Timon of Athens | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Timon of Athens | Act 3, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

Flaminius, one of Timon's servants, pays a visit to the home of Lucullus, an Athenian lord. He is greeted first by a fellow servant and then by Lucullus himself, who receives him cheerfully because he expects to receive gifts from Timon. Barely disguising his greed, he praises Timon for his "free-hearted" and "bountiful" ways. However, when he learns Flaminius has come to borrow money, Lucullus's demeanor changes. He laments Timon's wastefulness and says he tried to warn him to spend less, but to no avail.

The servant brings forth wine, and Lucullus toasts Flaminius for being "wise"—that is, shrewd. He offers Flaminius a small tip to pretend their meeting never happened, but Flaminius is insulted and flings the money back in his face. Lucullus leaves in a huff, and Flaminius reflects on the clear truth of the fickleness of Timon's friends, as now begins to become apparent at his time of need.

Analysis

Almost immediately Shakespeare shatters Timon's prediction his friends will come to the rescue. Lucullus's hypocrisy is remarkable: when Timon gives gifts to him, he is "bountiful," but when Timon has no gifts left to dispense, he is a spendthrift. Generosity, in other words, is evidently being redefined as "giving to Lucullus." There is, incidentally, no reason to believe Lucullus when he claims he tried to warn Timon to spend less. Rather Lucullus is among those lords in Act 1, Scene 2 who send Timon gifts in the apparent hope of receiving more lavish gifts in return.

The one positive to emerge from this scene is Flaminius's loyalty. Flaminius knows his employer is in dire financial straits, and thus knows he may not have a job for long. Yet he dares to speak his mind to Lucullus rather than accept a tip to betray Timon. He will return briefly in Act 3, Scene 4 to defend Timon from his creditors. Flaminius's attitude reflects the generally loyal nature of Timon's staff, who appreciate their master's kindness more than they resent his foolishness. But they have no way to rescue him now from his situation.

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