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MonkeyNotes-Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare
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Scene 2

Summary

The second scene begins with two boys playing loud music. Timon has given a huge banquet. As the scene opens, enters. He is accompanied by Ventidius who has just been released from prison, the Athenian Lords, and Apemantus.

Ventidius tells Timon that, his father is dead and has left him a lot of wealth. He now offers to pay Timon twice the sum of money that Timon has paid to release him from prison. Timon however refuses to accept anything it, saying that his act was an act of kindness towards a friend.

Apemantus refuses the meat offered to him, since it is intended for flatters and paid for, by flattery. Apemantus who is regarded as ‘unfit for society’ warns Timon now and again about the duplicity of his companions, ‘It grieves me to see so many dip their meat ...is the readiest man to kill him.’ He feels that the guests are feasting on Timon.

Unlike Timon’s guests, Apemantus is not awed by the grand ceremony, which has been arranged. He points out that drinking in the company of men equipped with knives is dangerous. Apemantus does not sit silent but comments on what he can foresee thus drawing everyone’s attention towards him. His statement is a reflection of Timon’s ironic future. He gives a note of warning that ‘men shut their door against a setting sun’ which means that the rising sun and not the setting sun is worshipped by most men.

A masque is presented and everyone joins the dance. Lord Lucius presents Timon ‘four milk white horses’ and Lord Lucullius gives Timon, ‘two brace of greyhound.’ Timon offers jewel to each of the lords, as they are about to leave. This act disturbs his faithful steward Flavius, as he is aware of Timon’s financial condition. Apemantus however refuses to accept the gift offered by Timon, saying that, there should at least be one person to keep a check on Timon’s reckless expenditure.

The scene ends with Timon bidding farewell to Apemantus.


Notes

Giving away wealth was a mark of nobility in the ancient world and also during the period of the renaissance. Timon’s spending therefore indicates his nobility. His lavishness can be seen in the second scene as well when he arranges for a huge feast and gives away jewels to the invitees. Timon wishes to be poor so that he could ‘come nearer’ to his friends. This clearly shows how wrongly he judges his so-called friends. Alcibiades’ remark to Timon is worth noting; for him it is more important to be at Timon’s service than be a soldier.

Timon does not have a family or relative and is therefore reckless in his action. Apemantus and the faithful Steward Flavius are sketched differently from other characters. Apemantus keeps criticizing Timon’s behavior and feels pity that he cannot judge the nature of man. Flavius, Timon’s faithful servant, is worried about Timon’s future, as he knows that Timon is in heavy debt.

The reader can guess the tragic end of ‘The Timon of Athens’ when he says ‘me thinks I could deal kingdom to my friends and ne’er be weary."

It is worth noting how Timon regards his friends. Timon remarks that friends are like musical instruments. He makes this comparison and adds that, just as musical instruments have no value unless they are played, in the same way, friends cannot be called friends unless one can go to them in times of difficulty. How wrong he is when he wishes himself poorer so that he can come closer to his friends. The readers feel surprised and pity him when he coolly remarks ‘more welcome are ye to my fortune than my fortune to me.’

Apemantus warns Timon for he can sense the future. He is aware of the nature of the crowd who are feasting on Timon’s wealth and hence he feels pity for him. But Timon carelessly replies ‘I take no heed of thee’ Apemantus rightly feels that friendship is ‘full of dogs.’ Timon however brushes aside Apemantus’ warning by telling him to come up with pleasant words rather than harsh criticism

A parallel between the character of Lear and Timon is noticeable. Timon, like Lear, is unable to understand the feelings of the people who boast their affection for him. He prefers the company of false friends to that of Apemantus who tries to warn him. Towards the end of the play, Timon realizes how true Apemantus’ judgement of the Athenian Lords is.

The scene seems to be more of a moral play than a drama.

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