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MonkeyNotes-Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare
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Scene 6

Summary

This scene opens in Timon’s house. The lords have gathered here for the banquet. One of the Lord’s remarks that Timon is not really broke. Timon enters along with his attendants. He greets his guest and bids them to take their place. Timon pretends that he has not been affected by their refusal. Timon then says a prayer and in the prayer he asks God to give men enough so that they don’t have to borrow from others. But at the same time, he also asks the Gods to keep enough to give men in the future otherwise men will also scorn them.

The servants then uncover the dishes and to everyone’s surprise the dishes are full of warm water. Timon tells the lords that this is what they are worthy of and then throws the water on them and curses them. The guests are shocked. Timon then informs them that henceforth there will be no feasting. The Lords are terrified to see Timon’s anger. They start to leave in a hurry and in the confusion that follows, one lord loses his cap and another, his gown. This change in Timon’s behavior surprises the lords and they feel that Timon has gone mad.


Notes

This scene has been deliberately placed in the center of the whole action. Critics identify the unnamed four lords as Lucullus, Lucius, Sempronius and Ventidius. Timon feels hurt to realize that his former friends have deteriorated to the level of the beast. He thanks God for opening his eyes and helping him face reality and the inhuman nature of mankind. Timon gives a mock banquet to take revenge on his ungrateful ‘friends.’

When the guests arrive, Timon talks to them very pleasantly. Therefore they do not suspect anything. Timon compares them to swallows who fly away when winter approaches. Just as swallows fly away when winter approaches in the same way his friends have flown away from him now that he is bankrupt.

The lords give excuses for not being able to help Timon. One of the lords says that he was ‘so unfortunate a beggar’ and hence he was in no state to help. Timon brushes aside their excuses telling them not to let their guilt remain as a load on them. Timon’s remark that, there are even better things to think of than this, makes the lords comfortable. They are relieved to know that he is the same person that he was before. Therefore Timon’s curses and his throwing warm water on them comes as a big surprise for the lords. Timon calls them ‘mouth friends,’ which means friends who can be won by feeding them, ‘time’s flies-insects who appear in good times or summer.’

The readers here notice the drastic change that has come about in Timon because of the betrayal by the friends, who he trusted immensely. The man who always gave away gifts and never let his guests return empty-handed, now throws warm water on them, curses them and practically chases them away. Looking at Timon’s behavior, the lords wonder whether he has gone insane.

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