Timon of Athens: Act II - Scene 1,2
Act 2, scene 1
A Senator adds up what debts Timon has, in addition to what Timon owes him. He knows that the situation cannot continue. He sends his servant Caphis to confront Timon and demand that he pay his debt immediately. The Senator says he has debts of his own to pay, and Timon’s tardiness in repaying him is having a bad effect on his, the Senator’s, own credit.
This brief scene advances the action by showing that Timon’s creditors are running out of patience.
Act 2, scene 2
Flavius enters, clutching many bills in his hand. He complains about Timon’s financial recklessness and resolves to confront him about it.
Caphis enters, along with servants of two other lords, Isidore and Varro, both of whom are owed money by Timon. Timon enters, and when Caphis says he has come about payment of debt, Timon tells him to see Flavius. Caphis says that Flavius keeps putting him off, and Timon tells Caphis to come back the next day. Caphisprotests, and the two servants chime in with their requests. Timon demands to know of Flavius why people are clamoring for payment of debts. Flavius tells the servants to go away until after dinner. Timonand Flavius exit, and a Fool and Apemantus enter. There follows some good-natured if rough banter between the three servants, the Fool and Apemantus.
Timonand Flavius reenter. Apemantus and the Fool exit. Flavius invites the servants to talk to him later, and they exit. Timon tells Flavius that he is surprised Flavius has not informed him of the situation earlier. Flavius says he tried many times but Timon would not listen and even rebuked Flavius for saying that he, Timon, should be less profligate with his money. Flavius says that what Timonowns does not cover even half of his debts. Timon instructs him to sell all his land, but Flavius says most of it is either mortgaged or already forfeited. What is left will not meet the debt.
Reality starts to dawn on Timon as Flavius confesses at length how distressed he has been to see Timon’s fortune vanish as a result of such lavish entertainment and generosity. Timon responds by saying he will borrow some money from his friends to pay his debts. He is confident that they will not let him down. He summons three servants, Flaminius, Servilius, and one other. He sends Servilius to Lord Lucius, Flaminius to Lord Lucullus, and the third servant to Sempronius. They are to ask for fifty talents. Then he sends Flavius to the senators with a request for a thousand talents. Flavius says he has already approached them, and they have refused. Timon is incredulous at first, but Flavius explains in more detail their uncharitable response. Timon makes some disparaging remarks about the senators, and then tells Flavius to approach Ventidius, the man Timon bailed out of prison and who is now rich, following the death of his father. Timon is confident that his friends will come through for him.
In this scene the tide starts to turn. It is a shock for Timon to learn that his wealth has evaporated. But his disillusionment has only just begun. Because of the idealistic view he has of life, he expects his friends to be as helpful to him as he has been to them. It never occurs to him that they will let him down. When he hears that the senators have refused him, he makes only some mild disparaging remarks that are no more than one might expect a man to utter in such a situation. Timon’s great rage and rejection of all humanity is yet to come.
Another contrast is beginningto emerge in this scene. While there have been numerous hints of the shallowness of Timon’s friends, and now the actual evidence that the senators are turning their backs on him, the behavior of Timon’s steward and servants will be quite different. When Flavius says he has wept at Timon’s ignorance of his own situation and the tragedy that he, Flavius, foresaw, his emotion is genuine. These were not crocodile tears.