Timon of Athens: Act III - Scene 1,2,3
Act 3, scene 1
Flaminius visits Lucullus. Lucullus thinks Timon’s servant must be bearing a gift of some kind. Flaminius informs him of the purpose of his visit, which is to ask for fifty talents for Timon. Lucullus refuses. He says he has warned Timon in the past to spend less money on lavish entertainment, and Timon did not listen, so he feels disinclined to help him now. He tries to bribe Flaminius into saying that Lucullus was not there when he called. Indignant, Flaminius throws the money back at him. Lucullus exits, and Flaminius curses him for his false friendship to Timon.
The real nature of Timon’s friends starts to be fully revealed in this scene. Lucullus makes up a feeble excuse for not helping Timon. The uncharitable nature of his response is contrasted sharply with the integrity of Timon’s man Flaminius, who refuses the bribe and shows loyalty to his employer. In this play, the servants seem to have more integrity than the lords.
Act 3, scene 2
Lucius talks with three strangers, who tell him of Timon’s difficulties and that Lucullus has refused to help him. Lucius denounces Lucullus for denying Timon, and says that had Timon approached him, he would never have denied him the fifty talents he was asking.
Servilius enters and makes request for money for Timon. At first, Lucius pretends that Timon must be joking. Then he says he has just spent a lot of money only the previous day, so he cannot now afford to send Timon any. He expresses his regrets and asks that they be conveyed to Timon.
The three strangers comment on what they have just observed. The First Stranger says that Timon has virtually been a father to Lucius in term of money, supporting him in every way possible. He is indignant that, owing so much to Timon, Lucius should deny him when he is in need. The First Stranger says that although he has never received anything from Timon, he thinks Timon is a noble man, and would have given him money had he ever asked for it.
There is some dark humor in this scene, as Lucius wheedles his way out of what is surely an obligation, given what the First Stranger says about the extent to which he is indebted to Timon. The egregious nature of his refusal is underlined by the strangers, leaving the audience in no doubt at all about the worthlessness of Timon’s friends. As the old saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies?
Act 3, scene 3
Timon’s third servant enters with Sempronius. Sempronius’s first reaction to the request for money is to complain that Timon should have tried Lucius or Lucullus or Ventidius first. When the servant informs him that they have all been approached and have denied Timon, Sempronius changes his tune. Now he grumbles that he is being insulted by being the last to be asked. He says he was the first person to receive gifts from Timon, so he should have been the first person to be asked to help Timon pay off debts. He claims that other lords will laugh at him because Timon approached him last. So he refuses to send anything. His honor has been insulted. After he exits, the servant calls him a villain and laments that he was Timon’s last hope.
There is more black humor in this scene, and Sempronius’s excuse is even more laughable than that of the other two lords. Within the space of a few moments he contradicts himself, first complaining that others should have been approached first and then grumbling that he should have been approached first. It is clear that he will make up any excuse not to respond to Timon’s request, and he is outrageous enough to try to make it look as if he is the one being insulted.