured to attend. I know the merchant.
Pain. I know them both; the other's a jeweller.
Mer. O, 't is a worthy lord!
Jew. Nay, that's most fix'd.
Mer. A most incomparable man, breathed, as it were, 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—
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."
Mer. [Looking on the jewel] 'T is a good form.
Jew. And rich: here is a water, look ye.
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 't is 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?
Pain. A picture, sir. When comes your book forth?
Poet. Upon the heels of my presentment, sir.
Let's see your piece.
Pain. 'T is a good piece.
Poet. So 't is: this comes off well and excellent.
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.
Pain. 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
Pain. How this lord is follow'd!
Poet. The senators of Athens: happy man!
Pain. Look, moe!1
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.
Pain. 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.
Pain. 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.
Pain. 'T is 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 steepy 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.
Pain. 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.
Pain. 'T is 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 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: 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 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; And, being enfranchised, bid him come to me: 'T is 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
Old Ath. Lord Timon, hear me speak.
Tim. Freely, good father.
Old Ath. Thou hast a servant named Lucilius.
Tim. I have so: what of him?
Old Ath. Most noble Timon, call the man before thee.
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 inclined to thrift, And my estate deserves an heir more raised 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: 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; 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.
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?
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.
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 served me long: To build his fortune I will strain a little, For 't is 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.
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 owed to you!
[Exeunt Lucilius and old Athenian.
Poet. Vouchsafe my labour, and long live your lordship!
Tim. I thank thee; 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. The painting is almost the natural man; For 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.
Pain. The gods preserve ye!
Tim. Well fare you, gentleman: give me your hand; We must needs dine together. Sir, your jewel Hath suffer'd under praise.
Jew. What, my lord! dispraise?
Tim. A mere satiety of commendations. If I should pay you for 't as 't is extoll'd, It would unclew me quite.
Jew. My lord, 't is rated 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.
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?
Jew. We'll bear, with your lordship.
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.
Apem. Are they not Athenians?
Apem. Then I repent not.
Jew. You know me, Apemantus?
Apem. Thou know'st I do; I call'd thee by thy name.
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.
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.
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'ldst anger ladies.
Apem. O, they eat lords; so they come by great bellies.
Tim. That's a lascivious apprehension.
Apem. So thou apprehend'st 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.
Tim. What dost thou think 't is worth?
Apem. Not worth my thinking. How now, poet!
Poet. How now, philosopher!
Apem. Thou liest.
Poet. Art not one?
Poet. Then I lie not.
Apem. Art not a poet?
Apem. Then thou liest: look in thy last work, where thou hast feigned him a worthy fellow.
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. E'en as Apemantus does now; hate a lord with my heart.
Tim. What, thyself?
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!
Mer. If traffic do it, the gods do it.
Apem. Traffic's thy god; and thy god confound thee!
Trumpet sounds. Enter a Messenger
Tim. What trumpet's that?
Mess. 'T is Alcibiades, and some twenty horse, 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 thank'd you: when dinner's done, Show me this piece. I am joyful of your sights.
Enter Alciades, with the rest
Most welcome, sir!
Apem. So, so, there! Aches contract and starve your supple joints! 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.
Alcib. Sir, you have saved my longing, and I feed Most hungerly on your sight.
Tim. Right welcome, sir! Ere we depart, we'll share a bounteous time In different pleasures. Pray you, let us in.
[Exeunt all but Apemantus.
Enter two Lords
First Lord. What time o' day is 't, Apemantus?
Apem. Time to be honest.
First Lord. That time serves still.
Apem. The most 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.
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.
Sec. Lord. Away, unpeaceable dog, or I'll spurn thee hence!
Apem. I will fly, like a dog, the heels o' the 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.
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.
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.
Scene II. A Banqueting-Room in Timon's House.
Hautboys playing loud music. A great banquet served in; Flavius and others attending; and then enter Lord Timon, Alcibiades, Lords, Senators and Ventidius. Then comes, dropping after all, Apemantus, discontentedly, like himself
Ven. Most honour'd Timon, It hath pleased the gods to remember my father's age, And call him to long peace. He is gone happy, and has left me rich: Then, as in grateful virtue I am bound To your free heart, I do return those talents, Doubled with thanks and service, from whose help I derived liberty.
Tim. O, by no means, Honest Ventidius; you mistake my love: I gave it freely ever; and there's none Can truly say he gives, if he receives: If our betters play at that game, we must not dare To imitate them; faults that are rich are fair.
Ven. A noble spirit!
Tim. Nay, my lords, ceremony was but devised at first To set a gloss on faint deeds, hollow welcomes, Recanting goodness, sorry ere 't is shown; But where there is true friendship, there needs none. Pray, sit; more welcome are ye to my fortunes Than my fortunes to me. [They sit
First Lord. My lord, we always have confess'd it.
Apem. Ho, ho, confess'd it! hang'd it, have you not?
Tim. O, Apemantus, you are welcome.
Apem. No; You shall not make me welcome: I come to have thee thrust me out of doors.
Tim. Fie, thou'rt a churl; ye've got a humour there Does not become a man; 't is much to blame. They say, my lords, "ira furor brevis est;" but yond1 man is ever angry. Go, let him have a table by himself; for he does neither affect company, nor is he fit for 't indeed.
Apem. Let me stay at thine apperil, Timon:2 I come to observe; I give thee warning on't.
Tim. I take no heed of thee; thou'rt an Athenian, therefore welcome: I myself would have no power;3 prithee, let my meat make thee silent.
Apem. I scorn thy meat; 't would choke me, for I should ne'er flatter thee. O you gods, what a number of men eat Timon, and he sees 'em not! It grieves me to see so many dip their meat in one man's blood; and5 all the madness is, he cheers them up too. I wonder men dare trust themselves with men: Methinks they should invite them without knives;6 Good for their meat, and safer for their lives. There's much example for't; the fellow that sits next him now, parts bread with him, pledges the breath of him in a divided draught, is the readiest man to kill him: 't has been proved. If I were a huge man, I should fear to drink at meals; Lest they should spy my windpipe's dangerous notes:7 Great men should drink with harness on their throats.8
Tim. My lord, in heart; and let the health go round.9
Sec. Lord. Let it flow this way, my good lord.
Excerpted from Timon of Athens by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Alison Daurio. Copyright © 2015 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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