David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s TIMON OF ATHENS: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 1

— 4.1 —

Outside the wall protecting Athens, Timon said to himself, “Let me look back upon you. Oh, you wall, which girdles and keeps in those wolves, dive into the earth, and cease to be a protective fence around Athens!

“Married women, become promiscuous!

“Obedience, fail in children!

“Slaves and fools, pluck the grave, wrinkled Senators from the bench, and govern in their steads!

“Innocent virgins, convert instantly and become general filths — common whores! Have sex in front of your parents’ eyes!

“Bankrupts, hold fast; rather than give back the money you borrowed, take your knives out, and cut the throats of those who trusted you!

“Indentured servants, steal! Your grave masters are sticky-fingered robbers, and the law allows them to pillage and steal.

“Maiden, go to your master’s bed. Your mistress is of the brothel — she is a bawd or a whore!

“Son of sixteen, pluck the padded crutch away from your old, limping father, and then use it to beat out his brains!

“Piety and fear, devotion to the gods, peace, justice, truth, respect given to parents, peaceful nights, and neighborliness, teaching and knowledge, manners, skilled occupations, and trades, social ranks, observances, customs, and laws — may all of you decline and become your opposites, and yet allow confusion to continue to increase!

“Plagues, which are likely to happen to men, heap your powerful and infectious fevers on Athens, which is ripe to be struck!

“You cold sciatica, cripple our Senators, so that their limbs may limp as lamely as their manners.

“Lust and licentiousness, creep in the minds and marrows of our youth, so that against the stream of virtue they may strive and drown themselves in revelry!

“Itches and blisters, sow your seeds in all the Athenian bosoms, and may their crop be general leprosy! May breath infect breath, so that their society, like their friendship, may merely poison others! I’ll carry nothing away from you, except nakedness, you detestable town!”

He removed a garment and threw it through the gate he had just passed through, saying, “Take you that, too, with my curses that multiply! Timon will go to the woods, where he shall find the unkindest beast kinder — more caring and showing more kinship — than Mankind.”

He paused and then shouted, “May the gods destroy — hear me, all you good gods — the Athenians both within and outside that wall! And grant, as Timon grows older, that his hatred may grow to extend to the whole race of Mankind, high and low! Amen.”

— 4.2 —

Flavius talked with two of Timon’s servants in Timon’s old house in Athens. As steward, he was the highest-ranking servant, and so it fell to him to let the other servants know that they were now out of a job. This was serious; unless the servants could find new masters, they could become destitute.

The first servant asked, “Listen, master steward. Tell us where’s our master? Where’s Timon? Are we ruined? Cast off and abandoned? Is nothing remaining?”

“I am sorry, my fellows,” Flavius said, “but what can I say to you? Let the righteous gods record that I am as poor as you.”

“Such a house broken and bankrupt!” the first servant mourned. “So noble a master fallen! All is gone! And he does not have one friend to take his misfortunate self by the arm, and go along with him!”

The second servant said, “As we turn our backs from our companion thrown into his grave, so his associates who are familiar with his buried fortunes all slink away and leave their false vows of friendship with him, like a pickpocket leaving behind an empty wallet. And Timon, his poor self now a beggar dedicated to living in the open air, with his disease of poverty that everyone shuns, walks, like contempt, alone.

“Here come more of our fellow servants.”

The other servants walked over to them.

Flavius said, “We are all broken implements of a ruined house.”

The third servant said, “Yet our hearts still wear Timon’s livery — the distinctive clothing that identifies us as being Timon’s servants. I can see that by looking at our faces; we are still colleagues, serving alike in sorrow. Our ship is leaking, and we, poor mates, stand on the sinking deck, on which we could die, hearing the surging waves threaten us. We must all depart into this sea of air. We must leave the house.”

“All you good fellows, the last of my wealth I’ll share among you,” Flavius said. “Wherever we shall meet, for Timon’s sake, let’s still be colleagues; let’s shake our heads, and say, as if we were a funeral bell tolling our master’s misfortunes, ‘We have seen better days.’ Let each take some money.”

The servants held back, reluctant to take some of Flavius’ last remaining money.

He said, “No, all of you put out your hands. Not one word more. Thus part we rich in sorrow, but poor in money.”

The servants embraced and then departed, leaving Flavius alone.

Flavius said to himself, “Oh, the fierce and drastic wretchedness that glory brings us! Who would not wish to be excluded from wealth, since riches point to misery and contempt? Who would want to be so mocked with glory? Who would want to live in what is only a dream of friendship and not the real thing? Who would want to have his pomp and ceremony and all of what makes up magnificence be only superficial, like a thin layer of paint, and like his so-called friends? Poor honest lord, brought low by his own heart, undone and ruined by his goodness! It is a strange, unusual nature when a man’s worst sin is that he does too much good! Who, then, dares to be half as kind and generous as Timon again? Generosity, that makes gods, always mars men. My dearest lord was blessed, and now he is most accursed. He was rich, only to now be wretched. Timon, your great fortunes have been made your chief afflictions. Poor, kind lord! He has dashed away in rage from this ungrateful seat of monstrous friends, and he does not have with him those things that are needed to sustain his life, and he lacks the money to buy those things.

“I’ll follow after him and inquire about and find out where he is. I’ll always serve his desires with my best will. While I have gold, I’ll be his steward still.”

Flavius lacked physical gold, but as long as he had gold in his heart, he wanted to serve Timon.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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