William Shakespeare: Timon of Athens, Act I, Scene II
Hautboys playing loud music. A great banquet served in; Flavius and others attending; then enter Timon, Alcibiades, Lords, Senators, and Ventidius. Then comes, dropping, after all, Apemantus, discontentedly, like himself
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.
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.
Nay, my lords,
They all stand ceremoniously looking on Timon
Ceremony was but devised at first To set a gloss on faint deeds, hollow welcomes, Recanting goodness, sorry ere 'tis shown; But where there is true friendship, there needs none. Pray, sit; more welcome are ye to my fortunes Than my fortunes to me.
Fie, thou'rt a churl; ye've got a humour there Does not become a man: 'tis much to blame. They say, my lords, 'ira furor brevis est;' but yond 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.
I take no heed of thee; thou'rt an Athenian, therefore welcome: I myself would have no power; prithee, let my meat make thee silent.
I scorn thy meat; 'twould 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; and all the madness is, he cheers them up too. I wonder men dare trust themselves with men: Methinks they should invite them without knives; 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: Great men should drink with harness on their throats.
Flow this way! A brave fellow! he keeps his tides well. Those healths will make thee and thy state look ill, Timon.
Here's that which is too weak to be a sinner, Honest water, which ne'er left man i' the mire: This and my food are equals; there's no odds: Feasts are too proud to give thanks to the gods.
Immortal gods, I crave no pelf; I pray for no man but myself: Grant I may never prove so fond, To trust man on his oath or bond; Or a harlot, for her weeping; Or a dog, that seems a-sleeping: Or a keeper with my freedom; Or my friends, if I should need 'em. Amen. So fall to't: Rich men sin, and I eat root.
Eats and drinks
Much good dich thy good heart, Apemantus!
So the were bleeding-new, my lord, there's no meat like 'em: I could wish my best friend at such a feast.
Would all those fatterers were thine enemies then, that then thou mightst kill 'em and bid me to 'em!
Might we but have that happiness, my lord, that you would once use our hearts, whereby we might express some part of our zeals, we should think ourselves for ever perfect.
O, no doubt, my good friends, but the gods themselves have provided that I shall have much help from you: how had you been my friends else? why have you that charitable title from thousands, did not you chiefly belong to my heart? I have told more of you to myself than you can with modesty speak in your own behalf; and thus far I confirm you. O you gods, think I, what need we have any friends, if we should ne'er have need of 'em? they were the most needless creatures living, should we ne'er have use for 'em, and would most resemble sweet instruments hung up in cases that keep their sounds to themselves. Why, I have often wished myself poorer, that I might come nearer to you. We are born to do benefits: and what better or properer can we can our own than the riches of our friends? O, what a precious comfort 'tis, to have so many, like brothers, commanding one another's fortunes! O joy, e'en made away ere 't can be born! Mine eyes cannot hold out water, methinks: to forget their faults, I drink to you.
There comes with them a forerunner, my lord, which bears that office, to signify their pleasures.
Hail to thee, worthy Timon, and to all That of his bounties taste! The five best senses Acknowledge thee their patron; and come freely To gratulate thy plenteous bosom: th' ear, Taste, touch and smell, pleased from thy tale rise; They only now come but to feast thine eyes.
Music. Re-enter Cupid with a mask of Ladies as Amazons, with lutes in their hands, dancing and playing
Hoy-day, what a sweep of vanity comes this way! They dance! they are mad women. Like madness is the glory of this life. As this pomp shows to a little oil and root. We make ourselves fools, to disport ourselves; And spend our flatteries, to drink those men Upon whose age we void it up again, With poisonous spite and envy. Who lives that's not depraved or depraves? Who dies, that bears not one spurn to their graves Of their friends' gift? I should fear those that dance before me now Would one day stamp upon me: 't has been done; Men shut their doors against a setting sun.
The Lords rise from table, with much adoring of Timon; and to show their loves, each singles out an Amazon, and all dance, men with women, a lofty strain or two to the hautboys, and cease
You have done our pleasures much grace, fair ladies, Set a fair fashion on our entertainment, Which was not half so beautiful and kind; You have added worth unto 't and lustre, And entertain'd me with mine own device; I am to thank you for 't.
Exeunt Cupid and Ladies
Yes, my lord. More jewels yet! There is no crossing him in 's humour;
Else I should tell him,—well, i' faith I should, When all's spent, he 'ld be cross'd then, an he could. 'Tis pity bounty had not eyes behind, That man might ne'er be wretched for his mind.
Re-enter Flavius, with the casket
O my friends, I have one word to say to you: look you, my good lord, I must entreat you, honour me so much As to advance this jewel; accept it and wear it, Kind my lord.
Enter a Servant
Near! why then, another time I'll hear thee: I prithee, let's be provided to show them entertainment.
Enter a Second Servant
May it please your honour, Lord Lucius, Out of his free love, hath presented to you Four milk-white horses, trapp'd in silver.
I shall accept them fairly; let the presents Be worthily entertain'd.
Enter a third Servant
How now! what news?
Please you, my lord, that honourable gentleman, Lord Lucullus, entreats your company to-morrow to hunt with him, and has sent your honour two brace of greyhounds.
What will this come to? He commands us to provide, and give great gifts, And all out of an empty coffer: Nor will he know his purse, or yield me this, To show him what a beggar his heart is, Being of no power to make his wishes good: His promises fly so beyond his state That what he speaks is all in debt; he owes For every word: he is so kind that he now Pays interest for 't; his land's put to their books. Well, would I were gently put out of office Before I were forced out! Happier is he that has no friend to feed Than such that do e'en enemies exceed. I bleed inwardly for my lord.
You do yourselves Much wrong, you bate too much of your own merits: Here, my lord, a trifle of our love.
And now I remember, my lord, you gave Good words the other day of a bay courser I rode on: it is yours, because you liked it.
You may take my word, my lord; I know, no man Can justly praise but what he does affect: I weigh my friend's affection with mine own; I'll tell you true. I'll call to you.
I take all and your several visitations So kind to heart, 'tis not enough to give; Methinks, I could deal kingdoms to my friends, And ne'er be weary. Alcibiades, Thou art a soldier, therefore seldom rich; It comes in charity to thee: for all thy living Is 'mongst the dead, and all the lands thou hast Lie in a pitch'd field.
Exeunt all but Apemantus and Timon
What a coil's here! Serving of becks and jutting-out of bums! I doubt whether their legs be worth the sums That are given for 'em. Friendship's full of dregs: Methinks, false hearts should never have sound legs, Thus honest fools lay out their wealth on court'sies.
No, I'll nothing: for if I should be bribed too, there would be none left to rail upon thee, and then thou wouldst sin the faster. Thou givest so long, Timon, I fear me thou wilt give away thyself in paper shortly: what need these feasts, pomps and vain-glories?
Nay, an you begin to rail on society once, I am sworn not to give regard to you. Farewell; and come with better music.
So: Thou wilt not hear me now; thou shalt not then: I'll lock thy heaven from thee. O, that men's ears should be To counsel deaf, but not to flattery!