Friendship’s Full of Dregs

Timon of Athens, Act I: Scenes 1-2

If you do a Google search on “Shakespeare” sometime in early February, 2010, you’re likely to pull up a sad and tragic tale about a man whose life turned upside down after he won the lottery. His name — it’s true — was Abraham Shakespeare. His body was recently identified in the backyard of the woman’s boyfriend who “befriended” him after (of course, after) the fate’s dealt him a mega wildcard.

Nobody knows yet how it happened. But before he disappeared, Abraham was quoted as saying he would have been better off having stayed poor.

It happens to so many people that it’s become a cliché. Rock stars gone bankrupt. Boxers risen from the ghetto, only to return to them after their fighting days are through. Actors in hock after buying up a few too many Irish castles.

Is it the gullibility of the fool with newfound riches? Or the influx of sudden wealth which distorts friends and turns them into flatterers?

In a great line from Mofo, one of U2’s most brilliant, unheralded songs, Bono sings/laments:

Mother, you left and made me someone

Now I’m still a child… no one tells me no

Timon of Athens opens with a poet, a musician, a painter, a jeweler and a merchant waiting to enter Timon’s household. Each has brought the best of his wares to bestow upon the master of the house.

When we first meet Timon, he seems one helluva guy. He bails out acquaintances, hosts a swell feast, seems willing to give strangers the shirt off his back should they ask because , well… that’s just the way his posse rolls.

Everyone around him thinks he’s a swell fella, too. And why wouldn’t they? All you gotta do is say you admire the man’s horse, and he’ll give it to you right out from under him.

TIMON: I weight my friends’ affection with mine own…

Methinks I could deal kingdoms to my friends

And ne’er be weary.

There’s just one little-bitty, eenie-weenie, itsy-bitsy problem here. And you knew this was coming, right?

Flavius, the man who watches the purse-strings, tells us the ugly truth in an aside:

FLAVIUS: What will this come to?

He commands us to provide and give great gifts,

And all out of an empty coffer…

His promises fly so beyond his state

That what he speaks is all in debt; he owes

For every word…

Though Flavius can’t tell the man what’s what, a man named Apemantus can. He’s a roving, caustic philosopher cast yet again in the role of fool.  Or the anti-fool, really, because he is no fool. He is the lone soul besides Flavius who sees the hard reality behind what’s going on:

APEMANTUS: Immortal gods, I crave no pelf;

I pray for no man but myself;

Grant I may never prove so fond

To trust man on his oath or bond,

Or a harlot for her weeping,

Or a dog that seems a-sleeping,

Or a keeper with my freedom,

Or my friends, if I should need ’em.

Amen. So; fall to’t;

Rich men sin, and I eat root.

He’s the lone abstainer from the kegger Timon lavishes on the fraternity boys and sorority girls in his upscale neighborhood.

Timon and the merrymakers consider him churlish and misanthropic. But I have a feeling that e’re too long, the tables will turn.

And it’s gonna hurt bad.


4 Responses to “Friendship’s Full of Dregs”

  1. OP: I could be daff (lord knows I have been told lol) but you made absolutely no sense what so ever…

    • It wouldn’t be the first time! I have no idea where you’re learning your English, but if you can use “daff” in a sentence, there must be a girl involved. 😉

    • Not sure what this says but I’m allowing it on faith. If anybody believes it’s inappropriate, please let me know and I will have it removed. I encourage dialogue and feedback, but please no spam. It’s really pointless, especially here.

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